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6 Aug 2012

Creative Innovation (Pt 4): Spontaneity & Frequency

This entry is part 4 of 18 in the series Creative Innovation

The executive walks through the facility or offices to attend the manager’s meeting and finds many employees having conversations; they are laughing, smiling and enjoying themselves. Walking by the lunchroom, the executive further sees employees standing around chatting, drinking coffee. Moreover, the executive’s presence doesn’t termination these discussions.

Classical management might suggest there is a discipline problem or at minimum at command-control one. However, from a creative innovative perspective, this is the perfect scenario. Creativity, as Jonah Lehrer explains in his article, “Groupthink – The Brainstorming Myth” (The New Yorker, January 30, 2012 edition) requires “frequent, physical and spontaneous interactions” and begins his conclusion with:

The fatal misconception behind brainstorming is that there is a particular script we should all follow in group interactions.

Alex “Sandy” Pentland’s work in “The New Science of Building Great Teams,” (Harvard Business Review, April 2012 edition) supports this conclusion with his findings that the highest performing teams had a high number of face-to-face communications, “as many as dozens per working hour” with at least half in short one-on-one conversations. Lehrer found Steve Jobs to be right in believing “that the best meetings [happen] by accident, in the hallway or parking lot.”

As a rule, structure tends to be the enemy of creativity. For example, relaxed states retard control centers of the brain allowing for more associative connections that are important to learning and creating. Andrea Anderson in “Free Your Mind” (Scientific American Mind, May/June 2012 edition) writes that psychedelic drugs work by reducing brain activity, especially in “control centers such as the thalamus, the anterior and posterior cingulate cortices, and the medial prefrontal cortex.” Similar reasoning is behind the undermining of fun when it becomes systematized and mandated.

Thus, creative innovation means finding ways to increase the frequency of spontaneous interactions without forcing it.


Series Navigation<< How Work Pressure and Fear Affect InnovationCreative Innovation (Pt 5): Employees Running into Each Other >>

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