In my last blog, which derived from my recent talk at the Dominion Theatre, we observed three ways in which people were not things, and we discussed why that was important. We concluded that being authentic was important and that one consequence of authenticity was that it enabled one to be creative; creativity and authenticity in fact go hand in hand. The more creative we are, the more authentic we become; and the more authentic we are in ourselves, the deeper the roots of creativity grow within us. And I said this was important for two very big reasons concerning leadership.
The first reason comes down to a favourite quotation that I often use from Peter Drucker: namely, that only two things make money for a business and everything else is a cost! The two things are marketing – no surprise there – and innovation. Yes, innovation, which of course derives from creativity, is the key element that enables us to maintain a real competitive advantage. Innovation enables us to develop value by either making products, processes, systems, services faster or cheaper or better than they were before; or beyond mere innovation and incrementally improving things we can go straight to pure creativity whereby we generate something – product, service, process, system – that is entirely new; that is ground-breaking in its field. That kind of change is game-changing and we know recently that it is the kind of creativity that we associate with a company like Apple whose technology entirely transformed the music industry.
But if this is important – critical indeed – then to say that the second reason may be even more important than the first sounds a little overblown! However, it probably is even more important! Dr Alan Watkins in his important book, Coherence, said: “Many executives are very skilled in operational thinking, but creating difference, setting the business apart – that is a completely separate ability”. Effectively, it is applying creativity not just to the operational stuff but to the strategic direction itself. When leaders become strategic they have to be creative, and only then can they start addressing the issue of organisational longevity.
Research from the German Savings Bank Association found four key factors in organisational longevity. First, that there is a dedication to customer service. We have of course the old-fashioned sort of customer service that still continues to astound: Heidelberger Druckmaschinen continues to supply replacement parts for a 100-year old printing machine! And then there is the new sort, a sort of customer service that has to be re-invented from the bottom up, from seriously imagining and empathising with the customer. A true case indeed of new and more innovation.
Second, focusing on long-term value rather than quarterly results. But to focus on long-term value is again an act of creativity, for value itself is a creation. Third, caring for employees so that trust and sharing are possible and actively encouraged. And finally, fourth, setting ambitious goals and enabling collaboration. These are the things that true leadership will aspire and inspire to do. Of course, it’s not easy, but then achievement never is, for if it was then it wouldn’t be an achievement: it would happenstance or a silver spoon in the mouth, or magic, or something else that effortlessly produced results without any of the focus, hard work and perseverance that is necessary to make reality become something else – something imagined first and then realised.
Finally, then, as I sail away from the Dominion Theatre, I must remind you all that we had two sponsors at the event – two leaders – two imagineers: say it then for Garry Mumford of www.insightassociates.co.uk and Gary Crouch of www.spectrumoa.co.uk : thanks guys, you are creative, innovative and may you be around for a long time!