The importance of people’s creativity can never be understated. Creativity and innovation have built the world that we live in and will continue to pave the way towards a better future. Each industrial revolution has introduced a seismic shift in the way we work and live – and the fourth industrial revolution is no exception. On a daily basis, I think about innovation, it is the core of what I do as Chief Innovation Officer, but it isn’t just about thinking about one innovation at a time; it’s about understanding where it comes from and how to create a culture of innovation within an organisation.
Building a culture of innovation
A psychologically safe environment in which all individuals feel empowered to question established norms and experiment with new ways of addressing points of frustration or seek opportunities to improve or add value are the foundations of an organisation which promotes a culture of innovation. As put by my colleague Catherine Corcoran Gearty, Head of Consulting at RSM Ireland: “A culture of innovation is the engine of all successful, sustainable, profitable, purposeful businesses.”
A culture of innovation can exist within any organisational structure and is comprised of two parts that complement each other. On the one side, we have the individual mindset. This starts with people’s ideas born from a desire to innovate and better the environment around them. The second part is the organisational mindset, which is what fosters a healthy environment for innovation and paves the way for creativity. An individual mindset can only go so far without that environment. Organisations need to embrace their creatives to encourage, and even reward them for suggesting new ideas and ways of doing things. This, in turn, will encourage other people to get creative and a culture of innovation can be fostered from that.
My colleague Alan Atwell, Partner – Acceleration Center for Innovation at RSM US, shared an example of this in practice, saying: “At RSM US, we conduct an annual enterprise Innovation Challenge that is sponsored by senior leaders with category prompts that are tied to important strategic efforts. Keys to success for this event include the active participation of firm owners as coaches and judges, CEO involvement in presenting the winners, and a disciplined process for incubating winning ideas.”
A culture of innovation thrives with diversity of thought, and so that culture can be enhanced through diversity and inclusion initiatives that empower more people to share their voices and ideas within an organisation. With more diversity comes deeper insights, more potential solutions, and more opportunities. “Diverse teams are more creative”, says Rami Wadie, Partner – Risk Advisory MENA Leader at RSM Kuwait, “Organisational creativity is enhanced by the ability of diverse groups to integrate different points of view to a discussion. Multicultural experiences can improve the awareness of underlying connections between different ideas, as well as enhancing idea flexibility.” He continues, “The more diverse the teams (such as culturally, ethnically, or by background), the more likely they are to draw inspiration from seemingly unrelated places, resulting in fresher—and more innovative—ideas.”
“The more diverse our teams, the richer the tapestry from which a kaleidoscope of seemingly contradictory ideas bounce around until really ‘great’ ones emerge”
Catherine Corcoran Gearty, Head of Consulting at RSM Ireland.
A culture of innovation requires work to make it truly inclusive, however, and a diverse team can only operate at its full potential in a space that people feel safe and valued within. As said by my colleague, Candice Eaton Gaul, Global Diversity and Inclusion Leader at RSM International: “A culture of innovation is only meaningful if people feel comfortable to question the status quo and that their contributions are valued, which is why inclusion is such a critical aspect of high-performing, diverse teams.”
Connecting with your creative side
Many people in the business world tend to fixate more on the analytical and logistical aspects of their work, which, while very important, can trend towards ignoring their creative potential. Creative expression, through any means, is a valuable skill that can enhance one’s own productivity and performance.
Furthermore, allowing yourself to think creatively at work is crucial for your own personal growth and development by improving your ability to solve problems, adapt, and communicate. It is also essential for employee wellbeing; through connecting with one’s own creative side, people can benefit from improved mental health, emotional intelligence, and resilience.
“If one is passionate about their business, what it means to that person, and society at large, it can fuel a great deal of creative energies which can drive revenue growth as well as brand value”, says Arindam Sengupta, Principal for Technology at RSM Saudi Arabia. He continues: “Additionally, creativity generates so much dopamine and serotonin in us that we feel motivated, energised to walk that extra mile, and happily look forward to the next creative venture.”
So, how can we connect with our creative sides? According to my colleague, Gilvan de Azevedo, Head of Business, Technology, and Innovation Consulting at RSM Brazil, there are many ways to do so, such as:
- Unplug yourself from electronic devices and allow your mind to wander.
- Step out of your comfort zone, try new things, and discover new passions.
- Contact with nature is a good source of inspiration: take a hike or sit in a park and observe your surroundings.
- Experiment with different creative activities such as drawing, cooking, going to museums and galleries, or just meditating.
- Try to approach life with the same curiosity that you did as a child.
You can also fuel your creative side by listening and connecting with other people, especially when everyone is passionate about the topic at hand. Different thoughts and perspectives can fuel your own ideas.
Within businesses, there can be a tendency to come up with an immediate answer when presented with a problem. Whilst this method can produce quick solutions in a time crunch, it misses the value of exploring the context of the problem, brainstorming, and ideation. If we can allow ourselves the time to pause, reflect, and interact with different people on an issue, we are able to produce a range of possible solutions. This method may not provide the quickest answer but, nine times out of ten, it will produce a more valuable and long-lasting solution.
Mit Sinai, Tax Director at RSM Eastern Africa, shares how he fuels his imagination: “To connect with my creative side, I focus on sharing any ideas that come to mind with my team and seniors. This encourages collaboration and can spark new ideas that we can work on together. Additionally, I try to think of ways to make my work easier and more efficient. This often involves spending time on research and development to find ways to complete tasks faster and more effectively. I also keep an open mind when it comes to thinking outside the box and getting perspectives from others. This includes seeking feedback and suggestions from colleagues, as well as exploring new systems and tools that can help with my day-to-day tasks. By embracing new ideas and approaches, I can express myself creatively and find innovative solutions to problems.”
“Where creativity is the ability to produce new and unique ideas, innovation is the implementation of that creativity”
Rami Wadie, Partner – Risk Advisory MENA Leader at RSM Kuwait.
Businesses could not exist without their creative and curious minds. With the power derived from creativity, businesses can equip themselves with new tools and modes of working; with the power to adapt and increase their competitiveness, in an ever-changing landscape.
With challenges, old and new, around the world constantly threatening to disrupt businesses, organisations are being pushed to consider new, creative ideas and possibilities, and with those, comes new opportunities to seize.
- Mit Sinai, Tax Director, RSM Eastern Africa
- Catherine Corcoran Gearty, Head of Consulting, RSM Ireland
- Gilvan de Azevedo; Head of Business, Technology, and Innovation Consulting; RSM Brazil
- Candice Eaton Gaul, Global Diversity and Inclusion Leader, RSM International
- Arindam Sengupta, Principal for Technology, RSM Saudi Arabia
- Rami Wadie, Partner – Risk Advisory MENA Leader, RSM Kuwait
- Alan Atwell, Partner – Acceleration Center for Innovation, RSM US