Creativity at Work: Linda Naiman on turning ideas into reality
An interview by Tatsuya Nakagawa, co-founder of Atomica Creative
Our approach to innovation has been somewhat focused on the industrial side. We’re always looking for ways to help innovators avoid pitfalls and apply processes to improve their returns from innovation activities. It hasn’t been as inclusive of the creative aspects that we recognize are crucial to innovation.
To help bridge the gap, I approached Creativity at Work founder Linda Naiman whose approaches toward innovation come from a different point of view. We’ve been in regular contact for the last 2 to 3 years, updating each other on our work.
Linda has her own definition of creativity that ties in nicely with our approach that focuses on achieving predictable and measurable results from innovation activities. She defines creativity as “the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing. Innovation is the production or implementation of an idea. If you have ideas, but don’t act on them, you are imaginative but not creative.”
Here are Linda’s responses to a few questions I asked her recently.
Who were your early role models and what were the main things you learned from them?
My earliest role models were my parents and art teacher in grade school. My parents both encouraged me to be an artist, my father took me to museums and cultural events, and from early childhood we engaged in lengthy discussions about art, life and politics with an emphasis on analysis and strategy. My mother was always an athlete and a naturalist and she gave me a taste for travel and adventure. My grade 5 art teacher, Fritz Brantner taught us to be Cubists, and through him I learned to think in the abstract, and find the essence of the subject matter at hand – a useful problem-solving skill.
What key trends do we need to be aware of?
Innovation, innovation, innovation. It’s not just about R&D and new product development. A recent global study of CEOs conducted by IBM reveals that the scope of innovation spans the entire enterprise, but with a focus on the business model and the customer. 40 percent of CEOs report they are changing their enterprise models to be more collaborative, and the study reports extensive collaborators outperform their competitive peers. “Partnering has shifted from tactical ‘Enter a new market’ to strategic ‘Access to capabilities’,” explained one CEO from Hong Kong. Collaboration with external inventors and customers plays a key role in nearly 50 percent of P&G’s products.
Social Networking is another trend. Flickr, Second Life, and YouTube, are pioneering a new form of collaborative production that will revolutionize markets and firms.
Innovation requires a change in management styles that must shift from a command-and-control model to one of designer and coach.Organizations world-wide are discovering the merits of artistic and creative training. The arts-based skills transfer directly transfer to management: how to take risks, what motivates people, and how to engage your audience. Companies like P&G and Unilever have brought art and design principles into the practice of management and leadership to increase market share.
What is an example of an innovative company that people have never heard of?
Three companies who provide an innovative service online: Seattle-based TeachStreet, helps Seattle-based teachers and students connect. Students can search for teachers across more than 25,000 courses and filter the results according to location, ratings from other students, teacher availability, promotional pricing and more.
San Francisco-based Carrotmob aims to organize consumers to provide an economic incentive to companies for making positive environmental changes. The group hopes to begin by creating a broad network of consumers and forming partnerships with other larger advocacy groups. Next, it plans to implement campaigns focusing on different industries. Carrotmob will then approach the companies in each industry with suggestions, and invite them to make the changes they have identified.
Toronto-based Parkingspots.com connects those who have parking spots to rent out with those who need them on a monthly basis.
How do you measure innovation or creative success?
Two possibilities are Michael Porter’s Innovation Capacity Index, and Richard Florida’s Global Creativity Index.
Michael Porter says, “Innovation intensity depends on an interaction between private sector strategies and public sector policies and institutions. Competitiveness advances when the public and private sectors together promote a favourable environment for innovation.”United States is number one followed by Finland and Germany. Canadais 10th on the list.
In the Flight of the Creative Class, Richard Florida outlines what he coins the Global Creativity Index, which captures the ability of a country to harness and mobilize creative talent for innovation, entrepreneurship, industry formation and long-run prosperity. It measures technology, talent and cultural tolerance. Top of the list isSweden, followed by Japan, Finland, US and Switzerland.
We’d like to thank Linda for helping bridge the gap between creativity and measurable innovation results. This helps us turn great ideas into reality.
Tatsuya Nakagawa is also the co-author of Inventoritis
This interview was published by Atomica Creative Aug 28, 2008