Saturday, January 14, 2006

How Creative Leaders Behave

A leader's creative style and Creative Intelligence will often determine the likelihood of successful change. The intuitive-style leader often introduces change by announcing it. The response to this approach generally creates rigidity. The inspirational leader, on the other hand, discusses change, holds meetings, and explains why change is needed. This creates a more open, trusting organizational culture. The innovative-style leader tends to focus on technical matters and often overlooks the needs of people. The result is that there is typically resistance to change. The imaginative leader has a clear view of future needs and opportunities. However, because of the concern with future needs, current problems can sometimes be overlooked. In general, the imaginative leader also understands the needs of the organization and finds ways to include people in the vision. An inspirational leader, such as Richard Lewis, brings the organization along with his or her ideas. Thus, the creative styles of senior managers often determine whether change will be accepted at all. Customers, suppliers, government agencies, and the entire network that embraces our social and political structure must also accept innovation. For example, plasma is a gas used in super-thin, wide-screen televisions that provide excellent displays and are flicker-free. However, the price is extraordinarily high and customers may not see the added value of an exceptionally bright picture on a wide screen. This is an example of the difficulty of introducing a new product that has severe economic hurdles.

Over a period of time, even workers who are creative lose their motivation if they feel management is no longer interested in them. At Ore-Ida, the J. J. Heinz Co. producer of frozen potatoes, there was limited new product development even though innovation had been a strategic priority for years. The research department at Ore-Ida did not believe that management was serious about new product development. Shortly after managers shared their thinking with the research group, there were positive results. A million dollars in cost savings was uncovered in one year, and over a three-year period, there were numerous new products and product line extensions.

In many instances, it is not the sheer effort or willingness to be creative that assures results. Perseverance and patience are the qualities required for breakthrough achievements. Consider Edison's many experiments to find a filament for his light bulb, or Darwin spending years traveling around the globe gathering evidence for what became his Theory of Evolution. Most organizations don't have the time or resources to pursue long-term, complex projects. A company that was ahead of the curve in the development of a computer program that could transmit motion pictures over ordinary telephone lines had to give it up because of the complexity of inventing a new approach and the need for very talented workers. Resources were not available to complete the program in a reasonable period of time. As Amabile, Hadley, and Kramer described it, creativity gets killed when it is under the gun.
Reading Resources