How to manage for collective creativity, Linda Hill [TED]
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Dr. Linda A. Hill, business professor at Harvard Business School, reveals how organizations with effective leadership can generate group creativity in this TEDxCambridge Talk, “How to manage for collective creativity.” Through years of research and analysis on innovative leadership, she uncovers unexpected results of what it takes to lead organizational innovation.
If we want to build organizations that are consistently innovative, Dr. Hill says we must practice new approaches to leadership.
There is rarely one person responsible for widespread innovation. Instead, innovation involves “collective genius,” not “solo genius.” Dr. Hill uses the example of Pixar Animation Studios, an American computer animation film studio that her research team studied to demonstrate this collective genius. Pixar designs and develops animation films, and it can take close to 250 people working four to five years to create one of its animated films.
According to one Pixar employee whom Dr. Hill interviewed, Pixar’s development process is extremely “messy.” Innovation is a journey filled with “collaborative problem-solving among people with different areas of expertise and points of view; it is the result of trial and error, of false starts, missteps, and mistakes.” Innovation requires leaders to really understand and trust their teams. Dr. Hill says that leaders must “unleash the talents and passions of many people and [then use those talents and passions back] into a work that is actually useful.”
Dr. Hill’s research shows that successful innovative organizations have three capabilities: creative abrasion, creative agility, and creative resolution.
- Creative abrasion – These organizations and leaders intentionally promote debate and discourse in order to produce many different ideas. Dr. Hill says, “Innovative organizations amplify differences; they don’t minimize them.” She says these organizations do not propose new ideas without judgment; rather, employees engage in “heated and constructive arguments [in order to explore] alternative ideas…they learn to inquire and actively listen, but also advocate for their point of view.” Innovation often encourages diversity and conflict.
- Creative agility – Innovative organizations are capable of quickly testing and refining their ideas. They pursue “discovery learning:” acting first instead of planning the way to the future. These organizations encourage design thinking – which combines artistic, creative brainstorming and scientific testing and re-testing.
- Creative resolution – Leaders of innovative organizations create a culture of decision-making that combines opposing ideas. They allow different opinions and ideas and “reconfigure them in unique combinations to produce something that is new and useful.” They are willing to patiently work towards inclusive, “both/and” solutions.
Leading innovation requires executive teams to create an environment where their employees are “able to do [the] hard work of innovative problem-solving.” When asked what it takes to lead innovation, these leaders replied that it’s “about creating a world where people want to belong.” Leaders in these organizations “don’t allow any one person or group to dominate, even if it is the boss or the ‘expert’.” These leaders see themselves as social architects for the organization, “creating the space for collective genius to flourish.”
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