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Ideas, Ideals And Identities: Role Of Creativity In A World Of Always On Management

In business, the highest form of creativity is imagining the need for a product or a service and how a profit is to be made by supplying it. If that idea is wrong, then however good the subsequent creative ideas, the business will fail. Brilliant ideas are like truffles. They are rare, hard to find and only come into being under special conditions.

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The very word "manager" is not an inspiring descriptor for anyone creative. Neither a thinker nor a doer, it is just 'a manager'. Status Quoist. Administrator. Repeater.

Of course, words can outgrow their origins. But when nomenclature serves as insurance, a refuge or even a source of mystique to justify a deficit of creative leadership, we should worry.

Definitionally, "management" is not about creativeness. In fact, a creative resource has been stereotyped conveniently and kept away from the high table of management. Positioned as someone socially awkward, unkempt, clever but irresponsible; volatile, temperamental, difficult to understand, regiment or organize and yet in some way necessary, even indispensable. Basically, categorised as an oddball eccentric.

The explosion of value in the Silicon Valley led to the arrival and triumph of the geek as the boss. A geek is a technically creative person. But his fate has been different from his poetic, creative cousin within creative agencies or housed within corporations as paid 'content creators'.

Leadership, especially at the highest levels, is becoming more and more concerned with creative ideas in present times. A need for ideas emerges from the need to respond to ever increasing change - in wealth, technology, demand patterns, demographics, habits, tastes, attitudes, raw material production - and other such considerations. Response to change can be of only two kinds - derivative or creative. You can imitate other people, or you can change in an original, new way. The reason commanders sign their names into history's records is that they lead. The followers are only glorified en masse

A proactive, creative response to change is not a side show in the business of leadership. It is the main act. A great leader cannot be someone who left things exactly as he found them. A leader may change the map of the world, transform transportation or the capital structure of a corporation; but changing things is central to leadership and changing them before anyone else is creativeness.

In 'The Act of Creation', Arthur Koestler explained creativeness as the result of bisociation, of putting together two unconnected facts or ideas to form a single new idea. Newton saw an apple fall in an orchard and hit on gravitational theory and the attraction of masses. Gutenberg saw grapes being pressed at a winery and divined the printing press as a way for the mass reproduction of text. All these are spectacular examples of creativeness, but the larger business of managerial creativeness is small but always on. Though individually small, they aggregate into something mammoth. Those corporate citizens who flaunt their 'big moment creativeness' to conceal their quotidian laziness ought to be challenged.

In business, the highest form of creativity is imagining the need for a product or a service and how a profit is to be made by supplying it. If that idea is wrong, then however good the subsequent creative ideas, the business will fail. Brilliant ideas are like truffles. They are rare, hard to find and only come into being under special conditions.

Managers also exercise creativeness when deciding between proposed alternatives. The creative manager thinks creatively about the nature of the problem before getting to solutions. Interrogating the brief is tougher than critiquing creative output. If the questions are , in fact, mutant hopes, the answers are readily malleable to the degree they satisfy the managerial ego.

Someone once asked the mathematician Alfred North Whitehead, "which is more important, ideas or things?" Whitehead promptly replied, "Ideas about things".

Ideas are new ways of thinking. "Resistance to new ideas increases as to the square of their importance", cautioned Bertrand Russell. Ideas can be categorised by weight of consequence. A notion, a brainwave, a whim - may be something quirky but of small consequence and little stamina. Real ideas are resilient and flexible. Ideas that gain momentum become concepts. The reason resilient ideas get categorised as memes is because they are spread person to person. There is a degree of immutability to great ideas and at the same time there is an inherent adaptiveness as well. That's why democracy, free trade, secularism, and a hundred other ideas that enhanced civilisation were independently adopted by humanity in different cultures and at different times. Imagine it as a singular solid spherical shape, it is impossible to knock over. A tenet of traditional Chinese painting is that with a concept, the brush can spare itself the work.

Finally, managerial method must not suppress inspiration. Ideas are the result of inspiration. The word itself means a breath of divinity. We can see and feel it as 'a moment of insight', 'an act of intuition' or the symbolic 'bolt from the blue'.

Archimedes leapt out of his bath shouting 'Eureka'. James Watt was struck with the idea of the steam engine while watching his kettle; Leo Szilard understood the sudden illumination of a neutron chain reaction while waiting at traffic lights in Southampton Row.

How such connections spring to mind are guesswork but they seem to favour those who have an unrestrained curiosity and compulsive attraction to problems.

 As Nietzsche put it: 'A thought comes when it wills, not when I will it.'

The workings of any machine needs a mechanical apparatus powered by the impetus of fuel being consumed. Ideation is similarly a phenomenon where intuition, perspective and problem become an admixture that is ignited to result in ideas and concepts.

In an article in the Critique magazine, Marty Neumeier concept development to a formula: 'problem + fresh perspective x intuition = concept'

Whether mathematically, sociologically or culturally, the idea of creative ideation is an ideal we should all idolize.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Shubhranshu Singh

VP- Domestic & IB, Tata Motors, CVBU

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