Structuring Creativity

We all want talent in our organizations don’t we? Just having inordinate amounts of talent and diversity does not guarantee innovation in any way. Leaders must find ways to harness and funnel the creative dissonance into something productive.

Many leaders seem to recruit people just like themselves, because it is much simpler to manage like-minded people. It requires a strong, confident leader to recruit diverse team members that will conflict with each other. This conflict, if funneled effectively, can be the spark of innovation. But as anyone who has tried to start a fire before, a spark does not always guarantee a fire. The wood must be set right, the wood can’t be too wet, the kindling must be the right size etc. Likewise, a leader must create a surrounding infrastructure that is ready for the spark generated by diverse innovators.

Michelangelo had a team of artists, diverse commissions, and a wealth of monetary resources at this disposal. Thomas Edison had a team, facility, equipment and infrastructure of talent ready to build the ideas his innovators thought of. Edison stuffed his teams into open areas, almost with little room to move about the room. The innovative sparks were probably spurred on by Edison’s ability to make those ideas tangibly happen. He would construct dozens of models, most of which would not work, and bring to life abstract ideas.

Diverse teams are important. But diversity may only guarantee sparks of conflict within a team. Whether those sparks lead to disaster or innovation depends on the leader’s ability to structure, organize, and focus the energy. If s/he is unable to do that, creatively formed disasters will remain on the horizon. Structure is important, especially in innovative organizations.

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