Insert your Creative Idea in this Box

by Trudy on May 11, 2012

Creativity and innovation is always a top of mind in PROVOKE’s world, and the world of many of our clients.

I was fascinated recently by an RFP that asked for “innovation”. I was intrigued and a bit excited by this invitation. The RFP then quickly added that the response needed to look exactly like this, in exactly this space, by exactly this date, in exactly this process, using this font size, no colour please, and so on. Ahh, there is the truth. Desire meets reality head on.

I believe that we all aspire to creativity and innovation in our work, yet so many have no idea how to do this, or more unfortunate, work hard to squash it like a bug. I am not being unkind; really, much killing of creativity is done quite ignorantly, through automated processes and habit. Let me explain.

We all have processes in at least some areas of our work that just makes it easier to manage the list of things to accomplish in a day. Most of us have too many tasks and not enough time to accomplish them. So we inadvertently structure things around us that work quite hard to beat creativity and innovation out of the norm of the day.

I cracked up at Jeremy Dean’s (PsyBlog) dark witty take on it in  “6 ways to kill creativity”. Mainly I laughed because it is so true. I encourage you to read it, but my favourite line was:

Remember that all these methods for killing creativity are best done with subtlety. You should say you provide support, freedom, resources and so on, but only do it halfheartedly. This will give you the appearance of a creative organization but you won’t produce the truly creative solutions which mark out the best.

If you have ever heard any of these things (or gasp, even heard them escape your own mouth), you may need to rethink your ability to invite innovation around you:

  • I want you to do something different, see what you can come up with that does not cost anything
  • You have capacity right now, I have been meaning to find some great ideas around X, this is a great opportunity for you (aka you have no experience), see what you can come up with
  • Within our current system (processes, rules, etc.), I want you to create something new
  • I know this or that is an issue, can you just find a way to work around them?
  • I want this to be extra great, can you have it to me tomorrow morning?
  • I don’t have a budget, but …….be creative

Oh my god, how would we ever make that happen?!

To all of us wannabe innovators, we need to keep a few things in mind:

  • Be clear about what you need/the specific goal, you will get a better answer
  • Give time, real time, not after hours time, to have the space to explore, ponder and ideate
  • Bring in varying voices – talk to as many people from all walks, perspectives, skills, this gives a wider perspective to work with
  • Remove as many obstacles as possible – old processes and rules provide old answers
  • And turn down nothing that comes to you without spending 24 hours to really consider it. Almost always there will be a germ of innovation that you can take away from any idea, no matter how outrageous it appears.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Tobi May 20, 2012 at 1:30 pm

I was disappointed with this blog. I generally am intrigues but this one was odd for me. You’ve obviously never sat on an RFP committee, reviewing RFPs before if you think that requiring certain, and specific, issues shouldn’t be spelled out. In an era of where the best people for the job should be getting the job, you need to be able to compare apples to apples. If you do not have specific directions, it is difficult to know if people can even follow directions. It’s not to steal your creativity but rather be able to compare/evaluate.

Of course, creativity and innovation is important, it generally what separates the good from the best.

An RFP that asks for innovation generally gives points for innovation. Those most creative will succeed. However, if you can follow minimal directions, you won’t be looked at. Sounds pretty fair to me. sounds like real life.

Sheila May 23, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Tobi, you seem frustrated with the assumption that doing something different could be fun. We all know that we have to start looking at things differently….I just hope more people are leaning towards working outside a box rather then continuing to work in it…

Keep the positive thinking, Trudy…..thanks.

Trudy May 23, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Thank you for your feedback, I truly do appreciate opinions, agreeing or disagreeing.
I can certainly see your perspective, I often shake my head wondering how in the heck any kind of meaningful comparison can happen in an RFP situation.
To some degrees I appreciate attempts to do that.

However, I would say that the apple to apple comparisons, and the best person for the job may not always be identified through some levels of containment I was referring to. They actually serve to check off boxes not open up ideas.

There are inherent flaws in the system, and that is a totally different blog for another day!

Stepping back and looking at the article, the point is to break old rules to get creativity and innovation. That is a big task within an RFP process.

I get the conundrum.

It is not an easy fix.

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