Tear down the obstacles to creative innovation in your organization
Unlocking Creativity is an exploration of the creative process and how organizations can clear the way for innovation. In many organizations, creative individuals face stubborn resistance to new ideas. Managers and executives oftentimes reject innovation and unconventional approaches due to misplaced allegiance to the status quo. Questioning established practices or challenging prevailing sentiments is frequently met with stiff resistance. In this climate of stifled creativity and inflexible adherence to conventional wisdom, potentially game-changing ideas are dismissed outright. Senior leaders claim to value creativity, yet often lack the knowledge to provide a creative framework. Unlocking Creativity offers effective methods and real-world examples of how the most successful organizations create cultures of innovation and experimentation.
Best-selling author and scholar Michael Roberto presents a thorough investigation of organizational obstacles to creative thought. Highly relevant to the growth crises many enterprises face in today's economic landscape, this book examines how to break barriers to spark creativity and foster new ideas. This insightful and informative work allows business executives, senior managers, and organization leaders to:
* Recognize the six organizational mindsets that impede creativity and innovation
* Learn how to tear down the barriers that obstruct the creative process
* Create an environment that allows talented people to thrive
* Encourage creative collaboration in teams throughout an organization
Leaders do not have to conceive innovative ideas, but rather open the path for curious and creative employees within their organization. Unlocking Creativity: How to Solve Any Problem and Make the Best Decisions aids organizations in removing obstacles to the creative process and helps to form an atmosphere of imagination and innovation.
MICHAEL A. ROBERTO became Director of the Center for Program Innovation at Bryant University after serving six years on the faculty at Harvard Business School. Professor Roberto has written over 30 case studies used in business schools, including the bestselling Everest Leadership and Team simulation and an award-winning multimedia case about the Columbia space shuttle disaster. He has published two books, including the business bestseller, Why Great Leaders Don't Take Yes for An Answer. Professor Roberto received his doctorate from Harvard Business School in 2000.
The Resistance to New Ideas
The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.
-John Maynard Keynes, economist
Many critics rendered harsh judgment when 40-year-old Édouard Manet displayed his rather shocking painting Le Bain at an exhibition in Paris on May 15, 1863. Critics responded:
- Its garish colouring pierces the eyes like a steel saw; his figures seem to have been cut out with a punch and have a hardness that is capable of no soothing compromise. It has all the unpalatability of green fruits that will never ripen.1
- A young man's practical joke, a shameful open sore not worth exhibiting this way.2
- An absurd composition.3
Manet's controversial work featured a naked woman seated on the ground alongside two men fully clothed in stylish attire. The woman's blue dress and straw hat lay on the ground beside her, adjacent to a picnic basket and a loaf of bread. In the background, another woman bathes in a stream. Manet's work proved scandalous. He had not depicted a nude goddess in a scene from mythology, as many traditional painters did, but rather an unclothed woman in a modern Parisian scene. Some suggested that the painting depicted prostitutes working in the Bois de Boulogne, a large public park on the western edge of Paris. The painting elicited derision and ridicule from those who attended the exhibition. One person wrote that Manet's work met with a "veritable clamor of condemnation."4 Another critic observed that, "Never was such insane laughter better deserved."5
Le Bain (later retitled Luncheon on the Grass) elicited criticism not only due to the scandalous nature of the Parisian scene Manet depicted. It also challenged convention and tradition with its style; many considered Manet's approach quite radical and rather crude. He did not try to capture every detail with precision. Author Ross King wrote that, "[Manet] did not concern himself with realistically transcribing nature or ensuring the flesh tones of his subjects correctly matched their outdoor setting."6 Instead, Le Bain appeared "sketch-like" and "roughly-painted."7 Manet did not apply his paint in layers over the course of many weeks or even months, and he did not apply a glaze to the finished artwork. Instead, he pioneered the alla prima (at once) technique, using broad brushstrokes to paint a scene in one sitting. His work featured sharp contrasts of color rather than subtle transitions. The painting lacked proper perspective, too.8 Many critics rejected this radical new style. Manet lacked the finesse to which they had become accustomed.
In 1863, many people regarded Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier as "the most renowned artist of our time."9 Unlike Manet, Meissonier worked with great precision to depict scenes of 17th- and 18th-century life, as many other artists did at the time. His work evoked nostalgia for the past, depicting chivalrous gentlemen on horseback or men engaged in noble activities such as chess, music, painting, or reading. Meissonier also loved to depict famous scenes from Napoleon's military campaigns. He strove for historical accuracy and authenticity in every detail. Observers needed a magnifying glass to truly appreciate the minute details captured meticulously in each painting. Critics marveled at his physical dexterity. Meissonier amassed a considerable fortune and received great acclaim for his work. While Meissonier received praise, Manet once noted that, "Insults are pouring down on me as thick as hail."10
In that era, French artists aspired to display their work at the Exhibition of Living Artists that took place annually in the Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées. Commonly referred to as the Paris Salon, the exhibition attracted as many as one million citizens over a six-week period. Manet submitted Le Bain in 1863, hoping it would be chosen by the members of the jury for inclusion in that year's salon. Count Alfred Émilien O'Hara van Nieuwerkerke oversaw the selection process. He strove to preserve the highest possible standards for the salon. He favored the style of Meissonier, with its focus on history and idealism, and rejected the realism movement, with its embrace of ordinary life and people of all social classes. Commenting on these radical new artists, he said, "This is the painting of democrats, of men who don't change their underwear."11
Nieuwerkerke ruled that the jury should consist only of men who were members of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, an elite society of traditionalists intent on preserving the status quo. Approximately, 3,000 artists submitted more than 5,000 paintings for consideration in 1863. In mid-April, the jury announced its decisions. They had accepted only 2,217 paintings by 988 artists. The jury rejected Le Bain as well as two other paintings submitted by Manet. Other spurned artists included Gustave Courbet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Paul Cézanne, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Controversy swirled around the widespread rejections. Emperor Napoleon decided to intervene. Concerned about societal unrest and discontent, the emperor chose to embrace the idea of a separate exhibition consisting of the artwork rejected by the establishment. Soon this exhibition came to be known as the Salon des Refuses (exhibition of the rejects). More than 1,000 people per day attended, though many laughed at the rejected works of art. Manet submitted Le Bain for display, and mockery and ridicule ensued for him as well.
Amidst the deluge of criticism, a few astute observers noted the stark contrast between those accepted and rejected by the Paris Salon. They sensed that the ground had begun to shift. The famous journalist and art critic Théophile Thoré described it as a contrast between "conservatives and innovators, tradition and originality."12 Amidst widespread criticism, younger artists took comfort that others shared their willingness to experiment and break new ground. Manet became a leader among this new generation of painters. He met regularly with other innovators such as Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Renoir, and Pissarro at Café Guerbois in Paris. They argued and debated, and they shared ideas on Sundays and Thursdays, becoming known as the Batignolles Group.
Ten years after the original salon controversy, Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Degas, and others created the Société Anonyme Coopérative des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs (Cooperative and Anonymous Association of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers). They chose not to submit their work to the Paris Salon. Instead, they formed an independent exhibition, which opened to mixed reviews. Monet submitted a painting titled, Impression, Sunrise. Critic Louis Leroy mocked the painting in an article titled, The Exhibition of the Impressionists. He wrote, "Impression-I was certain of it. I was just telling myself that, since I was impressed, there had to be some impression in it.and what freedom, what ease of workmanship! Wallpaper in its embryonic state is more finished than that seascape."13 Others started referring to this group of renegade artists as the impressionists, and even the painters themselves adopted the name despite the fact that it had emerged from a scathing criticism of their work. We know how this story ends. Ultimately, Manet became known as the father of modernism, and the impressionist movement stands as one of the most consequential eras in art history.
The story of Manet and the impressionists should not surprise us. We have heard this type of story on many occasions. Today's experts reject tomorrow's creative geniuses. Conventional wisdom, preconceived notions, and cognitive biases blind the experts from recognizing the merits of bold new ideas. We trust experts and look to them for wise judgment, prescient forecasts, and sound leadership. Turn on the television, and you see a steady stream of pundits being called upon to weigh in on a variety of economic, political, and social issues. However, expertise may not translate into an ability to see the future, or to evaluate original, out-of-the-box ideas more effectively than you and I can. Experts should be flying aircraft, performing heart surgeries, and designing bridges. We don't want a novice fixing our car or our broken hip. However, when it comes to creativity and innovation, expertise may be a liability at times. As Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki once said, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few."14
Alfred Wegener brought a beginner's mindset to the field of geology over a century ago. Like Manet, his fresh ideas did not earn acceptance readily. Wegener earned a doctorate in astronomy in 1904 and later became immersed in meteorological research. He became fascinated by the discovery of similar animal and plant organisms on different continents, as well as complementary geological features on landmasses separated by oceans. He proposed his theory of continental drift in the early 1900s. Geologists forcefully rejected his ideas. Rollin T. Chamberlin of the University of Chicago commented, "Wegener's hypothesis in general is of the footloose type, in that it takes considerable liberty with our globe, and is...