For the past decade, everybody in the workplace has been indoctrinated with the “People are your most important asset” mantra.
Well, just when you were getting comfortable with that, things have changed.
Have you noticed how previously recited statements that are punted as the new “truth” at some point suddenly become insufficient? Relax. That’s just the way things roll in the new world of work. Look around you and you will find many cases of this. What was once thought to be the new “final word” on something is suddenly surpassed by a new insight that stands on the shoulders of the old truth.
It may seem like I’m playing with words, but I’m trying to point out that there’s a subtle yet significant phenomenon happening – old insights are not necessarily done away with. They’re just refined or enhanced.
And so to the “people are our greatest asset” insight. Yes, people will always be an important asset to any company BUT ... that’s no longer enough.
In our highly disruptive world in which things change by the day (it sometimes feels like it’s by the hour), there’s a new “most important asset” in town – creativity.
Yep, creativity is what you now want to hire at all costs. Why? Simple.
What does every company need to do these days? Innovate. If you’re not an innovator, you’re an imitator. And if you’re an imitator, the best you can be is number two. There will be someone ahead of you that you’re imitating – someone who is actually the innovator and occupying first place. So if you want to be number one, you HAVE to start innovating.
Now, what do you require for innovation? Creativity. Why? Because creativity involves coming up with something that’s never been done before.
In the dark days of the Mechanical Age and its military leadership in the business world, creativity was a bad word. Leaders wanted compliance, not people who thought and acted differently. Creative people were therefore frowned upon, treated with caution and not fully trusted. Don’t believe me? Think back to the 80s. No-one was applauded for coming up with a different way of doing things. You were taught your job by “Tant Sannie” and then you just carried on doing your job exactly like that. None of this nonsense of, “What if we were to do it like this?”
Today, that’s all changed. But there are still too many executives who think like military leaders (I know this because I’m fully occupied with trying to help a lot of them change). They battle to come to terms with the fact that people half their age can come up with a better, smarter, faster, cheaper way of doing something that they think should be done in a certain way.
Having creativity in your team is now an asset, not a liability. If you spot it, nurture it, protect it and allow it to grow even more. If you stifle it, you’ll be throttling the life out of your business.
Managing creativity requires courage. You have to be brave enough to open yourself up to ideas that you personally might never have thought of. Don’t fall for that old trap of thinking that, if you never thought of it, it can’t be a good idea. Set your people free to explore and develop their creativity. Applaud creativity, reward creativity, do anything and everything you can to make sure your team’s creativity blossoms.
And while you’re about it, don’t sell yourself short either. Your experience and insight, acquired over many years shouldn’t be a liability, making you think that, because something has been done in a certain way, it should always be done like that. Start giving yourself permission to think new thoughts, come up with new ideas and do things in new ways that even you haven’t thought of before.
After all, you may not have realised this ... Where are your best ideas? They’re still inside you!
Alan Hosking is the Publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag. He is a recognised authority on leadership skills for the future and teaches business leaders and managers of all generations how to lead with integrity, purpose and agility. In 2018, he was named by US-based web site Disruptordaily.com as one of the "Top 25 Future of Work Influencers to Follow on Twitter".