As I have written here before, my favorite book on corporate creativity is Orbiting the Giant Hairball by the late Gordon MacKenzie. For me, nothing nearly as good has been written since. I was searching for insights on creativity and came across this old -- but still very fresh -- Fast Company interview with him. Check out the whole thing (and read the book). But here are a few gems:
'In the mid-1980s, MacKenzie founded an oasis for creativity -- called the Humor Workshop -- just outside the walls of Hallmark headquarters. "I wrote a one-page, handwritten description of the department," MacKenzie recalls. "Without telling my boss, I called his boss, the vice president of the creative division, and we had lunch. By the end of the meal, the VP was telling me, 'We've got to do this!'"
Eventually MacKenzie shifted his orbit and returned to company headquarters, this time with a title of his own invention: Creative Paradox. "My job was to be loyally subversive," he explains.'
That phrase "loyally subversive" is so delightful, so much cognitive complexity in this those two little words. Like this old story about Chuck House at HP. Or how about this one:
I became a liaison between the chaos of creativity and the discipline of business. I had no job description and a title that made no sense, but people started coming to me with their ideas, and I would listen to those ideas and validate them. When you validate a person, what you're really doing is giving them power -- like a battery charger.
A battery charger! Another great phrase, and consistent with Rob Cross's research on energizers.
Finally check-out his answer to the interviewer's question:
'What is the biggest obstacle to creativity?
Attachment to outcome. As soon as you become attached to a specific outcome, you feel compelled to control and manipulate what you're doing. And in the process you shut yourself off to other possibilities.
I got a call from someone who wanted me to lead a workshop on creativity. He needed to tell his management exactly what tools people would come away with. I told him I didn't know. I couldn't give him a promise, because then I'd become attached to an outcome -- which would defeat the purpose of any creative workshop.'
This last point is remarkably similar to a point that I heard from Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO, make just a few months back.
Finally,note that these are arguments about how to spark creativity. I would be the last person to argue that organizations need to be all about creativity all the time. Doing routine things well requires an entirely different mindset.