Yesterday I did a one-day workshop near Manhattan for a national group of innovation managers (3M, W. L. Gore, P&G…). I do such workshops a lot, but this was the most knowledgeable audience I’ve ever spoken to. These executives live and breathe creativity and innovation. My challenge was to say something they didn’t know already–to give them information, based in research, that doesn’t appear in the usual business books on innovation. I decided to build the morning session around the psychological research that’s in my upcoming book Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity. This book (to be published this March) describes the eight basic steps of creativity, and it’s filled with exercises and techniques to help enhance your creative potential.
It turns out that these exercises are a blast to do in a group, and–because they’re derived from psychological research–they do a great job of communicating the essence of how the mind generates new ideas.
The organizer, Peter Koen of Stevens Institute of Technology, also invited neuroscientist Aaron Berkowitz (Harvard) to tell us how creativity is realized in the brain, and psychologist Angela Duckworth (Penn) to tell us about her studies of “grit”–the importance of perserverance and hard work to success. And in the afternoon, I presented my research on the key role of groups and collaboration in creativity (captured in my 2007 book Group Genius).
I wish I could say more, but the participants swore me to secrecy. So all I can say is that I was honored to meet these innovation experts, from companies that I admire. Sometimes when I talk to executives about what innovative organizations look like, they look at me and say “There’s no way my company could ever be that way.” Not these folks–they heard my message, nodded constantly, and said Amen. These companies are showing us all that it’s possible to be innovative in a large, profitable organization that isn’t necessarily a computer company based on the West Coast.
If you want to hear a similar message, you might consider attending the Front End of Innovation conference (in Boston, May 2013) where I’ll be giving a keynote, along with several other innovation thought leaders.