Tag Archives: latent creativity

Do We Already Have the Resources In-House?

No matter how much business operators try to convince me, I have never fully bought into the idea of using outside, contract staff.  

Let me explain …

There are times when new people bring a different dynamic to what we do and how we operate and these individuals can play a key role when we don’t have the internal expertise.  However, whilst working in the Pharmaceutical Industry I used to become exasperated when managers declared that ‘we need to hire in external expertise’ before they had taken any steps to determine whether that expertise already existed in-house.

All of us have many talents and abilities which have become latent or hidden over  the years. 

Perhaps we’ve

  • Forgotten about talents we once had or hobbies we once enjoyed
  • Assumed we’ll never need softer, touchy-feely skills so have locked them away and forgotten about them
  • Always wanted to give something a try but haven’t had the chance
  • Been told at school that we’d never succeed in a particular area, even though we really enjoyed it or worse still, were good at it!
  • Been told we’ll never be successful

 … the list goes on and I’m sure you can add your own reasons.

Let’s consider one or two ways in which companies would benefit if they used in-house expertise over hired-in expertise.  Companies would have

  • People working who are already fully conversant with the culture
  • People already established within the social networks of the company, with established relationships across multiple disciplinary areas
  • Chance to develop their people, thereby increasing their sense of belonging and resulting in potentially greater job-satisfaction, commitment and input

I would also suggest that they’d save considerable costs and time delays that inevitably occur when new people are brought into existing structures and cultures.  Contract staff cost more, it’s just that we perceive that they’re easier to get rid of when we know longer need them without worrying about pensions etc and we can often ‘hide’ their costs elsewhere in the figures by keeping them off the headcount!  But what happened if we had people that were so flexible that we didn’t have to adopt or pay homage to the ‘hire and fire’ methods we have become accustomed to? 

The problem is that bringing in people from outside or looking outside of the company is simply too easy.  We don’t have to ask too many questions and we don’t have to worry about changing who we are or what we do.

But coming one step back, wouldn’t it be much healthier for all concerned if companies di take  time to help their staff  discover and develop talents, whether they are forgotten or hidden, so that at least they knew what was in the melting pot.  With information, it is possible to make reasoned decisions.  Making these decisions in the absence of information is dangerous and potentially life-threatening to a company.

Sometimes it is unavoidable that external talent is required to achieve a goal.  My challenge would be, how often could we avoid it and enjoy the benefits by a bit of preparation and enough conviction to take the risk?

The results of ignoring what and whom we have can be very telling and equally catastrophic.  In 1917 Forbes first quoted their top 100 Companies.  When this list was re-visited in 1987, 61 of the original companies were no longer in existence and of remaining 39, only 18 were still on the Top 100 list.  The main reason for dropping off the list or going out of business was that these companies had stayed still and tried to fight what was going on around them.  The 18 companies that stayed in the Top 100 were those that adopted a strategy which embraced change.  And for this, discovery and implementation of creativity within each member of the workforce was key.

We are all creative.  Do our bosses and companies know that?  Have they looked for it or do we perhaps need to find our talents and let those in our place of work know?

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Creativity: The Other Global Crisis

Perhaps one of the most eloquent and engaging speakers I have heard is Sir Ken Robinson. he has this style which instantly puts one at ease whilst totally drawing us in to what he has to say. If you want an example, pour yourself a coffee and Watch Ken Robinson Talk to see him in action (opens in a new window … use the ‘Close Window’ button after viewing).

In one of his more recent appearances he continued to present some uncomfortable facts which will impact us all unless things change. Here is a sample of out-takes from his talk. Full article here (opens in a new window).

  • The world is facing a crisis of human resources … “I believe that fundamentally we have both underestimated and continue to misuse – if not actually abuse – many of our most important talents; our talents, our children’s talents, and the talents of the people who work with us. And unless we fix [this crisis], I feel we’re not going to make much progress fixing the other one.”
  • Both crises are the result of our “industrial mindset,” which is incompatible with modern society and modern business. Both manifest themselves in terms of imbalances. In the natural world it is the imbalance of gases in our atmosphere, although human activity is also disrupting many other ecosystems. In society we have legions of people dislocated from their own talents, legions of people suffering from all kinds of anxiety, legions of people in dysfunctional communities. And there is an enormous cost of handling this.
  • In California (Robinson’s new home town) spends $3.5bn a year on the state university system; it spends $9.9bn on the state prison system. Similar figures exist for other Western countries, as well as other US states. The UK spends millions of pounds a year on remedial education, to try to get kids through a system which many of them are bucking against. And we spend millions of pounds a year on career counselling, because people have not found their way.
  • The result for educators, employers and HR professionals is that it is vital to have an understanding of “the ecology of human resources.
  • As a society, we must improve our understanding of human capabilities. We believe mistakenly that creativity and intelligence vary in inverse proportion to one another. The things we take for granted as being true are the real problem; the enemy of making the best of ourselves is common sense.
  • Thankfully creativity is not dead but merely latent, in most adults.
  • Work by Land and Jarman showed that in a smaple of 1,500 children aged 3-5, 98% ranked as “geniuses” in divergent thinking. In children aged between 8 and 10 years the figure fell to just 32% and by the time children had reached between 13 and 15 years it had declined further to a mere 10%. In other words, children become less creative as they grow older. What coincides with this period of development, aside from hormonal changes and socialisation, is that they enter formal education where they have learnt a) there is one answer to every question, b) don’t look, because that’s cheating and c) don’t copy from anybody else, because that’s cheating too … even though outside of school we call this collaboration.
  • This mindset goes well beyond school and college. Land and Jarman also performed a control test of two-thousand adults (aged 25+) where only 2% ranked as geniuses. We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it, because of the ways in which we become institutionalised and socialised. Education is a big piece of this, but work is an even bigger piece.
  • Creativity is most frequently associated, in the workplace, with innovation but it is equally important in helping society cope with, and harness, technological advances. No matter what we do or where we do it, technology is going to swamp us: new information systems are going to subvert all the things we take for granted.
  • The over-25s think we’re OK, but we’re not that great. We have learnt digital technology like a second language, so we kind of speak phrasebook digital compared with our children. IT systems are becoming more and more pervasive, but they’re not fundamentally avoiding the powerful need for better and better use of human resources. To the contrary. Human resource is the only way we can engage with these things properly … and at this moment we are locked into an industrial mindset about our own capabilities.
  • Business people can help to nurture creativity and imagination by thinking of organisations as organisms rather than organisations A better metaphor is from agriculture. A farmer can’t make a plant grow. A plant grows itself. A good farmer provides the conditions for growth. And a great plant doesn’t just grow from the top, it grows everywhere simultaneously, as do healthy organisations, which have a reciprocating relationship among the parts.
  • There is a huge difference between a creative team and a committee: great creative teams require real expertise among managers and leaders to work. It’s a skill-set that we need to be teaching managers and leaders.
  • Great teams, large or small, are deliberately diverse: they have people from different backgrounds, experiences, ages and responsibilities in the organisation. The processes employed by these teams ensure that their diversity is not an impediment but a resource.
    The best senior managers are those who are not afraid to let teams congregate for specific tasks and then disband, to form other teams as necessary, perhaps one of the best ways to spread cultural information around the organisation.
  • It is essential to create the right habitat, in terms of culture and environment. Anyone who is serious about making more of people must be serious about the environment in which they work. And not just the colour of the walls: innovative organisations have a rigorous approach to questioning algorithms of behaviour and changing the environment as need be.
    Challenging stuff.

What I think is obvious is that we have a long way to go. BUT we need to make a start, no matter how small to change the inertia of creative decline. and just perhaps some of our organisations and social structures will be rebuilt into healthy living cultures.

Until next time …

 
My Zimbio

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