In the past twelve months I have embraced and thoroughly enjoyed a shift of emphasis from knowledge and sense making over to creativity and innovation. In hindsight the transition seems perfectly natural, as once you have made sense of a situation you can begin to reveal and resolve any emerging problems.
As I move closer towards the bough of the innovation process, without doubt the greatest challenge is how to turn ideas into action and therefore deliver innovation (not just creative ideas). I have facilitated so many workshops that have ended with enthusiasm, and buy-in to the ideas that have emerged yet three, six, nine months down the line hardly any progress has been made.
What I didn’t realise was that my presence in an organisation might, quite naturally, bring on aversion and fear.
Something that caught my eye in October this year and I have been referring to repeatedly during recent workshops is an article in the Science Daily blog about two 2010 experiments at the University of Pennsylvania
Creative ideas are by definition novel, and novelty can trigger feelings of uncertainty that make most people uncomfortable.
Certain groups of people may have an anti-creativity bias
When creative ideas were presented to certain groups they associated the ideas with negative words such as “vomit,” “poison” and “agony.”
and this, the report suggests is why people might reject creative ideas and stifle scientific advancements, even in the face of strong intentions to the contrary.
Last night reading Simon Baron-Cohen’s new book ‘The Science of Evil‘ while reflecting on ‘human cruelty’ he talks about individuals who have ‘zero’ empathy and lists ten new ideas. Two of which especially cried out to me, in which he highlights how lacking empathy may have a positive, even naturally selected benefit in society, hence ‘zero-positive’.
Idea 8: Zero-Positive is the result of a mind striving to step out of time … in order to see the eternal repeating patterns in nature. Change represents the temporal dimension seeping into an otherwise perfectly predictable, systemizable world.
Idea 9: When such predictable patterns are interrupted, for example by the existence of another person who might perform an unpredictable action, the zero-positive individual can find this aversive and even terrifying. Hence, zero-positives typically resist change at all costs.
Classic autism, Baron Cohen believes, is such a case of
total resistance to change, a retreat into a perfectly systemizable, and thus predictable, world. Unpredictable step-change innovation may therefore be seen as terrifying.
Finally, spending time at an airport with a colleague recently he pointed out at the taxiing aircraft and said that
the reason air travel is such a safe travel option is because innovation in the aerospace industry is almost totally constrained by improving safety and therefore inch by inch incremental safety improvements.
Pursuing innovation in such an ecosystem is therefore a huge challenge and does not end at the list of lessons learned, intricately analysed solutions or even fully populated action plan. How do we make the most of real fear and aversion?
And that, dear reader, is the challenge for 2012.