Advance Performance | Leading A Team of Collective Creativity
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Leading A Team of Collective Creativity

Leading A Team of Collective Creativity

What is the secret to unlocking the creativity hidden inside your daily work and giving every great idea a chance? How do you lead your team to innovate new ideas, solve problems in new ways and include every individual’s ideas in an end product?

Harvard prPixarofessor, Linda Hill and her three fellow researchers have spent the past decade studying a distinctive kind of leadership – exceptional leaders of innovation within their company…leaders who can unleash and harness the “collective genius” of the people in their organisation.  They studied companies such as Pixar, Google, Volkswagen, eBay and Pfizer to discover how these companies are able time and again to innovate so successfully and their teams are so effective in creative problem solving.

In her Ted Talk How to manage for collective creativity, Linda Hill introduces this different kind of leadership by referring to Pixar and Google. Innovative leaders are focused on the innovation of the end products particularly its uses, difference and leap forward in technology.  Innovative leaders are not necessarily charismatic or well known, for example, Pixar’s CEO Ed Catmull however, the Pixar products are instantly recognisable.

Hill explains this significance of the “collective genius” as every individual involved is integral to the end product.  One person may work for six months on a few seconds of film to perfect it, but their creativity is combined with 250 other individual contributions essential to the product’s quality and success.  She explains that the distinct difference in innovative leadership is those people lead from the bottom up – like an upside down pyramid so that every individual contributing their experience, talents and ideas comes together to create the perfect final product.

Collective GeniusIn her talk, Linda Hill reports the findings of innovative leadership which she and her fellow researchers report in much greater depth in their joint book Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation which include three essential features:

Creative abrasion – this is the ability to create a marketplace of ideas through debate and discourse. In innovative organisations, they amplify differences, they don’t minimize them.

Creative agility – this is about being able to test and refine that portfolio of ideas through discovery-driven learning where you act rather than plan your way forward. This is like a series of experiments of design thinking moving forward to the end product which may be very different from the initial idea.

Creative resolution – this is an inclusive decision making process that allows for opposing solutions to arise and not simply either/or solutions, ensuring every contribution is heard and considered valid.

Innovative leaders are different. They don’t create a definite vision and try to make innovation happen themselves. Instead, they create and sustain a culture where it is allowed to happen again and again so that vision can change, improve and reinvent itself.   Innovative leaders create an environment where people are both willing and able to do the hard work that creative problem solving requires.

At the end of her talk, Linda Hill gives the definition of the ideal innovative company: “Our task is to create the space where everybody’s slices of genius can be unleashed and harnessed, and turned into works of collective genius.”