I’ve rapped about “holistic innovation” before, it’s one of my keynote talks. When audiences ask what I mean, I explain the “4 P’s” of organizational creativity: People, Process, Product, and “Press” (code for internal culture or environment). The 4 P’s concept was developed by Mel Rhodes many years ago. If an organization can gets its arms around the 4 P’s they’ve got a pretty good start on holistic innovation. But it’s only a start, there’s more. And many won’t like to hear it, but the additional things required to be more holistically innovative boil down to touchy-feely, artsy, trendy things.
Things like Art, Culture, Trends, Fun, and Passion. ACTFP.
Case in point: Kiln is working this week with a very creative and successful organization — you’d know the name and brands. I’m here on the ground, observing mostly and am playing a small part in a big global meeting. It’s nice to be an observer and not involved in the minutia. As a (rather large) fly on the wall, I’m noticing something about how they think, what they think about, and how they “do” their meeting. And, even deeper, who they are as creative people. I’m seeing a lot of “innovation indicators” that would be difficult to measure — but easy to feel.
You feel it in the conversations. These people know something about everything, and everything about something. Which makes them fun and exciting people to be around. I’m wondering how they hire for “not boring” — whatever they do, it’s working. They are smart cookies to be sure, but they are also what Bucky Fuller would have called “comprehensivists.” Steve Jobs talks about connecting the dots, and these folks have a lot of possible dots to connect. There are other companies with people just as smart, but not every company would allow people to express it. I notice belly laughs at the lunch table…it gives you a feeling like “it would be fun to work here.”
I notice that people here know the art scene. They participate, attend, and support — they do improv comedy classes. They track culture and trends generally, not just those that directly impact their products. They notice things. They read widely. And they have focus — they make an active effort to connect new dots, and all the time. Innovation, to them, IS their business. You feel it as a spirit in every conversation.
At this particular two day meeting nearly all the activities have a kineasthetic component. I find this very unusual and — delightful. People are doing things to learn, not just listening, not just staring at endless PowerPoint presentations. Arts, crafts, experiences, and deep dialogue (you know, where people really listen) are very much a part of their learning and development process. Many of the activities would be deemed “too airy-fairy” and wouldn’t be done at normal corporate meetings. And that’s my main point here — If you want “different” maybe you should try different.
If you really want a holistically innovative culture, find people who have a relationship to the arts, trends, culture, a sense of fun, and a passion to create. Then, set them free to create and innovate. It’s not creativity AND innovation, it’s creativity FOR innovation.