Creative Ideas & Creative Choices

Stavros Michailidis -

For most organizations it isn’t difficult to get lots of creative ideas. What’s difficult is having the courage to make creative choices.

Most innovation doesn’t come from novel ideas. It comes from novel choices. Typically, when faced with a problem, people will explore relatively few potential solutions before quickly making a decision on how to proceed. This is represented below by the narrow grey diamond. In an effort to create more novel results people will engage in brainstorming or other ideation processes to generate more creative ideas. However, this turns out to be quite futile if the same old criteria and decision methods are used to make a final choice. This second scenario is represented by the blue diamond below.

Diagram of Creative Ideas Only

The above scenario is not only futile, but harmful. When leaders ask constituents to generate novel ideas only to conclude on the same old safe decision, people become disenfranchised and embrace the belief that creativity isn’t worthwhile at their organization and they shouldn’t waste their time generating novel solutions.

However, if we also make novel choices we create the opportunity for innovation and novel outcomes. (green line).

Diagram of Creative Choices and Creative Choices

Not only will this generate more novel solutions, it will also energize and inspire staff to be engaged in innovation leading to an upward spiral of creative competence for individuals and innovation capacity for the organization.

It wouldn’t be fair to end this article without acknowledging how difficult and risky it is to make novel choices. This is true, however this does not make it impossible to do so. By testing and refining solutions, identifying and addressing risk & exposure and placing small incremental bets along the way to a new solution we can pursue creative choices in a safe and controlled way.

More on how to think about risk & exposure here: Let's Talk About Failure