Innovation and Creativity in the Workplace

From schooldays we’ve all been taught that the British are the most creative nation on the planet. From seed drills and steam engines in the early-18th century to jet-engines and computers in the mid-20th century, Britain has always had a strong claim to world leadership in innovation. However, towards the end of 1999, the German consultancy Agamus Consult produced "Stars of Innovation" , a report on the levels of creativity in the principal thirteen Western industrialised countries where Britain came in a feeble sixth behind the US, Canada, Germany, Japan, and, Switzerland.

At Green Lion we believe our educational system has taught us to become less innovative. At school and university, for example, we learn that there are only two sorts of answers to any problem: one right one, and lots of wrong ones. On the other hand truly creative people are constantly on the lookout for the ‘better right answer’ to a problem.

But worse than this, is that we are also taught that the thinking processes we use to get to ‘the right answers’ have to be ‘right methods’ too. Consequently we have to show our ‘working out’ – and if we can’t show we’ve used the right method, then the answer can’t be right either. We believe that it is this closed mindset which caused, for example, Western medicine to dismiss the benefits of alternative treatments such as acupuncture –scientists can’t explain how it works, so it can’t be working. Chinese doctors, on the other hand, have not had this hang-up drummed into them and, as a result , when they see that acupuncture works they use it!

Innovative people are similar to Chinese doctors – by focusing on outcomes they can come up with powerful solutions to problems. However, in organisations where employees have been educated in the school of ‘right answers, right methods’ innovative people often have a tough time convincing colleagues to take their ideas on.

At Green Lion we draw upon our experience in the creative industries to help organisations harness the innate creativity of their employees. And if that sounds like a recipe for tree-hugging and mantra chanting, we point to the fact that advertising and film are both £multi-billion industries focused firmly on the bottom-line where creativity is not some whimsical indulgence – it’s what pays the wages.

Consequently, at Green Lion we only ever talk about ‘controlled, commercial creativity’ … innovative thinking that drives profits.