Creativity guru Sir Ken Robinson keynoted the World Business Forum in New York City on Tuesday, urging business leaders to create workplaces that foster innovation. “Talent is hidden within organizations,” Robinson told the audience of more than 1,000, so leaders must work hard to uncover it.
The first step, he says, is to provide conditions in which people can think creatively. Educational institutions historically have done a poor job at sparking creativity or identifying creative people, he said. Paul McCartney and George Harrison were in the same music classes, but were not viewed as having any talent. And Elvis Presley was banned from joining his high school’s choir. “Quite an oversight,” Robinson said. Leaders can either limit or drive creativity through the questions they ask, he said, and open-ended questions help develop creative thought.
The next step is to value diversity and seek ideas form everyone within a corporate culture – not just top leaders. “Ideas need to move up and down and sideways in organizations,” he said. “Different teams create different ideas.” Look at the ways ideas are developed in your organization, and change them, Robinson said. “Develop new routines and you will develop new creative thought and new ideas.”
Companies that do not embrace creativity might go the way of Kodak, Robinson warned. The company is now bankrupt, he said, because the company’s executives did not believe that digital was the future of picture-taking. Had the company’s executive been more imaginative, he said, Kodak might still be in business today. “Everyone in the organization has deep creative capabilities,” he said, and it’s a business leader’s job to tap into them.
The two-day event included a host of other business-focused speakers, including former Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke and writer Malcolm Gladwell.