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Building a Creative Company

Tuesday, August 1, 2006 - 15:33

Management needs creativity if organisations are to survive. Creativity should not be seen as the exclusive territory of the t-shirt and jeans brigade, according to Lloyd Bond, renowned advocate of creativity in the workplace as well as personal life. Anna Kassulke explores creativity in management.

"I had to persuade Mr Bond to lend me his creative brain until he helps me find mine," says Tsuneo Sekine, President of Matsushita Investment & Development Company, Japan.

The President of Matsushita had not misplaced his brain, he simply sensed a part of it was lacking - the creative component. At the time, Lloyd Bond, Founder of the Creative Intelligence Agency (CIA), was working with Matsushita (parent company of Panasonic) on a corporate creativity infrastructure project.

When the first phase was complete Sekine remarked, "now all our executives want a creative brain".

Bond has heard similar calls from all over the world, but "particularly here in Australia where boardrooms tend to shut their doors on creative people, and because quantifying creative functions such as advertising, marketing and R&D are generally put in the 'too hard' basket".

But Bond maintains "creativity is a must if organisations are to survive the coming decades". Unfortunately, most people are not aware of their creative potential; let alone how to ignite it. When Bond took to the podium in Auckland recently and asked the attending 200 finance specialists:

"If you believe you are creative, please raise your right hand," only six hands went up.

It is often believed that if people are right brain dominant then they are innately creative. Not so, according to Bond. He refutes the "you have it, I don't" determinism. "Every man, woman and child on the planet, regardless of age, has oodles of creative potential; it just needs to be reignited, unleashed, and optimised.

"Most managers, leaders and CEOs have a niggling sense that 'creativity' could somehow boost productivity, but the term itself seems hard to define," Bond observes. "The ubiquitous jargon detracts from the precise what, why, where, and how of creativity. And the end result is that the concept is bound in mystique.

"We are told we can solve problems with creativity, perhaps by playing mind games with everyone in our organisation, by investing in mind-mapping software, brainstorming, creating workplace metaphors, or unleashing our subconscious, and presto!" He laughs.

According to Bond, people must understand that creativity and neuroscience go hand in hand. Accordingly, no game-type strategies will be remotely effective without a firm, scientific understanding of what creativity means.

So how does the creative brain work?

"Different neuron clusters in the brain perform different tasks and respond to different stimuli," Bond explains enthusiastically. "Juggling, crossword puzzles, and writing songs, for example, relate to different parts of the brain. Most human beings currently possess a degree of creative limitation, they are able to juggle or do crossword puzzles, but with a little muscle flexing the entire creative process can be exercised."

His definition of creativity is very specific; it concerns achieving results, not just playground games. Accordingly, creativity is defining a desired outcome along with a deadline, and delivering that desired outcome within a set-in-stone time.

For the past 25 years, Lloyd Bond's creative achievements have been acclaimed and acknowledged by clients and peers throughout the world. Rupert Murdoch has been quoted as saying: "Lloyd Bond is a creative genius".

Bond has been creative director, consultant and project leader on more than 700 major projects for companies including News Corporation, Honda, Universal Studios, Dreamworld, Luna Park Sydney, Sultan of Brunei, Tourism Queensland, Lion Nathan, Proton Motor Company, and more.

After the 2000 Olympic Games, Bond pursued his life-long dream, and undertook a five-year self-funded $3.5 million R&D program to investigate, experiment, explore and discover more than was ever previously known about the neuroscience possibilities, applications and learning techniques of creative intelligence for business, individuals and organisations.

Lloyd Bond lives by the "get it right, first time, every time" rule. And he used this philosophy when he was creative director for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. The pressure of having only one chance at a particular time (7pm on Sunday 1 October, for instance) made the whole creative enterprise work.

"Anyone can come up with random ideas, but by themselves ideas are like sperm cells. Tens of billions of ideas are ejaculated globally everyday, but less than 0.01 per cent become a successful creation. This is because ideas can only come to fruition if they traverse the neurological pathway that leads from desire to deadline.

"In other words, creativity demands whole brain thinking. The process circulates all four quadrants of the brain, each of which initiates distinct processes. These are: Desire and Conception (right brain processes that are infinite, no holds barred), and Incubation and Delivery (left brain; rational and non-emotional). If we genuinely desire something, we conceptualise it, we incubate the idea, and finally deliver it."

This is how Bond explains the four creativity processes:

Desire is what we want and why we want it. We can desire and imagine indefinitely.

Conception explores how it will be, what it will look like, and how it will feel. Conception devises a provisional storyboard and passes it on for approval.

Incubation represents the first rational part of the process. A path plan is prepared in this quadrant, without emotional factoring. Incubation provides reality checks, and frequently strikes up a dialogue with Conception.

Delivery is the final process, which Bond compares to militarisation. Delivery does what it is told and delivers the outcome.

Finally there is the reward. "The limbic brain, the pleasure centre, is one of the oldest parts of our evolving brain. Satisfaction, positive emotion, and new knowledge are stored here. Creativity potentially creates a sense of well being in a physical sense, because the limbic system is connected to our nerves, via the spine."

Bond is adamant that, "personal satisfaction is the most powerful and significant of all human emotions. So being creative leads to a profound sense of satisfaction across the board. Empowering people throughout our organisations to optimise their own unique, creative intelligence capabilities will result in a productive profile."

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests on newborn babies have shown that this whole brain creativity process is initiated immediately after birth. Within seconds, a baby has gone through the complete desire/conception/incubation/delivery process in order to receive food and physical contact. The infant stores the positive experience in the limbic system for future reference.

Within one year of starting school the flow through the brain decreases by one-third. Bond believes strongly that "school forces us to cast aside those childlike rebellious impulses that enable us to see things in new ways. We are forced to reject novel ways of exploring and imagining for ourselves.

"What is more, what we think we want and how we act on that impulse are wildly opposed. We often have the urge to try new things, but are fearful of the consequences, so we tend to suppress our inner child and clown."

Bond has a very strong call to action, based on six years of independent research: "We should be thinking seriously about the perils of stifling creativity in the workplace."

According to a Harvard Business Review report, up to 72 per cent of the workforce in the western world is currently engaged in programmable tasks (repetitive and linear, A to B activities). And yet almost all these people have unharnessed creative ability, which could yield superlative results elsewhere.

"It is conceivable that robots may perform these left-brain tasks in years to come," Bond cautions, "so where does this leave the 72 per cent?"

Bond is more than sensitive to emerging trends. "There is a sniff of a realisation in this country that boardrooms should be addressing the impact of creativity on organisational goals, as businesses are doing in the US, Europe, and China ."

A recent article in The Australian Financial Review reported that "an inability to create a powerful company vision" was the most common source of dissatisfaction for a high percentage of business leaders.

"In my view," Bond suggests, "higher level people must accept that a truly great company vision is a creation, not something that is just cobbled together."

One of the first questions Bond puts to people is, "do you really understand how creative your organisation is, and how creative it could become?".

"The challenge," he postulates, "is to encourage people to achieve desirable outcomes for themselves and for their organisations."

Like the managing partner of a legal firm who had Bond ignite his brain. When he was firing on all cylinders, he remarked, "I'm now creative beyond reasonable doubt".

"A company without people is nothing but a building. A company without creativity is potentially dead. Leaders and managers should strive to optimise creativity at every level."

Bond recently infiltrated a substantial Victoria-based industrial contracting company. The CEO was desperately unhappy; he was losing contact, and staff were leaving.

The creativity review of management yielded "staggering results" that we could learn from.

"The CEO had the most dominant left-brain profile the CIA had ever encountered, but what is more startling is that he seemed unable to recruit people on to his management team who were anything other than clones of himself. The agreed solution was to initiate a creative training program and bring in some senior right brain executives with strong imagination and inspiration clout to correct the imbalance."

According to Bond, no two people are exactly alike; each creative profile is as unique as DNA. Bond predicts that as a consequence we will see the emergence of job profiles and applications that draw upon creative intelligence profiles in much the same way that people refer to Enneagram test results, Myers Briggs, IQ quotients, or even handwriting.

He advises, "If organisations seek to position themselves as leaders, they might do well to consider familiarising themselves with the neuroscience of creativity, diagnostics and training, well before they make employees participate in brainstorming sessions, or similar voodoo practices."