Beyond the buzzwords: bringing creativity and innovation to work

1 min read

“Creativity” and “innovation” are more than just hot buzzwords; they’re traits that some successful companies consider part of their DNA. These enterprises see creativity and innovation as key to their competitive advantage – and rightly so. If your ideas can’t stay ahead of your competition’s ideas (creativity) or if you don’t follow through and implement them (innovation), you won’t be in business very long.

As management consultants, we hear these terms pretty often. Our job involves coming up with creative ideas and innovative solutions. If you’re reading this, it’s likely your job does too. But creativity and innovation need to be more than just catchwords. How can you make creativity and innovation part of your culture?

To help you develop your own understanding and framework, we’d like to share two favorite resources and three takeaways we apply every day.

Two good reads

As far as creativity is concerned, Ed Catcall, president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, says it better than most in his book, “Creativity, Inc“:

People tend to think of creativity as a mysterious solo act, and they typically reduce products to a single idea: This is a movie about toys, or dinosaurs, or love, they’ll say. However, in filmmaking and many other kinds of complex product development, creativity involves a large number of people from different disciplines working effectively together to solve a great many problems.

For innovation we turn to Kim Erwin, communication professor at the IIT Institute of Design, and her book “Communicating the New”:

Innovation processes historically have been done in a closed model. A team would come together, they might live in an innovation lab, but they are separated from the rest of the organization. The truth of the matter is it doesn’t work very well, because new ideas will be accepted, rejected, or ignored based on how well they’re understood. We need to understand socially and culturally what’s emerging in the world so that we can attach ourselves to the future and of the past. –

Three key ideas

Fostering creativity and supporting innovation are part of our mindset at HWC. Catcall and Erwin offer three takeaways that shape our approach:

Creativity requires removing barriers, building teams, and having fun.

  • Find ways for employees across all levels of seniority to spend time together on equal footing. Things like happy hours and brown bags help build the strong relationships and informal exchanges that allow creativity to blossom.

Innovation requires forethought, processes, and persistence.

  • This means thinking strategically about that creative idea, effectively communicating it, and creating buy-in. One way we do this is to engage staff from across the company in generating ideas to help us achieve our strategic priorities.

Both can be taught, learned, and lost.

  • It’s important to recognize that creativity and innovation are not milestones to be completed. They’re cultural traits that you have to build and maintain.

Go beyond the buzzwords

It’s invigorating to go to work every day in an environment where creativity and innovation are more than just buzzwords. Think about your own enterprise. What can you do to ensure that creativity and innovation are part of the culture?

Kyle Pipkins Kyle Pipkins leads HWC’s data & design capability. He holds a B.A. in political science and is pursuing an M.S. in information design and strategy from Northwestern University. In addition to dogs, bourbon, and beaches, Kyle likes understanding and solving problems. He is especially interested in the spaces where human behavior and technology connect.
Parul Agarwal Parul Agarwal is a former data analyst and information designer on HWC’s data & design team. She has a bachelor’s degree in government from Harvard University and a master’s degree in international affairs from UC San Diego. Parul is in the middle of a few side quests that involve drawing, front-end coding, and making gifs, but she most enjoys creating delightful and intuitive products.