A Culture of Innovation Lessons Learned from Sir Ken Robinson
“You want to free up the abilities of everybody to contribute ideas, because everybody has ideas, and you need to create a climate in which that will happen. The role of a creative leader is not ‘command and control’, it’s more like ‘climate control’.”
On January 28, 2013 I was invited to attend a lecture by Sir Ken Robinson as part of a professional affiliation with Merrimack College. I have been a long time fan of Sir Ken! Sir Ken Robinson, PhD is an internationally recognized leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation. He is also one of the world’s leading speakers with a profound impact on audiences everywhere. The videos of his famous 2006 and 2010 talks to the prestigious TED Conference have been seen by an estimated 200 million people in over 150 countries.
The premise of Sir Ken’s work is the notion that creative people are not rare; creativity is a characteristic of being human. As young children, people have tremendous confidence in their imagination, but it tends to dissipate, as we get older. Sir Ken reported that we have forgotten what imagination can accomplish. Robinson stressed the inherent deep natural powers of creativity as evidenced by the way we have created our lives. Each life is lived uniquely; there are no two identical.
Sir Ken asserts that failing to appreciate the true nature of creativity has wider ramifications, too. “Often the culture of organizations inhibits creativity, because to be creative requires certain things.” “It requires you to take risks, and if people are worried that doing something unusual will prejudice their progress through the organization, they’ll step back. The issues are partly conceptual – misunderstandings about what this is and why it matters – and they’re partly cultural. If organizations don’t understand the dynamics of the creative process, they’ll wish for innovation to happen when the conditions for it to flourish don’t exist.”
If we’re to learn to cultivate creativity in a systemic way, definitions are a good place to start. According to Sir Ken “creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value.” In his book Out of Our Minds he goes even further, breaking down creativity as several interwoven processes: the first is generative (‘It may begin with a thought that is literally half-formed’); and the second is evaluative (‘At the right time and in the right way, critical appraisal is essential. At the wrong point, it can kill an emerging idea’). But on whose shoulders does it fall to get the balance right? Is creativity fostered from the top down? “There are some things we know about leadership which tend to inhibit creative thinking,” says Robinson. “Leaders can perpetuate problems when they try and control everything and remove the discretion of people in their organization. What you want to do is free up the abilities of everybody to contribute ideas, because everybody has ideas, and you need to create a climate in which that will happen. The role of a creative leader is not ‘command and control’, it’s more like ‘climate control’. You create a culture.”
To Learn More about Sir Ken Robinson and his work please visit his website located at: