Tag Archives: Creativity

Creativity: What Leaders Can Learn From Jazz ?


What makes Jazz different from other music styles and what has it to do with creativity and leadership ?

Jazz is an American music originated in the early 20th century in New Orleans with small bands of five-to-seven players. Jazz is a music that was played as a way to free musicians from the rigidity of standard dance or marching bands. Jazz was propelled commercially mostly as 12-to-15 musician big bands, in a style that became known as swing (1935-1945). Swing was built around highly rhythmic riffs with strong soloists (see most famous Swing Era Artists ) providing “breaks” or moments of spirited improvisation against backdrops of arranged composition.

What is interesting is the combination of structured compositions called “Jazz Standards” and totally improvised solos taken in turn by each musician. Sometimes the band has a well designated leader, especially in big bands but very often there is no leader and yet the listeners can hear great cohesion in  rhythmical momentum.

In jazz, the composition is secondary to the performance itself and the listeners can enjoy the unique style and musical personality of the artist. When listening to two trumpeters playing same notes in the same tempo and context we immediately know that one was Louis Armstrong while the other was for example Miles Davis. The first impression that affects the listener is the sound emanating from the instrument. The tone that is heard is an extension of that artist’s voice and on a deeper level, their persona.

In  cross-functional or multicultural teams each person brings her expertise, knowledge, language or jargon and unique personality. Like in a jazz band, creativity can be expressed to solve a problem or create a new product or service if the team members are fearless and feel supported to express their own ideas. The role of the leader is not to provide the answers but to foster an atmosphere of trust and at the same time being able to get productive outcomes and make decisions.

There is also an interesting aspect in jazz music: many musicians and singers don’t read the music but play by ear. That means the soloists and the band must listen to each other, be in the moment,  pay attention to subtle signals and intuition, feel the music and the “groove”. Creativity, like jazz and improvisation, cannot be learned at school or in a book, you must expose yourself, play and explore new paths to generate new ideas.

I experimented great moments of pure joy as a jazz singer. I never learned to read music yet was able to sing and improvise in very eclectic music styles during my years in college and beyond. The fact that I sang jazz also helped me to listen and appreciate better other musicians.

In conclusion, leaders should be like jazz musicians, more interested by the execution of the strategy than by the planning process, be able to make some risky decisions and not afraid of making mistakes in order to generate original ideas.


Related articles:

Jazz-Inspired Leadership: Change Observer: Design Observer

Leadership Lessons From The Geniuses Of Jazz

Practice Improvisation to Become a Faster and More Creative Thinker

De Bono Six Thinking Hats Method Summary

See on Scoop.itGlobal Leaders

Quote from the book: “Six Thinking Hat can help you think better, make right decisions, explore new ideas. De Bono Unscrambles the thinking process”

Anne Egros‘s insight:

Excellent Method For Managing Brainstorming Group Sessions

See on www.slideshare.net

Are Sociability And Klout Scores Related To Innovation ?

See on Scoop.itGlobal Leaders

In the past decade, the word “friend” became a verb, the word “like” became a noun, and “tweet” became more than a birdsong.

In the original article “Do You Hire For IQ Or Klout Score? I have extracted the following interesting questions related to the shift FROM a knowledge economy TO a social economy

-How do you currently evaluate and place prospective employees?

-Do you consider the social influence of new talent in your recruiting process?

-Do you have a process for evaluating which types of projects should be managed collaboratively (socially) versus individually?

-Where appropriate, how do you encourage and foster social networking across your organization?

-How do you encourage and foster external collaboration outside of your company and across sectors of industry?

-What incentives and performance management systems do you have in place to encourage “creative teaming” vs. “functional innovation”?

-What are you doing to help your leaders understand their role in transitioning from a knowledge economy to a social economy

Here my comments:

I think we should start by evaluating the skills and personality types needed for each function and working environment.

Being social is just one skill that alone can’t make someone  or an organization creative or foster innovation.

I think good analytical thinking and judgement is very much-needed in a social economy as we are totally overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge we can get for free from the internet.

Too often people forget the facts and favor sensationalism or sentimentalism, even journalists don’t check their sources they find on YouTube or other social networks.

This article does not convince me that we have enough proofs to conclude that being social and having a high Klout score is linked with creativity and innovation.

Are you ?

See more on www.fastcompany.com

Beyond Motivation: How to Engage Employees To Boost The Economy

English: Steve Jobs shows off the white iPhone...

According to the latest Gallup survey on American employee’s productivity conducted in 201,  only 29% of employees were engaged or involved and enthusiastic about their job. In contrast 71 % of full-time workers, were “not engaged” including 20% miserable or actively disengaged. These findings are really shocking  and very disheartening. Miserable employees are simply ignored, they are disconnected from the company’s goals, often scared to lose their job, taking sometimes additional workload from a colleague who has been laid-off.

Can sustainable organizations ignore employee’ s morale ?  Cutting costs has direct impact on the bottom line but not necessarily in the desired way:

“miserable employees create miserable customers” 

For the most part the recovery of the American economy is dependent on the innovation capacity of America Inc.  If employees are not intrinsically motivated chances are very high that they are not creative as well. and won’t work hard enough as passionate people do according to  Steve Jobs in a video about the rules for success.  I cannot agree more and I have observed the power of passion in people at any level and any function of organizations and across cultures.

Passion is putting you in a state of “flow” where you ignore fatigue or hunger because you are so engaged by what you do that you ignore the time you spend on a particular activity, you are intrinsically rewarded by what you do and truly happy. The concept of “flow” has been introduced by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi a psychologist making connections between satisfaction and daily activities in his book: ” Flow: The Psychology of the Optimal Experience“.

Being passionate is coming from the inside-out. You can break somebody’s motivation  very easily but it is very hard for leaders to inspire people to give happily the best of what they have to offer if they don’t want to and don’t have trust in the management.

High performance organizations know that engaged employees drive customer value and business performance. Good examples of such companies are Google or Zappos with its CEO’s vision of putting his people first.


Gallup measures employees’ engagement by collecting the answers of the following 12 survey items listed bellow.

If you want to engage people you need to provide what it takes for them to say YES to a maximum of the questions:

  • Q01. I know what is expected of me at work.
  • Q02. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  • Q03. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  • Q04. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  • Q05. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  • Q06. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  • Q07. At work, my opinions seem to count.
  • Q08. The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important.
  • Q09. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  • Q10. I have a best friend at work.
  • Q11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  • Q12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

The Three ‘E’s of Engagement: Engage, Empower, Enable:

  • Engage: leaders must provide a clear view of the company’s future, connect the company values with the individual life purpose,  identify individual contribution to a higher level than self .  Employees who feel good about themselves and think they belong to a team get the intrinsic motivation  to deliver performance.
  • Empower: Let people decide how to set goals, how to  get the expected results.  Increase their personal power in making decisions at all level of the organizations. The leaders’ role  is  to coach and mentor individuals and teams to remove self-limiting beliefs, provide immediate feedbacks and develop strengths while minimizing the impact of weaknesses
  • EnableProvide highly personalized support and enough resources.  Lead  teams based on matching  personal communication, behavior and management styles of each team member. Provide talent development programs.

How Do You Measure Employee’s Engagement and Creativity ?

What Is You Recipe To Stimulate Creativity and Innovation In Your Company ?

Related Articles:

Effective Problem Solving In Multicultural Teams

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The Edward de Bono‘s Six Thinking Hats method is a very practical approach to problem solving, making decisions and exploring new ideas.

Although it has not been specifically designed for multicultural teams, this tool is very effective for making the most of various thinking modes from people having different cultural backgrounds.

The Basics: There are six different imaginary hats that you can put on or take off. Each hat is a different color and represents a different type or mode of thinking. • Everybody wear the same hat (do the same type of thinking) at the same time. • When you change hats – you change our thinking.

The Benefits of Six Thinking Hats: 1. Provides a common language, 2. Allow diversity of thought , 3. Use more of our brains, 4. Removal of ego (reduce confrontation), 5. Focus (one thing at a time), 6. Save time, 7. Create, evaluate & implement action

The Coach Role : The coach or facilitator wears the Blue Hat. He defines the focus of the thinking, by asking questions like: Why we are here • What we are thinking about • Definition of the situation or problem • Alternative definitions • what we want to achieve • where we want to end up • What is the background to the thinking What we want to take away • What we want to achieve • Outcome • Conclusion • Design • Solution • Next steps •The coach plans the sequence and timing of the thinking • Ask for changes in the thinking • Handle requests from the group • Form periodic or final summaries of the thinking for consideration by the team

Participant’s Role • Follow the lead of the coach:• Stick to the hat (type of thinking) that is in current use • Try to work within the time limits • Contribute honestly & fully under each of the hats.

White Hat Thinking: 1. Neutral, objective information 2. Facts & figures 3. Questions: what do we know, what don’t we know, what do we need to know 4. Excludes opinions, judgments 5. Removes feelings & impressions

Green Hat Thinking :1. New ideas, 2.Concepts, 3.Perceptions 4.Deliberate creation of new ideas and Alternatives. 5. New approaches to problems • 6. Creative & lateral

Yellow Hat Thinking 1. Positive & speculative 2. Positive thinking, optimism, opportunity 3. Benefits 4. Best-case scenarios 5. Exploration

Black Hat Thinking: 1.Negative, critical judgement, 2.focus on errors, 3.Pessimistic view, 4. focus on why it won’t work

Red Hat Thinking :1. Emotions & feelings 2. Intuitions, impressions 3. Doesn’t have to be logical or consistent 4. No justifications, reasons or basis 5. All decisions are emotional in the end

Hats sequence in meetings: Hats can be used in different sequences depending on the expected outcome of the meeting. For example , you can use this sequence to explore a case:

1. Coach (Blue Hat) Open the discussion, Clarifying the problem •
2. Present the facts of the case (White Hat). •
3. Generate ideas, how the case could be handled (Green Hat). •
4. Evaluate the merits of the ideas, List benefits (Yellow Hat). •
5. List drawbacks (Black Hat). •
6. Get everybody gut feeling about the alternatives (Red Hat). •
7. Summaries, action plans, what’s next ?

Praise and Incentives: Are Carrots Worse Than Sticks?

How many times do you say  “good job” or  “I am proud of you” to your kids ? Do you give them money or buy them candies if they behave well or get good marks at school?

What about your employees ?  Do you give them extra money if they exceed their goals ?

The way you encourage and praise kids and adults  is very cultural.  For example in France, Japan or China praise is rare.  Those cultures think that too much praise will spoil the children and prevent them from making efforts to get results. On the other hand, in America, it is almost considered as a crime if you don’t praise your kids for anything and everything they do. Most teachers and parents think that praising children is good for their self-esteem.

Our basic strategy for raising children, teaching students, and managing workers can be summarized in six words: Do this and you’ll get that. We dangle goodies (from candy bars to sales commissions) in front of people in much the same way that we train the family pet.

In the famous book, “Punished by Rewards”, Alfie Kohn shows that while manipulating people with incentives seems to work in the short run, it is a strategy that ultimately fails and even does lasting harm.

On a short-term basis, praise do increase the motivation in children and adults for boosting  the performance at school or at work. However many evidence-based studies show that in the long run the motivation is actually decreasing. Those studies also demonstrated that  both in children and adults praise kills risk-taking attitude and creativity.

In one experiment, two groups of children in 5th grade  were asked to make an easy puzzle for everyone. In one group the children have been told that they were very intelligent and the other group that they worked hard. Then the same groups of students got the option to choose between doing another easy puzzle or a more difficult and challenging one. In the group who was told they were very intelligent, the majority selected the easy one  while in the other group more children choose to take the challenge of making a more difficult task.

Kids praised for being smart want to keep looking good, therefore they avoid taking risks or more challenges due to fear of failure preventing them to learn new things. They have also a tendency to be competitive and benchmarking themselves with other kids. On the contrary, the children who have been told they worked hard learned that by working harder they can learn more and preferred the challenging task.

In this article “effect of praise” there are  good tips on how to praise kids the right way.

In business, financial incentives like sales commissions and bonuses  are the most common ways used to motivate people and reward performance despite the fact that most economic and behavioral scientific studies demonstrate that  it doesn’t work. Companies like Google, Apple or Zappos  use different approaches based on intrinsic motivation rather than external rewards and get better results on how workers are engaged and creative.

The If-Then-Rewards model destroys creativity

In this video:  TED talk, Dan Pink demonstrates that financial incentives don’t work on productivity and motivation for most people working in jobs that require more than just following simple tasks. What works on a long run is employee’s autonomy, engagement, mastery and purpose

Dan Ariely and co-workers also demonstrated in experiments published in the “Large Stakes and Big Mistakes article,  that big financial incentive backfire:

Many institutions provide very large incentives for tasks that require creativity, problem solving, and memory. Our results challenge the assumption that increases in motivation would necessarily lead to improvements in performance. Across multiple tasks (with one important exception), higher monetary incentives led to worse performance.  the largest the financial incentives the poorest the performance were .

In thisvideo, Freaknomics‘s author Steve Levitt  found also lot of evidence that  giving financial incentive don’t work.

In conclusion, While most people think intuitively that too much punishment may not be an effective way to improve performance on cognitive tasks such as learning or being creative,  the negative impact of over-praising or offering large incentives is ignored by most parents, teachers and companies. Anything that stimulates intrinsic motivation such as autonomy and independence, overcoming personal challenges or problem solving is the way both schools and companies should base their incentive programs.

Related  links:

How To Become A Successful Innovator Part II: Set The Stage

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In my previous post I talked about why you need to break the rules and un-learn things to be a creative person.  Here, I will share some ideas for discussion on how to foster innovation in organizations.

Let me first share a lesson I learned today about problem solving : I started noticing a  water leakage  in the  basement of my house. I thought it came from two very old faucets in my bathroom so I started  looking in the bathroom but found nothing. Then my housekeeper pointed at me that we could hear the evacuation of the water in the pipes on the right side of the wall. Because of the bias about the faucets, I saw what I wanted to see with the illusion that the water came out from the left side of the wall,  just under my bathroom. Later she discovered the leak by drying everything and then just following  the water path. So lesson learned: Good problem solvers have a  systemic approach and do not jump into conclusions without checking first all objective facts.

I mentioned in previous postThree Ways To Stimulate or Kill Creativity In the Office“, now  lets summarize the most important factors to create an environment that foster innovation.

Creativity and innovation are vital for keeping a company’s competitive edge but also for individual well-being.

1-Stakeholders should first decide if the organization wants to be a  leading innovative company and commit to provide the environment, support and resources needed.  With the financial crisis, many companies cut on their R&D costs or transfer some design work abroad. Is that good or bad ? unfortunately I think we will only see the results of such strategy in 5 or 10 years from now.

2-The Managers’ people skills are  crucial for enabling creativity.  Knowing team members, their strengths, typical learning styles and natural behaviors help create teams that challenge the status quo. Leaders and managers need to  inspire trust, be open, be challenging but not overwhelming. empowering, giving freedom and give clear directions without micromanaging.

3-Managing talents is not about putting a bunch of all-stars together, it is about creating a team of people who share the same excitement for the project, are intrinsically motivated, have different expertise with diverse cultural backgrounds. In an article ‘Why dream teams fail”, the author took a very good example: The movie “Ocean’s Twelve” starring Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Julia Roberts  received flames from the critics and generated less revenues than the star-free “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”.

4-Using proven creativity tools  and  innovation processes: you need systematic approaches to optimize creativity, I have been using Debono’s Six Thinking Hats method with good results for problem solving or for generating new ideas, especially in multicultural teams to avoid prejudices and groupthink.  Many other creativity tools are used for developing innovative services and products such as brainstorming.

If you want to share the creativity tools you are using,  please post a comment-Thank you.

In conclusion: Most Innovative organizations have a formal process to spark innovation. They use employee’s intrinsic motivation and thinking power. They make them happy and have fun. They give a clear focus on market needs. They adjust rapidly budget allocation to stop following ideas that don’t work and allocate resources to most promising projects. With the current economic turmoil a lot of companies decided to cut costs on R&D and to outsource some design work. But nobody really knows if  this will have an impact on their global competitiveness.

More Resources

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