Strategize and Create
My post of April 2019 on this blog, which announced The End of Knowledge, envisioned a shift in the role of training and learning institutions. These institutions will have to repurpose themselves with a focus on creativity, strategic thinking, teamwork and emotional dimensions. In this post and a future one, we will explore pairs of these concepts in more depth.
Creativity is currently not the focus of training institutions, as they tend to impart abilities and existing knowledge. Creativity is conceiving novel ideas, which is mostly an individual, internal and subjective process. Creativity goes beyond rational thinking, involving our imagination and anticipating the future. Organizations have struggled with setting up processes that unleash creativity because their primary goal is not to envisage changes and generate new ideas but to convert these into viable applications. Translating creativity into a possible solution that will produce sufficient return on investment is usually referred to as innovation. One could look at creativity and innovation as two subsequent steps where creativity is the starting point and innovation its implementation.
Creative processes can and should be embedded in the activities of organizations that want to address the challenges posed by the rapid distribution of artificial intelligence and its increasing capabilities, the short lifetime of innovations, the increasing competition through aggressive research and development. Here are some tips that may help organizations transcend the traditional way of thinking and acting.
Start from a white page and envisage organizational processes from a different perspective, rather than adapting and adjusting existing processes. Change the dimension of time and space; picture the horizon of your change either much shorter or much longer than what exists, and envision the solution as extraordinarily big or infinitely small. Connect concepts between fields of work and disciplines – it is from these intersections that unconventional solutions are generated. As an example, 3D printing is the intersection of industrial design and robotized printing; cryptocurrency is the intersection of distributed authority and monetary policy.
Reverse your assumptions, this will enable you to test how solid or weak they are. Creativity, unlike usual management processes, allows for failure and learning from it. Divergent thinking will open up new opportunities. We generally assume that learning requires effort, time and money. What would happen if we challenged these assumptions by reversing them and envisaging a scenario where learning is effortless, immediate and free?
Strategic thinking may be a typical human feature, as it may take time before machines and artificial intelligence anticipate changes, make judgements during negotiations, question the status quo, or design medium- and long-term policies. Effective strategic thinking does not foremost depend on the tools and techniques that are used to develop an organization’s strategy, such as foresight and future thinking – these are a prerequisite. The main assets for effective strategic thinking are in the mindset of the actor, the strategic thinker. Their fluid intelligence will allow them to prepare for new situations or adapt to them.
A strategic thinker has the capacity to envision a situation with increased abstraction and in its entire complexity, understanding the interconnectedness of apparently distant fields. These characteristics are needed to develop an organizational vision but they are not sufficient. The strategic thinker is also an unconventional thinker or will, at the least, challenge conventional thinking, finding options and solutions where no one else would be looking for them, constantly exploring new areas and unexpected combinations.
This unconventional exploration is fed by acute awareness of the drivers of change, within the organization and in the broader context. The responsibility of technicians and experts is to put plans, procedures and processes into action. The strategic thinker’s perspective, on the contrary, is systemic, long-term and future oriented. The responsibility of the strategic thinker is be to instill such a culture in their organization, inspire the personnel, and set events in motion that will shape the organization’s future.
If training and learning institutions would gradually open up their portfolio and embrace the concepts described, they would decrease the risk of becoming obsolete for not being able to adapt to these emerging transversal needs.
- Frans Johansson, “The Medici Effect: what elephants & epidemics can teach us about innovation”, Harvard Business School Press, 2006.
- Oshin Vartanian, Adam S. Bristol, James C. Kaufman, “Neuroscience of Creativity”, The MIT Press, 2013.
- About sustainable futures (SITRA Finland).
- Aìda Ponce Del Castillo, “Anticipating change, staying relevant: why trade unions should do foresight? – A foresight field guide”, ETUI, 2019.