The Rise of the Smart Creative (Lessons from Google)

by Janet Sernack

In How Google Works, Eric Schmidt shares in the quotes included below:

“Today we all live and work in a new era, the Internet Century, where technology is roiling the business landscape and the pace of change is accelerating.” 

This is to say:

  • Consumers have more choices (and power) than they have ever had!
  • Product excellence is now the critical success factor due to the fact that the cost of experimentation and failure has dropped significantly.
  • Prototypes can be modeled digitally with a 3-D printer, can be market tested online, designs can be adjusted based on the resulting data, and even production funds can be raised online with a prototype or clever video.
  • Collaboration is easier, across a room, a continent and the globe making the business eco-system concept a viable, attractive and accessible development.

“Product development has become a faster, more flexible process, where radically better products don’t stand on the shoulders of giants, but on the shoulders of lots of iterations. The basis for success then, and for continual product excellence, is speed.”

The birth of the adaptive learner

IBM Learning is now developing a completely different set of competencies which they encapsulate and describe as an ‘adaptive learner’. Stating that “innovation is the art of combination” where designers, developers, and engineers (and supervisors, managers, and leaders) are required to combine their ‘expert intuition’ (and knowledge, skills and experience) with ‘strategic intuition’ (and innovative thinking).

Where ‘not knowing’ and having an open mind and heart is allowing people to better flow with, and not resist, the discomfort of cognitive dissonance and creative tension.

These are fast becoming the new rules of the business game boosting innovative thinking and acting in this new world where employees have incredible impact!

So what is a smart creative?

According to Google, these people are the key to success in the Internet Century. Google describes them as someone who combines “business savvy, technical knowledge, creative energy and a hands-on approach to getting things done.”

Someone who:

  • Is not confined to a specific task, and has access to all of the company’s information and computing power, who is not adverse to taking risks, and is not punished when failure happens.
  • Is not restricted by organizational structure or role definitions and who is encouraged to exercise their own ideas.
  • Doesn’t keep quiet when they disagree, get bored easily and shift jobs a lot.
  • Is multi-dimensional, in that they combine technical depth with business savvy and creative flair.

Key qualities of the smart creative

  1. Experts in doing; they design and build, are able to analyze and conceptualize & use data rigorously to make informed business decisions.
  2. Business smart; they see and practice the lines of sight between technical expertise, product excellence,and business success.
  3. Competitive smart; they are driven by their own sense of passionate purpose and desire to create ‘great’ things.
  4. User smart; they understand the end product from the user’s perspective and act an ‘obsessive user’ in their own right.
  5. Generates creative ideas & is curiously creative; that are genuinely new, are open to multiple perspectives and plays the perspective chameleon when required. Always questioning, debating and seeking problems to solve in their individualistic way.
  6. Risky, collaborative and takes the initiative and is a good and open communicator.

“Their common characteristic is that they work hard and are willing to question the status quo and attack things differently. This is why they can have such an impact. It is also why they are uniquely difficult to manage, especially under old models, because no matter how hard you try, you can’t tell people like that how to think. If you can’t tell someone how to think, then you have to learn to manage the environment where they think. And make it a place where they want to come every day.”

How to adapt and be-come a ‘smarter creative’

It all comes down to having the self-efficacy, courage, creative confidence, connectedness, curiosity and compassion to be different and resilient when confronted with adversity.  No matter the depth of your expert knowledge, your role, organizational structure or occupation.

  • To have the flexibility to develop the capacity to think differently in multiple perspectives by operating from emergence, detachment and allowing. By paying deep attention, creating cracks, openings, and thresholds to see the possibilities and opportunities problems offer us with fresh eyes.
  • To be safe in ‘not knowing’ the answer or the solution but how to generate it through intentional disruption, provocation, and disagreement and through deep inquiry, listening, and debate.
  • To be receptive and cultivate skills in the innovative thinking including divergent/convergent, critical, associative to ideate hypothetical solutions that may not have previously existed.
  • To know how to apply human-centered design thinking processes and lean and agile start-up methodologies to develop empathy speed and agility.
  • To be receptive and cultivate skills in acting differently through attending and observing, generative listening, inquiring and debating, teaming, networking, smart risk taking and experimenting with innovative business models and prototypes.

By developing these ‘smart creative’ being, thinking and acting differently states and skills, we can develop our belief in our ability to create change in the world around us as well as maximize the diversity that exist in our global working worlds.

To safely generate disruptive debate and disagreements that co-create innovative ideas and solutions that users value and cherish in our interconnected 21st-century internet based world.

image credit: slideshare.net

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