Creative Collisions

Innovation. Creativity. Collaboration. Any business leader or manager worth his or her salt talks about these things as being critical to an organization’s growth. Truth or buzz?

There’s a simple way to find out. Each one of those terms points to one thing: Change. The challenge is that most of us like to talk about change but are resistant to actual change. As Tolstoy eloquently stated: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

Why is change so hard? Innovation, creativity and collaboration sound like much more fun than we usually have at work (or school). And seriously, who among us wouldn’t want to be viewed as being creative or innovative? All of those things, and especially change, mean that it’s hard to get it right. Actually it means that to be successful, you have to get it wrong, a lot, before you get it right.

Venture capital firms in the United States are often viewed as being in the vanguard of the next new, big thing. Yet most VC firms have a failure rate of 80 to 90 percent. Their investments in companies succeed between one and five and one and 10 attempts.

So when we talk about innovation, creativity and collaboration, we really are talking about an organization’s culture. Cultures that succeed are open to and embrace change and allow failures along the way. Cultures that have not truly embraced change allow employees to “play” at innovation and creativity but don’t tolerate mistakes or failure.

If you’re stuck in a workplace without a genuine commitment to innovation, there are things you can do to break down the resistance.

For instance, find your like-minded colleagues. They are out there and there are more than you think. Pick something small to focus on. Work collaboratively. Pick the “lightest flight” solution, one that you can implement and test with the fewest hindrances.

Some organizations do this by labeling these groups “skunk works.” The reality is that if you and your colleagues can demonstrate what innovation, creativity and collaboration look like, leaders and managers can feel less anxious about change. It isn’t easy. But it’s usually more rewarding for you to do so.

I’m a firm believer that this type of change happens best when we have creative collisions with other people, or other ideas around us. In these Creative Collision columns we’ll meet innovative and creative people from Vermont and beyond who embrace change. Other times we’ll focus on the ways that all of us in business, education, non-profits and at home can work on our innovation, creativity and collaboration.

Every quarter, we’ll host a Creative Collisions Innovation Breakfast at Free Press Media’s Innovation Incubator on the third floor of 100 Bank Street. We’re inviting speakers and practitioners to share their stories. Each event will include a hands-on workshop to inspire and energize you and give you something to use when you get back to work.

Our first event is on June 10 with Gianfranco Zaccai, one of the founders of the design firm Continuum, and graphic facilitator Matt Heywood from The Image Farm in Middlebury.

Zaccai will talk about the intersection of design and innovation and how Continuum used those to develop and design changes like the Swiffer, or redesigning how rural, poor Pakistanis receive government assistance.

Heywood will lead us through a hands-on visual communication workshop, a.k.a. Doodle workshop so we can get better at communicating and telling our stories through pictures.

You can find out more and register to attend at

In the meantime, have as many creative collisions as you possibly can.

[Reprinted from the Burlington Free Press]


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