Managing for Creativity and Innovation
Creating systems that encourage creativity and innovation is fundamentally important to developing effective and efficient supports for people with disabilities. Given the diversity of people to be supported and their desires, the successful support organization needs to cultivate flexibility and experimentation as a way of operating. Traditional management techniques focused on maintaining control and order are not likely to produce an environment that encourages responsiveness to individual needs.
Innovation requires more than knowledge and smart people. The innovative organization operates on strong collaborative relationships among employees at all levels and in different roles. Nurturing efforts to learn, excel, and develop trusting relationships allows knowledge to be converted into ideas and solutions that create value for people and the organization. So while increasing knowledge is important, organizations must also seek new strategies for managing that support building strong relationships, trust, and commitment to learning and the organization. Building trusting and collaborative relationships provides a foundation that supports employees to respond quickly to the needs of people.
It’s the culture of an organization that supports or discourages collaboration and trust. The norms and qualities that define how people work and relate to one another provide the basis for trust and collaboration. Organizations that support creativity and innovation invest in creating a culture that is people friendly and oriented to learning. They identify and reinforce the qualities and practices that are consistent with the values and outcomes they hope to achieve.
Putting People First: People (consumers and employees) are a priority in the responsive service organization. Making sure that people get the respect and support needed is seen as crucial to overall success. The same values that are identified as important to the customer, are also used to guide the development of internal supports for employees. Using universal values as a foundation for managing makes success more likely.
Learning to Question: Questions are seen as a valuable tool for exploring possibilities. They are a reflection of people’s commitment to learning and excellence. Effective managers help people learn what questions are important to ask. Questions are used to support true collaboration and genuine relationships by encouraging open dialogue.
Thinking – Acting – Thinking Again: Organizations that are most successful in being person-centered always have a theory or rationale for every action. This places emphasis on understanding why they do things instead of simply how. They use implementation as an opportunity to evaluate the usefulness of operational theories in action. The practice of making changes and enhancements in actions based on a review of how well the theory works is the basis for learning, creativity, and innovation.
Keeping Focused on the Outcome: Positive outcomes for people are the goal of the responsive service organization. Celebration of success that highlights positive outcomes not only keeps attention on the priority, but also encourages deeper understanding of how different processes work to support people to achieve personal priorities.
Nurturing systems and relationships that support creativity and innovation takes commitment. Time is needed for people to connect, build trust, understand roles, and develop effective work patterns. Managers must create an environment in which it is safe to innovate. This requires developing relationships with employees that make it safe to ask questions and seek support for problem solving. Investing in relationships is a practical and effective approach to managing the responsive organization. Making sure the essential qualities for creativity and innovation are embedded into the organization’s practice provides the resources needed to support positive outcomes for people with disabilities.
Copyright Council on Quality and Leadership Winter 2002
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