“The Women’s Edge supports systematic, sustained progress for women into leadership roles throughout the business community.”


Elizabeth Hailer, CEO

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“The Women’s Edge supports systematic, sustained progress for women into leadership roles throughout the business community.”

Elizabeth Hailer, CEO

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“The Women’s Edge supports systematic, sustained progress for women into leadership roles throughout the business community.”

Elizabeth Hailer, CEO

Creativity and innovation play an integral role in both business and personal development. However, nurturing individual creative ideas and then implementing those ideas within a given business model can be a challenge, especially in a large corporate setting.

To help us understand the best strategies to adopt in order to foster creativity and innovation, expert Maria Hernandez, Founder and CEO of InnoGui, shared her professional insights during this month’s “Just Ask TCI” virtual program. Here, we highlight Maria’s answers to some important questions surrounding creativity and innovation as related to business and technology.

What Is the Difference between “Creativity” and “Innovation”?

MH: Creativity is about generating ideas, inventing, and coming up with different ways we can do things. Innovation comes in when you take those ideas and apply them to a business problem. To me, innovation is the intersection of ideas and a business component. Otherwise, ideas are just great ideas and don’t go beyond that.

How Do You Build a Culture of Creativity?

MH: To build a culture of creativity, you have to provide a fertile soil for employees and for the organization so that when they come up with ideas, they can flourish. In order to provide an environment that is conducive to innovation, you need to do these things:

  1. Encourage innovation as a team.Present an idea to a group of people, and then encourage them to work on it together.
  2. Inspire others about the “art of the possible.”In well-established organizations, it’s easy to get stuck in “tried and true” ways and resist change. Company leaders need to show their employees that they are open to change and innovation. This is where technology comes in—tech can really transform and innovate a different approach to so many things.
  3. Become more comfortable with uncertainty.Uncertainty and risk are inherent to innovation. If you’re doing something disruptive like the Ubers and Airbnbs of the world, you’re not going to have a lot of patterns or statistics to look at—you’re going to have to take on that risk yourself. Senior leaders, especially, need to instill this comfort with uncertainty and risk-taking within the organization.
  4. Understand that failure is okay.Not every idea or project is going to work as planned each and every time, but that’s part of the trial and error factor that comes with innovation. When an idea fails, the organization shouldn’t blame the team or individual that led the idea. Instead, it needs to be supportive and recognize the value in lessons learned from failure.

Is Creativity Something That Can Be Trained or Taught?

MH: I believe that it is possible to train someone to be creative, but you have to provide the environment for them to flourish. If your employees are sitting in a cubical and never encouraged to take their ideas anywhere else or don’t know how to take that idea forward, you won’t foster creativity or innovation.

While working for DHL, I have found that “idea factories” work very well to create this environment and implement new ideas. We have created a portal to capture the ideas of our employees for ways we can better serve our customers, better motivate employees, be more effective, etc. Those ideas then go to a “brain counsel” for review, where the ideas are flushed out, given a business value, and rated by peers.

If employees are able to see the life cycle of an idea within the business, they will be more apt to share their own, because they know they will be heard.

What Models and Technology Can Be Used to Implement Innovation?

MH: I like to use the funnel model, because innovation is a journey. You need to take in a broad range of ideas from multiple sources, and then parse those down to a handful of ideas that you want to incubate or curate through a process such as:

  1. Obtain ideas from multiple sources
  2. Decide which ones to incubate
  3. Consider the feasibility, cost, and how long it will take to implement to help mitigate some of the risk.
  4. Set parameters to measure when the business is ready to invest in a given idea.
  5. Take the idea to market or implement within the organization to drive change.

A good example of this would be asking customers to use their mobile phone to place an order instead of calling a phone number. To drive this change, you need education, tech support, buy-ins from both customers and employees, and backup plans.

At the core of all innovation is technology. I have not seen an example yet where technology has not enabled innovation. Technology allows you to get ideas and products to the market faster and with less training. It also has created a culture where everything is now so intuitive—it has made innovation like playing a game.

How Do You Encourage People to Embrace Radical Innovative Solutions?

MH: Showing people the value of innovation can be helpful. Explain the idea in terms of how it can benefit them and positively affect their lives. Although we have a tendency to talk about the bells and whistles of technology, it’s so important to always come back to the “why” of the initial idea—why is it important, why are we doing it, and how will it impact them and others. This will emphasize the value behind the technology and innovation.

Bottom Line

The key takeaway from our discussion about creativity and innovation is that innovation is not just writing ideas on a chalkboard. You need to implement and see those ideas through in order to truly innovate.

If you’d like to join in on next month’s discussion, which will focus on time management and productivity and will be lead by our experts Erika Twani and Carol Hindsman, dial into the next Just Ask session on Friday, July 20, 2018 at 12pm EST.

We hope to see you there!