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Coaching must unleash innovative mindset

Surveys carried out on leaders around the globe have proclaimed innovation as one of their top priorities. Great coaches today should be preoccupied with improving creativity and innovation.

Evidence from research around the globe shows that innovation fuels long term growth. However, as Cherian Kuruvila, a business coach, observes every chief executive (CE), leader and entrepreneur have reached where they are because of their talent, tenacity, skills and mindset. Yet, unlike the best sportspersons, who are proud to have a coach to help them fine-tune their game, many of the leaders feel that coaching is not really for “them”.

A good coach can be transformational by helping to shake up or fine-tune and also make those minor corrections that can bring out the utmost best in you. More often leaders deliver speech after speech calling for a fresh commitment to new ideas. They harp about creativity and seem to be aware that it is one of the most important factors for their future.

This is not really a new phenomenon. For years leaders have talked about emulating the Steve Jobs of the world, the new technology innovators, those who come up with clever solutions or new products that transform entire markets and industries. Yet in spite of all this talk, most companies still have not been successful in making creativity a core leadership skill, or in putting innovation on the front burner. The fact of the matter is that, short-term needs, immediate priorities, and pressure from shareholders, customers and investors continue to win out over the long-term mindset that is essential for driving successful innovation.

At the same time, many leaders struggle with really getting their arms around what innovation and creativity are and how to create a culture that supports them. With all the attention these concepts are receiving in business, myths are still abound about the innovative process. The upshot is that even where investments are being made, in too many instances, they are not paying off.

This is more than just an ROI issue. It seems most companies are losing out on the true competitive benefits of innovation. And just as significantly, the full creative brainpower, ideas and talents of their employees are being wasted in the process.

Brain: creativity source

Ultimately, no matter what the “talk” is, if the climate does not support creative and innovative thinking, the results will continue to disappoint. Whether you refer to it as design thinking, lateral thinking or “out-of-the box” thinking, creativity is, among other things, the ability to challenge assumptions, recognise patterns, see in new ways, make connections, take risks and seize upon a chance.

All of these essential aspects of creativity come from the brain. A good coach should be able to provide intervention tools that stimulate innovative paradigms in the brain of leaders. Because the brain is the source of creativity, we cannot unleash the creative and innovative potential in the organisation without first recognising what we are actually asking people to do in terms of their thinking. Just as essential, we have to recognise that everybody can access creative thinking, but they will approach it in their own unique way.

Many years of global research on the brain and thinking has demonstrated that every person in an organisation has access to thinking that can be applied to creativity and innovation. In fact, creative thinking that leads to innovative ideas is a “whole brain” process. Yet much of this thinking — “this powerful business asset” — often lies dormant.

Innovative companies know that creativity cannot be the domain of a selected few in the organisation. In fact, the next groundbreaking idea or innovative breakthrough could come from marketing or product development, or it might come from finance or operations. To make innovation a priority in your organisation, leaders have to understand and build the mindset for innovation across the enterprise, starting with themselves. Only skilled coaches can nurture this mindset in leaders.

With the “whole brain creativity” approach, your organisation can create a climate that supports ongoing innovation as an integral part of the business. Given the right tools and techniques, everyone has the ability to contribute to the organisation’s creative output by:

  • Understanding how thinking preferences impact creativity and how people use creativity;
  • Applying a proven creative process involving all four quadrants of the brain to foster creativity and manage ongoing implementation of ideas;
  • Using creative thinking to solve everyday problems as well as complex challenges;
  • Organising Whole Brain teams and going “diverse by design”;
  • Generating new and different ideas that will have value for the business; and
  • Building the thinking agility to balance today’s priorities with the strategic, long-term view.
    According to Herman International, using a whole brain creativity process, people and teams will be able to improve not just idea generation but also problem identification, idea selection and execution, all essential for getting the business value from creative ideas.
    For creativity and innovation to deliver, it has to be more than just “talk.”

Whole brain thinking puts it to work. If Albert Einstein, widely regarded as a genius and greatest inventor of all time is said to have used only 40% of his brain at the time of his death at 76 years, surely we must introspect to find out how much of our brain we have used to date? Each one of us irrespective of the position we occupy in the social and or organisational strata has his or her own blind spots.

We all have our own prejudices and biases. All these inform our decisions in life. A Coach can help unravel these shortcomings in our way of thinking and help us deal with weaknesses while leveraging on our strengths. The disruptive macro-economic environment requires an equally disruptive leadership approach. It goes without saying that even coaches themselves should also have coaches in their business and social lives.

Mandeya is a an executive coach in human capital development and corporate education, a certified life coach in leadership and professional development at the Institute of Leadership Research and Development. You can contact him on lead.inst.dev@gmail.com, mandeyarobert@gmail.com.

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