Want to develop a culture of creativity in your IT organization? You might need to change your current thinking about efficiency, solving problems and leadership.
When we challenge a person or a team, we trigger all three of these intrinsic motivators. We are giving them control by telling them only about the desired result, but not how to achieve it. The idea of a challenge implies something bigger than a simple task, which creates a sense of purpose and meaning. Finally, a challenge is, almost by definition, something that we believe they can accomplish, but that doing so will not be easy. It will require that they stretch and reach beyond their present capabilities, which will help trigger the desire for mastery. And as powerful as these three triggers are in each of us, they are multiplied in a team setting. Give a team a true challenge—and your reward might be watching them rise to the occasion.
I remember in the early 90's I was part of this exact situation. My CIO brought together our small team and explained that we had a very large, probably unreasonable task in front of us. She acknowledged that she was asking more of us than she had a right to ask, but that she needed our help. She told us that she believed in us and knew that we could accomplish the task, as impossible as the task seemed. She challenged us, and told us that she believed in us. She said that she would do whatever we needed of her in order to accomplish the task. It was powerful. We even gave ourselves a name: The Dream Team. And we got it done. We rose to the challenge, breaking almost every rule in the process. We created new approaches and new solutions on the fly. We worked with our partners to develop unique solutions to meet the challenge. We were creative fools! And it was a blast.
Creating Your Culture of Creativity
Creating a culture of creativity is not for the faint of heart. It will seemingly go against the grain of what has become the accepted operational ethos of the modern IT organization. As an IT leader, having a culture of creativity also requires your discernment. You must understand when you should apply rigorous levels of discipline and demand high levels of efficiency—and when you need to relax the reins and let the creativity flow. There is no one-size-fits-all. It will require constant finesse, adjustments and tuning to find the right balance. But, when appropriate, if you are willing to let go about efficiency, relax the relentless focus on finding a solution to every problem, and pose challenges to your employees rather than give them directions, you will unleash a powerful culture of creativity in your IT organization.
About the Author
Charles Araujo is the founder and CEO of The IT Transformation Institute, which is dedicated to helping IT leaders transform their teams into customer-focused, value-driven learning organizations. He is the author of the book The Quantum Age of IT: Why Everything You Know About IT is About to Change, is presently at work on two new books. Araujo is also the creator of DeepRoots, an organizational change methodology designed for IT teams. He frequently speaks and writes on a wide range of subjects related to his vision of the future of IT. You can follow him on Twitter as @charlesaraujo.