Many business leaders are hindering creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship

Global convention call for corporate policies and practices to encourage and support creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship rather than frustrate and repress them.

Many business leaders are obstacles to creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship and the openness we need for the to cope with disruptive innovation, according to Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas. Speaking at a global convention and world congress in Dubai, the author of Winning Companies, Winning People told business leaders: “Too many directors and boards are excessively concerned with order and standards. They are slaves to particular models and approaches. They are intolerant of diversity and reluctant to let go and empower others.”

Coulson-Thomas questioned whether business leaders really value qualities such as independence, intuition, openness and non-conformism, and recognise and reward critical, imaginative and independent thinking. He suggested: “Many directors enjoy wielding power, but they may have earned their spurs in a previous era when expectations were different and possibilities more limited. Another business model may have applied. Yet, they still think they know best. They issue policies and take decisions. They then monitor the extent to which others comply and fall in line.”

He continued “Directors usually justify calling the shots. They claim position privilege, broader awareness and a more strategic perspective. In reality, many directors are preoccupied with internal issues and challenges facing their companies. Front-line staff may be much closer to customers, the marketplace and local communities. They may also be earlier adopters of new technologies.”

The professor suggested: “Senior executives can be surrounded by “groupthink” and the eager to please. Cocooned within a head office, they may be unaware of ferment outside and developments on-line. More executives should leave their air-conditioned offices and engage with, observe and experience the lives of customers. Obtaining insights from different situations can open one’s eyes to changing requirements and new possibilities. It can raise questions and spark ideas.”

According to Coulson-Thomas, too many directors “are excessively concerned with order and standards. They are slaves to particular models and approaches. They are intolerant of diversity and reluctant to let go and empower others. Their companies employ and serve people from many nationalities in a multitude of locations. The roles and activities of employees widely differ. Markets fragment. New business models emerge. Customers may seek bespoke and personalised responses. Yet many directors try to stamp out variety and impose uniformity.”

The professor called for a different approach: “Encourage people to challenge, to be open about problems and to suggest solutions. They should be supported and allowed to work, learn and collaborate in ways, and at times and places, that best allow them to give of their best and be creative and productive. Help them to learn from mistakes and failure and to build upon their achievements. Pixar blossomed because openness, honesty and constructive questioning and comment were highly valued. People actively searched for better approaches.

An experienced director who has also served on national and local public sector bodies, Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas advises boards and has helped directors in over 40 countries to improve director, board and corporate performance. He shared key lessons from his recent investigations during a plenary session of the Dubai Global Convention 2017 and 27th World Congress on Business Excellence and Innovation. The event which was organised by India’s Institute of Directors was held at the Hotel The Grand Hyatt, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas leads the International Governance Initiative of the Order of St Lazarus, is Chancellor of the School for the Creative Arts, Director-General, IOD India, UK and Europe, and chair of the Audit and Risk Committee of United Learning. Author of over 60 books and reports he has held professorial appointments in Europe, North and South America, Africa, the Middle East, India and China. Colin was educated at the LSE, London Business School, UNISA and the Universities of Aston, Chicago and Southern California, is a fellow of seven chartered bodies and obtained first place prizes in the final exams of three professions. Details of his latest books and reports can be found on: http://www.policypublications.com/.

Investigations reveal corporate policies and practices are killing creativity and innovation

Business leaders at global convention warned of dull and monotonous organisations and advised to engage with the creative arts

Directors and boards have a lot to answer for, according to Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas. Speaking at a global convention and world congress in Dubai he claimed: “Many corporate policies, rules, regulations, guidelines and practices reflect past views, priorities and understanding. Enforcing compliance with them can stifle questioning and challenge. It can inhibit the search for new and better alternatives. Too many organisations exude a dull and monotonous uniformity. No wonder so many creative ideas originate outside of the workplace.”

The author of “Winning Companies, Winning People” advised: “If you feel particular constraints are necessary and desirable, make sure their rationale is understood. Reward people for considering better ways of achieving their original purpose. Encourage diversity. What about different strategies, policies, processes and practices according to requirements, circumstances and possibilities?”

Coulson-Thomas suggested: “Contending interests and competing solutions threaten some people. Others perceive differences of opinion as healthy. They believe that encouraging debate is more conducive of creativity and innovation than imposing single solutions.” He warned: “Be wary of rigidity and bureaucracy. Network organisations can embrace customers and business partners. They can support co-creation and grow organically. Collaboration with customers and iterative development can speed up adaptation and innovation.”

The professor identifies two distinct cultures in many organisations: “Some people think in a logical and structured way. They prefer order and standardisation, and too often they hold sway. Others are more tolerant of uncertainty. They favour variety and welcome diversity. They look for links, patterns and relationships. They can simultaneously explore in different arenas. We need more of them. Throughout history breakthroughs in thinking have been caused by outsiders who challenged orthodoxy.”

During its golden years, Xerox PARC recruited degree majors from disciplines that approached problems differently. Introducing them into research groups increased creativity. Coulson-Thomas challenged delegates at the convention: “Do you look beyond the normal suspects? Are you alert to curious and restless explorers? Might greater exposure to the creative arts stimulate creativity in your organisation? Might collaboration with creative artists unleash energy and ignite thinking?”

Coulson-Thomas believes: “Creative artists in residence and creative arts activities can stimulate imagination, innovation and entrepreneurship across work groups, communities and organisations. The requirements for effective corporate leadership and successful entrepreneurship are converging. In some contexts they may soon overlap to such an extent as to be almost indistinguishable.”

An experienced director, Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas advises boards and has helped directors in over 40 countries to improve board and corporate performance. He was sharing key lessons from his recent investigations during a plenary session of the Dubai Global Convention 2017 and 27th World Congress on Business Excellence and Innovation which was held at the Hotel The Grand Hyatt, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas leads the International Governance Initiative of the Order of St Lazarus, is Chancellor of the School for the Creative Arts, Director-General, IOD India, UK and Europe, and chair of the Audit and Risk Committee of United Learning. Author of over 60 books and reports he has held professorial appointments in Europe, North and South America, Africa, the Middle East, India and China. Colin was educated at the LSE, London Business School, UNISA and the Universities of Aston, Chicago and Southern California, is a fellow of seven chartered bodies and obtained first place prizes in the final exams of three professions. Details of his latest books and reports can be found on: http://www.policypublications.com/.


The creative arts can inspire and ignite corporate creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship

Business leaders at global convention told that corporate policies and compliance practices must change and the creative arts embraced.

Business leaders at a global convention in Dubai have been told that engagement with the creative arts can be the key to creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. According to Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas, author of Winning Companies, Winning People: “For companies to become more effective incubators of new ventures, corporate policies, rules, guidelines, standards, codes and compliance practices may need to change and the creative arts embraced.”

Coulson-Thomas emphasised: “The creative arts are undergoing a revolution. Digital technologies are creating new opportunities for engagement and involvement. They are opening up new arenas for innovation and entrepreneurship. They are democratising enjoyment of the arts and participation in the arts. More people can now find their voice and express their creativity. Channels of communication have become more open, inclusive and participative. We have more ways of being creative, connecting with others, and sharing our creativity than any generation in history.”

He continued: “The creative arts can enrich both working and leisure activities. They are ripe for enterprise and social entrepreneurship. They also reach beyond practitioners. They embrace the audiences, followers and exhibition visitors who enjoy their work at home or in the community.
Collaboration with creative artists can unleash energy and ignite thinking. Creative artists in residence and creative arts activities can stimulate imagination, innovation and entrepreneurship across work groups, communities and organisations.”

The Professor believes: “The creative arts can address social issues. They offer participation and self-employment as an alternative to boredom, delinquency and crime. They provide scope for philanthropy, corporate social responsibility and social entrepreneurship. The creative arts are also sustainable. Repetitive and rule-based tasks can be automated. Unstructured creative activities are more resistant to replacement by technology.”

Coulson-Thomas pointed out: “For business success, creative ideas have to be developed and commercialised. Innovation and entrepreneurial flair may be needed to deliver tangible offerings or acceptable solutions at affordable prices, that enough people will buy to cover costs and generate a profit. While Pixar exuded creativity, attention was also devoted to practical business issues such as brand building, rights and acknowledgements. Addressing contractual matters ensured the studio derived the maximum of credit and benefit from its creativity and promising ideas.”

Options, choices and possibilities are multiplying. Coulson-Thomas stresses: “As new business and economic models emerge, past strengths can become sources of weakness and vulnerability. Directors need to be alert to defensive responses and attempts to protect vested interests. Education and involvement in the creative arts can enhance, enable, enrich and empower. It can stimulate the creativity and commitment that leads to successful innovation and entrepreneurship.”

The Professor believes that the creative arts can be an effective route to entrepreneurship: “Sir James Dyson the inventor, industrial designer and vacuum cleaner entrepreneur was educated at the Byam Shaw School of Art and the Royal College of Art. The School for the Creative Arts aims to give people the ability to explore and develop ideas, implement a business plan and fulfil commissions. Its role is to give people the ability and confidence to express themselves and become successful practitioners.”

Coulson-Thomas feels: “Business leaders need to discuss, consult and consider where creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship are most needed. What should they be applied to and for what purpose? What might their relevance, significance and value be for customers and prospects? Should we also take a wider range of interests into account when deciding when, where and for whom to be creative, innovative and entrepreneurial?”

In conclusion, he told delegates: “To have a dream can be inspiring. A relevant and affordable offering can provide an income. In business both thinking and doing are required. We need aspiration and achievement. The requirements for effective corporate leadership and successful entrepreneurship are converging. In some contexts they may soon overlap to such an extent as to be almost indistinguishable. I wish you well as both leaders and entrepreneurs.”

An experienced director, Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas advises boards and has helped directors in over 40 countries to improve board and corporate performance. He was sharing key lessons from his recent investigations during a plenary session of the Dubai Global Convention 2017 and 27th World Congress on Business Excellence and Innovation which was held at the Hotel The Grand Hyatt, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas leads the International Governance Initiative of the Order of St Lazarus, is Chancellor of the School for the Creative Arts, Director-General, IOD India, UK and Europe operations, and chair of the Audit and Risk Committee of United Learning. Author of over 60 books and reports he has held professorial appointments in Europe, North and South America, Africa, the Middle East, India and China. Colin was educated at the London School of Economics, London Business School, UNISA and the Universities of Aston, Chicago and Southern California, is a fellow of seven chartered bodies and obtained first place prizes in the final exams of three professions. Details of his latest books/reports can be found on http://www.policypublications.com/.

About Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas

Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas, an experienced board and audit committee chair and vision holder of successful transformation programmes, holds board and academic appointments. He has helped business leaders in over 40 countries to improve director, board and corporate performance. Author of over 60 books and reports he has held professorial appointments in Europe, North and South America, the Middle East, India and China. A fellow of seven chartered bodies he was educated at the LSE, London Business School, UNISA, USC and the Universities of Aston and Chicago.

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