A little over a year ago the team at Two Ravens had a hunch. We believed that innovation could be traced back to behaviors, and that those behaviors could be observed, taught, learned, and even incentivised. So, as our process demands, we began stating and testing our assumptions. We were on a mission to learn how innovation, and innovative teams, worked.
It has truly been an adventure. One that started with a blog series, introduced us to many new concepts and thought patterns, saw us holding focus groups with some of the coolest, smartest innovators we’ve ever met, and learning lesson after lesson. Our learning pretty quickly outran our ability to easily communicate it, so we stopped posting about it while words caught up to knowledge.
As we dug deeper we uncovered more and more evidence that humans are, in fact, inherently creative. And as it turns out, creativity is the primary driver for innovation. The behaviors we were observing were present, as we had suspected, and all people had the ability to display, develop, and benefit from them. However, many people would forego their creativity at times, especially in corporate environments.
When group dynamics, especially in the workplace, are in play, creativity can all but disappear. Goals, constraints, deadlines, authority structures, and social dynamics have a way of stifling open creativity. Instead, people angle and position themselves to have the “right kind” of creativity at exactly the right moments. If they don’t feel that their creativity is the kind the team needs or appreciates, they will often just keep to themselves. The best teams overcome this, often through open conflict and sheer willpower, but no team is immune to it.
We looked into ways people had tried to solve these dynamics. There were plenty of options, from assessments [Myers Briggs, Enneagram, Strengths Finder] to methodologies, to team-building exercises. All had varying degrees of success with the people we talked to who had used them. But over time, they all seemed to fade in effectiveness. They were interesting, and sometimes helpful, but they weren’t a solution.
A common, learned corporate culture isn’t enough for teams to overcome the roadblocks to social creativity, much less to create meaningful innovations. It turns out that individuals were not just miscommunicating about the complexities of the work at hand, they were speaking a fundamentally different “creativity language.” We worked to iterate, simplify, apply, and test approaches, tactics, and techniques to understand this deep-seated set of thought patterns.
What we found is that an individual's creative preference was a deeply held, but rarely understood or acknowledged, fundamental part of who they were. If people were fundamentally creatively different, they were often unable to overcome that difference. The behaviors we had been observing were important, and were leading us to understand something deeper.
If we were going to predictably build better teams, we were going to have to help individuals live their most fulfilling creative lives in their work. We needed to not only understand the innovative behaviors we had identified, but we needed to be able to understand, and communicate, their fundamental thought patterns that were driving those behaviors. We would need to group them into simple, concise, practical, useful personas, tools, and tactics. Then, we would need to teach all of the individuals how to communicate and work together by utilizing their fundamental differences, not in spite of them.
So that’s a short overview of how it all came about. We hope you enjoy learning about your own innovator persona and welcome your thoughts on how Hidden Innovator could benefit your organization.