For the past five years I’ve worked with corporations and associations as an innovation keynote speaker. The speeches are very interactive with the audience, with games and improv, so no two are ever the same.
I’ve worked with children’s hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, scientists, engineers, and banks as an innovation keynote speaker. I’ve had all age groups in the audience from small kids to a pair of 90 year old twins.
And I’m always surprised by the amount of creativity they will unleash when given the chance. Even people who claim they don’t have a creative bone in their body.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned from both management and employees:
- Innovation isn’t consistent – The day I show up for an innovation keynote there’s a lot of excitement about trying something new and being able to just let go and have fun. I always tell the audience that there are no wrong answers and they’re allowed to be as wacky and zany as they want to be. But unfortunately it’s usually not kept up. People tend to fall back into the “That’s the way it’s always been done” mode, and the fun, creativeness makes way for bureaucracy. It happens so often I’m thinking maybe there’s a reason why creativity and innovation isn’t kept up. Big corporations are in business to make money. Maybe they think taking time out to be silly and coming up with wild, out of the box ideas, isn’t a good use of time… until they go the way of Blockbuster and Kodak. I’m sure the Royal Typewriter Company could never have imagined they would be disrupted by innovation. In 1957 they had sold over 10 million typewriters and they were riding high. Most companies don’t even think about innovating until it’s too late. Innovation is something that needs to be done on a consistent basis.
- Employees want to be creative – I do several improv exercises where I ask for a volunteer from the audience. At first most people are hesitant to do it and look around to gauge a reaction from the boss. The most creative employees are the ones who are given lots of encouragement to say what they think. Creativity can’t be contained. You have to be free to say what you want in the brainstorming room without being fired. Once they get the go-ahead, those employees who have been stifled start to blossom on stage. This is the kind of creative productivity managers could get from their employees if they allow them to let loose occasionally and do some free flow creativity for an hour a day or at least once a week.
- Lack of incentive – I’ve had people come up to me after a speech and say that they really enjoyed it. But then they whisper “but we don’t get paid any extra to come up with good ideas”. Good ideas don’t cost the company money until they are implemented. And if an employee does come up with a brilliant innovative idea that would make the company money or save the company money, they should be rewarded. It doesn’t have to be much and it might not even be monetary, but at least they should be recognized for their achievements. Reward those creative types and they will continue to be a valuable asset to your company.
If I had to think about what my purpose in life is, I would have to say that my mission is to spread the joy of creativity and help turn as many people as possible into innovators. One of the best ways I know to do that is by being an innovation keynote speaker. The world will never run out of good ideas and with all the problems in the world, we need more problem solvers.