Errors and disagreements are the false enemies of creativity
- Posted by Matteo Milanesi
- On 29 June 2021
- 0 Comments
The most successful teams make the most errors; how instability can become an indispensable factor in revealing a team’s full potential.
When reviewing success stories, we noticed the teams making the most errors also obtained the best results. At first glance it may seem absurd, but looking more closely, we noticed an interesting fact: the best teams don’t make more errors than others, they are simply better equipped with a greater capability and willingness to face up to their mistakes, analyse and cherish them so as to avoid repeating them.
It seems easy to say, right? Each and every one of us could counter that in our own teams we discuss errors we have made, of course, but exactly how do we do this? Is the criticism constructive? Is it an objective analysis of what worked and what needs to be improved upon? Or is it merely an exercise to find a scapegoat? Is it an attempt to put the blame on someone else? The fear of failure is widespread in the workplace, but a team that deserves its name needs people who feel confident enough to “bring their own mind” to the workplace. What this means is a situation in which a person feels free to express their own ideas, confident enough to try to make them work even if it means making a mistake, knowing that it will not become a life sentence, a cross to bear forever or a scarlet letter that will be stamped on you; rather it is an opportunity to test an idea, one for everyone to learn and a chance to find alternative solutions and allow creativity to flourish.
Upsetting the balance
There are other factors, besides mistakes, which seemingly unsettle a team momentarily, such as a disagreement between colleagues, or a dose of (healthy) pressure imposed by management, which can be excellent opportunities to stimulate creativity, foster innovative solutions and overcome limitations.
A study carried out on a hundred teams, published in the Science Direct magazine in February 2017, shows how two different aspects of disharmony, the diversity of team members and uncertainty surrounding tasks each member of the team may be assigned, are positively correlated to creative performance. Even a lower availability of resources (economic, equipment, time) than is necessary to meet the needs of the team is shown to be a potent stimulant for creativity.
This shows that upsetting the balance of a team – provided it is done in a constructive and controlled manner – can be a positive factor: a united team, able to communicate well and find constructive solutions to tensions and differences as they arise, will also be able to find a creative solution to escape the pressure and momentary impasse.
History shows that even the best, if they overly indulge in complacency to protect the status quo, can fall from grace: Blockbuster, Polaroid, Blackberry, Kodak are some examples of companies which having attained maturity lost their capacity to innovate.
Instilling a slight thread of tension and welcoming a degree of conflict within the team to test its stability might also provide an excellent opportunity to bring latent creativity to the fore and consequently, innovation.
But what can get in the way of team creativity?
The Adobe “State of Create” Global Benchmark Survey shows that 80% of interviewees feel that unlocking creativity is the key to economic growth, but only 25% of total respondents feel that they express the best of their creativity. 75% feel under pressure to deliver, notwithstanding the expectation from superiors that there should be more creativity.
It is well known fact that creativity stems from human potential and the potential of a company to be at the leading edge, breaking boundaries hitherto accepted, is due to the capacity of its workforce to express its best self in terms of creativity and think outside the box. It is not by accident that “think different” is the tagline adopted by the one of the most impactful companies in the market today. It is not the machinery, nor the procedures or financial strength, but the human potential, which makes the difference.
But, what stops the creative potential of your team?
Rules and procedures that are too rigid, that we feel duty bound to adhere to slavishly, a system which causes us to act – and think – within the known boundaries, can be a limit to brainstorming, the exchange of ideas and can make team members feel that there is little room to go beyond the way in which things have always been done. Therefore the leader of a team has an important role to play, observing team members and asking themselves if by chance, there is someone in the team who is holding back from showing their full potential. If that is so, the leader needs to encourage that person and the whole group, to develop a “growth mindset;” a term which refers to how a person thinks about their ability to learn.
People who have a “growth mindset” know they can improve through their commitment; they are able to accept moments of defeat and take the opportunity to learn. We are not talking about perfectionists, know-it-all, but people who are aware of their own abilities as much as their limitations and know they can constantly improve and continue to make progress, as opposed to people who possess a “fixed mindset,” who believe their ability to learn is limited and do not believe it is possible to overcome their limitations.
There is delicate balance between harmony and disharmony within a team. At times it is a precarious balance, and requires continuous stimuli and fine-tuning. However, it is precisely in these moments of flux that the true potential of the team is revealed and it can lead to large – and small – transformations.