Creative Aptitudes for Collaborative Teams

In my research on creativity in the workplace, the accomplishments of one woman invariably surface: Linda Hill, #6 on Thinkers 50 top ten management thinkers in the world, and the Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Hill digs deep to unearth the components of great, innovative leadership which boils down to – what do you know – the ability to unleash and harness the creative talents of teams of “social architects” in the workplace (versus solo “visionaries”).

In an interview with Gareth Cook of Scientific American Mind, Hill shares her thoughts on “How to Manage a Creative Organization.” This perceptive woman leans into the leadership example of Bill Coughran, former Senior VP of Engineering at Google who maintains that “talented, passionate people don’t want to follow you to create a better future; they want to co-create it with you.”

Astute leaders understand what Hill distills from Coughran’s example:

Innovation is a journey, a collaborative problem-solving process—most often among people with diverse perspectives and expertise. And very rarely are innovations developed full blown; rather, they are created through a process of trial and error, false starts, missteps, and even mistakes. The process can be exhilarating. But as many of us here know all too well, innovative problem-solving can be downright scary….

Three downright scary organizational competencies lead to successful collaboration, the crown jewel of innovation: Creative Abrasion, Creative Agility, and Creative Resolution.

Creative Abrasion speaks to the a capacity of individuals in a group to voice ideas, objections, queries, and challenges in an open, respectful forum – a healthy, debate, argument even, where differences are invited and hurt feelings or offense are checked at the door. This visual calls to mind the celebration of “intellectual diversity” in authors Angie McArthur and Dawna Markova’s wow writing in Collaborative Intellegence.

Creative Agility challenges teams to flesh out new ideas by rapid experimentation, scientific and practical inquiry, reflection, and refinement until either success or impasse are reached. This is the roll-up-your-sleeves lab work of trail-and-error analysis where “a negative outcome can provide important insights” (Hill).

 Creative Resolution brings it all together – his, hers, ours – giving birth to the most plausible solutions. As with a communicative and healthy blended family, in “innovative organizations, people are not willing to go along to get along” but work it out and recognize that different viewpoints, ways of doing, and ways of being bring richness, depth, and possibility to a system (Hill). Recalling the tenants of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Creative Resolution focuses on synthesizing “both/and” versus “either/or” thinking in creative problem solving where diverse, sometimes competing ideas not only find ways to co-exist but to break through and deliver results.

How do companies proactively develop these invaluable creative aptitudes in collaborative teams before stakes and tensions run too high?

With guided intention, ReimagineArt facilitates creative challenges for teams to practice and thereby increase comfort levels around Creative Abrasion. Next, we provide supported space for teams to delve into their Creative Agility, or real-time exploration of the feasibility of ideas and proposed solutions. Finally, teams are rewarded with the satisfaction of Creative Resolution and ready to roll when the next real deal lands on their desks.

Work Cited:

Cook, Gareth. “How to Manage a Creative Organization.” Scientific American Mind. Scientific American, 21 Apr. 2014. Web.

“Linda Hill – Thinkers 50.” Thinkers 50. 2015. Web.




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