In a fascinating blog, marketing expert Tara Hunt examines how creativity is still undervalued in terms of investment by most companies. Could this lack of investment in ‘time to think’ actually be detrimental to the company’s success?

Hunt quotes legendary US radio broadcaster Ira Glass, who has produced a topical news show every week for the last 18 years. “When you start to do creative work… you have this idea that (ideas) are just going to be sprinkled on your head like fairy dust… but you just have to surround yourself with a lot of stuff and a lot of ideas, because ideas lead to other ideas.”

Based on that quote, Hunt suggest three conditions that can help creativity:

1. Immersing yourself in inspiring information, both on-topic and off the wall

2. Give your ideas space to develop

3. Set a goal to aim for, or an ethic to work towards

It’s an interesting list, and one that requires a company to embrace the concepts that

• innovation comes from ideas

• ideas come from thought

• thoughts needs time and space to grow.

By creating an environment where ‘good thoughts’ are accepted, recognised and developed, innovation managers can provide the ideal conditions for ideas to take shape and become feasible solutions.

However, unless managers have a ready supply of fairy dust, just creating the ideal environment won’t always be enough. If you ask for ideas from your staff, you’ll get just that; an eclectic mix of ideas on anything and everything, with no focus. That’s where Hunt’s third point comes into play; setting a goal to work towards. In effect, a goal is a challenge to move from the current state towards a desired state. You may sell 1000 units a month, and have a goal of selling 10,000. By setting the goal, you lay down a challenge as to HOW your company can go from 1000 to 10,000 units. It might involve many small changes to your existing systems, or a radical intervention that changes everything, but you won’t know which until you pose the question.

One of the most common questions creative people pose themselves is “What if…?” It takes their imagination out of the here and now, and into the realm of possibilities, temporarily unconstrained by logistics and practicalities. As innovation managers, we need to create that same sense of “what if”, even when we have those logistics and practicalities to consider. By making the challenge inspiring and exciting, yet not too prescriptive, we can allow that crucial space for thought and creativity to devise solutions.