Creativity and problem-solving during disruption

In times of disruption, our established ways of working, thinking and communicating are turned on their head, opening the doors to creative possibility.

Organizations, people, and markets change. Every thing changes. In this described chaos, we are not held back by the constraints of “business-as-usual” or habits. Our colleagues and collaborators are experiencing our ways of working together with a new lens. Problems that existed before are amplified and new problems arise. This is a period of creative possibility.

Although in periods of extreme change it is common to experience higher anxiety and lower motivation. One way to combat these is to go into problem-solving mode and focus on solutions. Leaders need to leverage ambiguity and disruption to promote collaboration, innovation and problem-solving.

Here are five mindsets, expressed as actions, that can help inform the purposeful, creative problem-solving opportunity inherent in disruption.

1. Implement temporary solutions

In “normal” times we tend to lean toward change initiatives that have a longer-term return on the investment of our time and resources. Some of the innovation that is required right now does not need to be profound or long lasting; it may just need to serve a purpose for the meanwhile so that people can cope with the changed situation. If a temporary solution can help people be more productive and foster a sense of belonging among team members, try it out.

2. Address legacy concerns

Every leader tends to have a list of problems they would like to solve or initiatives they would like to start. They remain on the list because they were never met with more urgency than other activities. Now is not the time to dwell on the fact they were not tended to; it is the time to keep them in your mind and in your conversations and consider whether there are opportunities to make progress on them in this agile response to change. Though not all legacy concerns can or should be addressed in times of crisis (prioritize), the importance of making progress on them in more regular times can be emphasized with the objective of strengthening organizational resiliency.

3. Prepare for the future

Whether it is how people are managed or how teams work together, this period in time will provoke significant changes to how we work. Before the pandemic, many organizations had adopted flexible working hours and work-from-home policies. Other organizations resisted making such changes with a mindset “that probably won’t work here” or “that’s not how the industry is set up”. We have seen the rapid adoption of these new approaches to work. They are imperfect, but they are also done with little to no planning or coordination.

Consider how these can be finessed and integrated to improve how you build your employer brand and how your serve clients. Decide which policies and activities need to continue, stop or be reimagined, and then reimagine them. A chief concern on this point is that desire to go back to what we know and to settle into our comfort zones of how to do things. Take the opportunity inherent in this disruption to prepare for the future.

4. Include Diverse Perspectives

Creativity and innovation depend on diverse perspectives being shared, valued and challenged. Everyone in the organization is experiencing these challenges in different ways and now is a critical moment for leaders to demonstrate if they are inclusive. Reach out beyond your usual circle of colleagues to discuss challenges and opportunities and encourage open conversations with the intention of having all views heard.

5. Share the Responsibility

As a leader of a team or an organization, it will take clear and direct communication from you for colleagues to have “permission” to be creative and share their ideas. Says something like:

“During these unusual times I recognize that you will experience challenges and come up with ideas to improve how we work. Please be open to sharing these ideas and trying them. Now is the time for us to work together, valuing the input of everyone at all levels – because we all experience this differently.”

And then follow-up with an opportunity or forum for people to share their perspectives and ideate. By sharing this you can benefit from the contributions of your team and from sharing the responsibility of resolving every issue that may come up. You remain accountable, but by delegating you are able to benefit from the value your diverse team brings to the table.

Engage people, offer them appropriate support and parameters, and then trust them

In times of disruption, our established ways of working, thinking and communicating are turned on their head, opening the doors to creative possibility. #leadership #culturecontinuity #disruption #innovation #culture


Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash