Good Read: The Truth About Creativity at Work

Originally posted on #GovLife.

Last week I went to the William Eggers’ Open Forum at the Institute on Governance, where we discussed some of the concepts in his new book, Solution Revolution. I was involved in a discussion on the scalability of good ideas, which raised some topics that have come up in other conversations (like on Twitter or at our book club).

In particular, the concept of Tall Poppy Syndrome was raised (from Andrew Cohen’s book, The Unfinished Canadian), which asserts that people who excel or stand out from the crowd (in a positive manner) are shunned and criticized by their peers for their success.

Similarly, I raised the notion that we, Canadians (or perhaps public servants), have difficulty with the scalability of solutions not because we can’t identify good ideas, but perhaps we have difficulty identifying why they’re good.

So when I came across this interview with David Burkus (for his new book The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas), I felt like parts of it were speaking directly to my point above. Specifically when he flat out says, “the truth behind the myth is that innovation isn’t an idea problem, it’s a recognition problem.”

People have ideas all the time, every day! But because they’re not “big enough” or “sexy enough”, we don’t pursue them further. But that small change could possibly impact a lot of things (or at the very least, make your colleague’s lives easier).

So rather than poo-poo our own and each other’s small (but good!) ideas, let’s recognize them, nurture them, and see where they go.

Perhaps the problem with innovation in government is the same as the problem with scalability: there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer, and we need to focus on these small ideas.

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