Aithan Shapira, Lecturer, MIT Sloan School of Management
From MIT Sloan Management Review
As an artist who also works for a business school, I often talk with managers about how to inspire more creativity from their teams. It’s not that these managers don’t appreciate their left-brained, analytically oriented employees. On the contrary: They value their logic and practicality. Still, they lament, something is missing. Managers today seek inspired ideas, inventive solutions, ingenuity, originality, and new pathways to innovation. But their teams are not delivering.
The problem is not that professionals lack creative impulses but that they are too focused on getting the creative process right. For example, in supporting organizations that are implementing agile methodologies, I work with many teams so consumed by getting their chapters aligned or doing their sprints correctly that they miss the opportunities that spark imagination. They avoid the unknown — the uncertainty that breeds creativity.
One of the big financial stories of 2014 has been Amazon versus its investors. The company’s stock, after climbing nearly 40% in 2013, started to slip early this year, then plunged 11% on the last day of trading in January. Throughout February, the stock remained in the doldrums.
Investors, it seems, are weary of Jeff Bezos’ practice of plowing Amazon’s oversized revenue into secret projects designed to grow the massive company even more. The stock’s big drop in January coincided with the company’s announcement that it planned to raise the price of Amazon Prime, a sign that investors don’t trust management to use whatever money the price hike might generate to benefit shareholders.
At a large, established company, several employees get together and hatch a plan for a new business. Eventually, they make the leap, exiting their old firm and launching a venture that takes off and achieves great heights.
This oft-repeated tale is usually considered a business success story. Spin-offs have the potential to generate great value. New companies create jobs and spawn new products and services. When the process starts happening at a number of firms in the same place at the same time, business clusters form, spreading prosperity across an entire region.