We are all creative, but do we use creative expression to its full extent in delivering change and transformation? Indeed, why should we focus on creativity when a rational approach may seem most sensible?
The first three pillars are: agree a high-level plan, a business model for the new world, and develop toolkits. All of these could be regarded as "left brain" actions, based on logic, good judgment and a solid appreciation of strategy – the essential qualities of all transformation managers.
However, it's when we arrive at the next "human" pillars – engagement, resistance, creative expression, and culture - that creativity (and "right-brain" actions) comes to the fore.
Planning is essential, but it's people who make change happen - and we need to appeal to everyone via all the senses to get emotional buy in and change to new ways of working (Pillar 8 – make change happen).
There are wonderful opportunities for creative expression in change and transformation programmes. For example, with a merger, you might develop the leadership story and identity through graphics, sound bites and film. And you might get staff to show they are engaged and adopting new ways of working by making their own local videos through a "credibility campaign".
Our most successful companies have fascinating stories and origins. Marcus Samuel started Shell by transporting ornamental shells from the Far East before it became more profitable to transport barrels of oil. Warner Brothers had humble origins in a tiny Pennsylvanian theatre with a hand crank projector, before sponsoring the first "talkie". Marks & Spencer started as Marks Penny Bazaar in Leeds Market where my dad used to shop (everything for a penny!).
Whether it be through merger or other transformation, it's important to create identity on which to base your future. That includes purpose (or the strategic narrative), values and unique selling points that form the heart of the corporate identity. Integral also are using visual storyboards, case studies and developing brand promise.
Ask yourselves: what do you stand for? Do you express what is unique about your organisation? Are your staff clear and motivated about what you do and the impact you have? Are your clients and stakeholders equally enthralled by the clarity and quality of who you are?
Case study - Playing Hamlet with Change
Labovitch helped clients understand the politics which can be encountered in some change projects, producing a light-hearted paper entitled "Playing Hamlet with Change" (Journal of Change Management).
Set against the intrigue of the Danish court, Shakespeare's Hamlet is used to illustrate universal human lessons, which can be learned from theatre and literature. It's a way for organisations to hold up a looking glass and be strengthened by examples from the past, noting that "nothing is new under the sun".
Change without creativity will not engage
It's strange that in our makeup, we humans seem to favour "mainly creative" or "mainly rational" approaches. The exciting challenge in change and successful business transformation is to deliver both for a holistic programme.
In engaging staff, we should drive passion through visual storyboards, active involvement and branding, which truly relate to company identity. This creates long lasting ownership, embedding change well into the future.
Clients say this combined rational and creative approach adds real value and leadership to their change and transformation programme, giving competitive advantage and differentiating their business from the competition. Without creativity, you're doomed to compete in commodity hell.
An original verison of this post first appeared on LinkedIn.