As principal of Chris Grivas Consulting, a global consultancy headquartered in Seattle, Chris Grivas focuses on increasing the creative capacity of individuals, teams, and organizations. An organizational and leadership development professional, he customizes approaches to development for individuals, teams, and the organization as a whole. As an executive coach, Chris helps his clients identify issues and strategies to optimize their performance in immediate situations and over the long term. Chris helps teams come together, solve problems, and position themselves for future success. On an organizational level, he consults with leaders on how to intentionally design their organizational culture to produce the results and behaviors they desire.
Chris has designed and delivered courses in creative process for corporate, academic, and non-profit settings, as well as facilitated strategic vision and strategic planning sessions, new product development, process improvement, team building and executive coaching for numerous organizations worldwide. He has taught and lectured at the University of Washington, Northwestern University, New York University’s Stern School of Business, and presented at numerous industry conferences.
Gerard Puccio, Ph.D., Department Chair and Professor at the International Center for Studies in Creativity, Buffalo State; a unique academic department that offers the world’s only master of science degree in creativity. Gerard has written more than 40 articles, chapters and books. One book, co-authored with his colleagues Mary Murdock and Marie Mance, is titled Creative Leadership: Skills that Drive Change. In recognition of his outstanding work as a scholar, Gerard received the State University of New York Chancellor’s Recognition Award for Research Excellence and the President’s Medal for Scholarship and Creativity. He is the co-author with Chris of The Innovative Team: Unleashing Creative Potential for Breakthrough Results, published by Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint (2012).
Here is an excerpt from my interview of Chris and Gerard. To read the complete interview, please click here.
To read my review of The Innovative Team, please click here.
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Morris: Before discussing The Innovative Team, a few general questions. First, years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.
Grivas: After completing
Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-Tzu’s Tao Te Chinmy Bachelor’s degree in Humanities, I knew I wanted to go graduate school and was exploring different avenues. At the time I was working in a very repetitive high-tech operational job working mainly with folks whose academic careers concluded with high school diplomas. They worked weekends for the overtime pay. The work itself held no interest for them. One man said that he had worked so many weekends he barely knew his high-school aged son. This got me thinking about why people would choose this lifestyle and what would inspire them to find something more fulfilling. While talking it over with professors, friends, and family, someone finally said, “I think it’s about their creativity. If they would think creatively, they would see more possibilities and options than they do now.”
That was it. I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to learn how to help people understand and use their creativity to improve their lives and their organizations. That led to a Master of Science in Creativity and Innovation from Buffalo State College and a career in organizational development.
Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?
Puccio: I would not be in the field of creativity studies if it were not for an experience I had in community college. I had transferred to Jamestown Community College in New York State principally to join the wrestling team. What I did not expect was that I would fall in love with the topics of creativity and leadership. I took my first formal course in creativity studies at JCC. This was a major turning point in my life. In this course I learned how to better utilize my creative thinking and as a result I became a better problem solver, a more confident person, and expanded my leadership potential. Ever since that early experience I have been dedicated to helping others transform themselves by tapping into their own creative potential.
Grivas: The program at Buffalo State introduced me to research concepts, a variety of theories about creativity, aspects of psychology, sociology, facilitation and educational frameworks and techniques, as well as introducing me to a wonderful community of people with the same mission – to improve people’s lives by enriching their creativity. Moving from that community into the larger world of organizational development, I was able to bring to organizations a fairly unique perspective on doing the work of OD.
Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-Tzu’s Tao Te Ching:
“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”
Grivas: This is a great quote that encapsulates much of the recent thinking on leadership and organizational change. When people own the change, it is exponentially more likely to succeed. It’s the leader’s job to know his or her people well, understand how they think, and then create the conditions for these particular individuals to excel. One of the goals of The Innovative Team was to provide an example of such a leader in story form so people can visualize how this idea can work in practice.
Morris: And then, from Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”
Puccio: Reflected in this quote is one of the main principles of our book. That is, how to understand your own creativity and how to leverage this awareness for personal and professional success. People often undermine their own creativity by looking around and comparing themselves to others. Making conclusions like, “I’m not Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Thomas Edison, William Shakespeare, Meryl Streep, Georgia O’Keefe, etc. One of the main aims of our book is to democratize creativity, i.e., to help the reader recognize that there are many forms of creativity and that all of us can engage in the creative thinking process. All humans can think creatively, but we don’t necessarily think in the same way. This can be thought of as another kind of diversity, the kind of diversity that lies below the skin – a psychological diversity. Awareness of this helps people to better accept how they will create, and therefore reduce self-judgment, and will also develop appreciation for others who are different. The four styles of creativity that we discuss in the book are Clarifiers, Ideators, Developers and Implementers. All play an important role in the creativity process. The goal is to understand yourself and to learn how to play better with others.
Morris: In Tom Davenport’s latest book, Judgment Calls, he and co-author Brooke Manville offer “an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance”: organizational judgment. That is, “the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader’s direct control.” What do you think?
Puccio: One of the subplots in our book is how the new manager engages in a creative leadership style that as a result taps into the latent potential of the work group. By creative leadership we mean a person who applies his or her imagination to guide a group towards a novel and meaningful goal – a breakthrough. The world has become more complex and as such a single individual working alone cannot solve these wicked problems. In light of this, much of the current literature and research on leadership clearly shows that leaders, when faced with complex problems, must be effective at drawing ideas out of others. I’ll give you an example. I run an experiment in my graduate courses and corporate training programs in which I put participants in three different teams. Each team selects a leader and then I assign leadership role to that leader. I tell the groups that are conducting an experiment to examine how leadership style influences decision-making. The leadership styles assigned are autocratic, democratic and creative. I define the behaviors associated with these three leadership styles and then I give the groups a case, fraught with ambiguity, and then a series of 15 multiple choice questions about the case. More than 90% of the time, the autocratic groups reach their conclusions the fastest but have most incorrect answers. The groups working under the creative leader, someone who guides the group, almost always takes the longest to reach their decisions, but almost always has the highest number of correct answers (and the democratic groups general fall in between these two extremes). I think this experiential exercise highlights the essence of your quote. It is this kind of leadership that is modeled in our book.
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To read the complete interview, please click here.
To read my review of The Innovative Team, please click here.
Chris and Gerard cordially invite you to check out the resources at these websites:
How and why an innovative team can leverage its organization’s creative resources to achieve and sustain breakthrough results
By nature, an innovative team is one comprised of members who rely on innovative thinking to improve a concept, methodology, system, process, or product. Those who comprise a team know more and can do more than any of its members can. In Tom Davenport’s latest book, Judgment Calls, he and co-author Brooke Manville offer “an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance”: organizational judgment. That is, “the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader’s direct control.”
Please keep the reference to “organizational judgment” in mind when considering these comments by Chris Grivas and Gerard Puccio in the Foreword to their book: “we have discovered that most people report having higher levels of energy for some areas of creative process over others. We refer to these four creative creative-thinking preference types as Clarifiers, Ideators, Developers, and implementers. Each way of thinking is fundamental to the creative process; that is, you need all four to generate breakthroughs, but our research and applied work has highlighted the fact that people will vary in regard to how comfortable they are thinking and behaving as Clarifiers, Ideators, Developers, and Implementers.”
However different members of an innovator team may be in many respects, Grivas and Puccio urge them to consider a theory, developed into a methodology, called FourSight that has been severely tested and rigorously refined over a period of several decades in real-world organizations whose leaders were determined to “un leash creative potential for breakthrough results.” They organize their material within two Parts: a business fable that involves fictional executives in a fictional company that faces very real challenges and crises (viewed both as perils and as opportunities). Although Grivas and Puccio have by no means written a potboiler, a page-turner, they make skillful use of the narrative components (setting, cast of characters, dialogue, plot developments, etc.). The details of the fable are best revealed in context, in the book.
These are several of the themes, subjects, and issues that Grivas and Puccio cover in Part 2, “Exploring the Four Creative Thinking Styles” (Chapters 17-23).
o Clarifying the organization’s current resources, strengths and weaknesses, opportunities, etc.
o Prioritizing problems initiatives
o Determining what must be done to use innovative thinking and initiatives to achieve strategic objectives
o Generating ideas of sufficient quality and in sufficient number
o Developing solutions to root causes rather than responding to symptoms of problems
o Implementing “game plan” with on-going measurement, evaluation, and modification as-needed
o Increasing what works, correcting/eliminating what doesn’t, and “getting the word out” on lessons learned
Then Grivas and Puccio explain how to create and then sustain conditions for success (i.e. breakthrough results) in the final chapter, observing (and I agree), “CEOs and managers ‘prize ‘team players’ because they know that in today’s collaborative world economy an organization’s success, and even survival, hangs on the ability to tap team potential” so that team members tap their organization’s potential. “By becoming more consciously and deliberatively creative, we can enjoy our days with more satisfaction, enable others to do the same, and together produce results that no one has yet dreamed of”
After I read this book and then again as I re-read it prior to composing this brief commentary, I was reminded of a passage in Paul Schoemaker’s latest book, Brilliant Mistakes: “The key question companies need to address is not ‘Should we make mistakes?’ but rather ‘Which mistakes should we make in order to test our deeply held assumptions?’”
If an innovative team is not making enough mistakes that test its members’ and its organization’s “deeply held assumptions,” it will never unleash creative potential for breakthrough results. Never.