Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2010

  • How to Meet the Collective Creativity Challenge

    Wednesday 15th September 2010 - 10:45am - 11:45am

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  • How to Meet the Collective Creativity Challenge

    “The significant problems we have cannot be solved by the same type of thinking that created them.”
    – Albert Einstein 

    How can we develop into creative leaders and build creative organizations?

    Key Points

    • The debate over creativity on the one hand and efficiency and execution on the other is a false one. Corporations need both efficiency and creativity.
    • Fostering creativity within an organization is less about individual creative genius than about managing social processes.
    • While innovation seems to have shifted away from large companies to small and medium enterprises, the scale of problems faced today requires the resources of large companies: a future in which large companies are unable to innovate is unsustainable.


    Companies often approach innovation in terms of “problem-solving”, and in some instances this can indeed foster innovation. But this approach does not always work in a world where the problem to be solved is not always obvious. Nor is “listening to the voice of the customer” necessarily the best way to identify the problem: examples abound in which customers clearly do not know what they actually want, and where market research gets it completely wrong.

    A second type of innovation centred on “brainstorming” or “eureka moments” is understood to exist, but is often left undefined and believed to be a mysterious process that cannot be managed. But this kind of innovation can in fact be fostered by adopting a conversational approach: an open-ended process that invites ambiguity, trusts instincts and does not insist on quick closure, like the interaction between an architect and his client.

    Organizations need both analytical managers – efficiency-focused individuals who can pick teams, set schedules, acquire resources and decisively execute – and interpretive managers, whose role might be likened to a good party host: someone able to invite the right guests, make introductions, start conversations, seed conversations with new topics to keep discussion going, stave off boredom and controversy, and avoid breakdown.

    The trick is to identify the appropriate moment to switch from the interpretive approach to the analytical. At some point, managers need to bring the open-ended conversation to a close and hand off to those who can execute and get a product to market. The interpretive phase exists to present a range of choices from which a selection can be made and carried out during the analytical phase.

    The capacity to innovate can grow out of two distinct sources of learning: Through reflection on past experience in a cycle of action, observation, reflection, planning and new action; and – though considerably more difficult – through “presencing”, or learning from the future as it emerges. This can be achieved by shifting the centre of cognition away from its traditional locus within the self, beyond the boundaries of ego, to a more immersive, empathetic and group-connected place.

    Session Panellists

    Richard K. Lester

    , Japan Steel Industry Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering; Head, Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering; Director, Industrial Performance Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA

    C. Otto Scharmer

    , Senior Lecturer, Organization Studies, MIT - Sloan School of Management, USA

    Moderated by

    Joseph P. Schoendorf

    , Venture Partner, Accel Partners, USA; Member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum


    This summary was written by Kaiser Kuo. The views expressed are those of certain participants in the discussion and do not necessarily reflect the views of all participants or of the World Economic Forum.

    Copyright 2010 World Economic Forum
    No part of this material may be copied, photocopied or duplicated in any form by any means or redistributed without the prior written consent of the World Economic Forum.

    Wednesday 15 September

    Keywords: Innovation, management, creativity, presencing, problem-solving


  • Richard K. Lester Richard K. Lester
    Japan Steel Industry Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering; Head, Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA

    Director, Industrial Performance Center. Research focuses on innovation management and policy, with ...

  • Otto Scharmer Otto Scharmer
    Senior Lecturer; Founding Chair, MIT, Presencing Inst., USA

    Senior Lecturer, MIT; Founding Chair, Presencing Institute. Chairs the MIT IDEAS programme and helps...

Moderated by

  • Joe Schoendorf Joe Schoendorf
    Partner, Accel Partners, USA

    Forty-five years' experience in high-technology industries. Formerly: 18 years in various positions ...