Creativity is vital for innovation. And, in fact, the ability to innovate has essentially replaced raw materials, labour and capital as the key sources of economic value. Some form of creativity is now the primary source of competitive advantage in the developed world, according to for example economist Richard Florida, as I wrote about in a section of my dissertation.
But how can creativity and good ideas be encouraged? Well, start with not hindering it. One highly typical way of killing creativity is to deter failure. A work environment where people are afraid to fail is doomed to be thinking inside the box and creating safe, but bad and very few new ideas.
In Silicon Valley they have a special word for failure: Pivoting. In perhaps the worlds most innovative cluster, failure just means some change of focus. “Failure, and how companies deal with failure, is a very big part of innovation,” says the Silicon Valley entrepreneur Judy Estrin, a founder of seven high-tech companies and author of a book on innovation. Failures caused by sloppiness or laziness are bad. But “if employees try something that was worth trying and fail, and if they are open about it, and if they learn from that failure, that is a good thing.”