Three tips to spur innovation

Economists and business leaders acknowledge that openness to disruption is key to creative innovation, but many companies struggle with it. To get a better understanding of how a company can spur creativity, we talked with Michel Laprise, director of KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities, Cirque du Soleil’s latest show, currently touring in North America.  He emphasized three key concepts:

Embrace failure as a predisposition of success

As a director, Laprise played a key role in encouraging the team to persevere and push through failure until it became innovation. For example, when the team first tried to implement the gravity-defying “Upside Down World” act in KURIOS, their hopes were low due to the limitations they faced. The team’s first three attempts failed miserably.

Rather than abandoning the idea altogether, Laprise encouraged the team to continue collaborating to find a system which would make the act possible.

“At times, we were disheartened, but we had this magical vision and we didn’t want to give up on it,” Laprise says.

To overcome failure, organizations must create a culture where employees do not see failure as an end but rather as an opportunity to find new solutions to existing challenges.

Stop leading and start listening

Managers often overlook feedback. Laprise actively sought feedback from assistants, technicians, managers and artists throughout the show.

“The creative process must also be horizontal,” he says. “Anyone with an idea should be heard.”

Though initially this process may have been disruptive, actively collecting feedback contributed to developing an immensely creative environment where ideas and feedback bounced between members of the entire team.

Laprise also reached out to fans to get their feedback and enhance the show throughout the tour.

 “With over 670,000 Twitter followers and more than 2.7 million likes on Facebook, Cirque du Soleil must tap into the wealth of ideas social media represent,” he says.

To avoid innovation silos, managers must integrate feedback collection from new stakeholders within and without the organization into the creative process.

Don’t be afraid of creative competition

Companies often fear competition, but it can be an effective tool to spur the innovation process.

Cirque du Soleil’s culture of innovation is “driven by passionate debates,” Laprise says. “We nurture what we call creative friction because, from our experience, innovative breakthroughs come from artistic tension rather than incremental progress.”

This approach underlines the idea that creative minds are at their best when challenged, as long as it is done with respect. Encourage employees, clients and partners to push their limits by finding a way to integrate “creative friction” into the innovation process. Even though the process can be boisterous, it is worth the noise.

To create a culture of innovation, Laprise recommends creating a culture where failure is an incentive to adapt, where feedback is encouraged and shared, where ideas are challenged.

“Have fun with it!” he says.

Categories: Management & Leadership