Interview with Andrew Grant author of “Who Killed Creativity and How Can We Get It Back?”

13 min read
Vlad Kovalskiy
September 24, 2014
Last updated: May 23, 2019
Interview with Andrew Grant author of “Who Killed Creativity and How Can We Get It Back?”

There are a lot of different techniques for personal creativity. But how do you create a creative organization?

AG: The foundation for organizational creativity is personal creativity, so developing creative thinking skills for individuals in the organization will always be an important starting point. But then you also need to build in systems and structures that support creative thinking and innovation at the organizational level. If creative thinking is not supported all the way through the organization, creative ideas will not have the opportunity to flourish and grow and will ultimately die.

In our sessions and book, we have a unique model we call the Strategies for Innovative Development (SID) ModelTM, which identifies both individual psychological blocks and enablers and organizational environmental and cultural blocks and enablers for creativity, so we demonstrate how both areas can and should be addressed simultaneously. We then link practical development strategies to each phase. Eg in the initial ‘Enquire’ phase at the individual level people learn how to question established ways of thinking and identify the real needs, while at the organizational level you will be identifying systems and structures that are not open enough to allow for creative thinking and thinking about how to change them. In the next ‘Explore’ phase, individuals learn brainstorming skills and techniques, while at the organizational level you will be looking into how you can set up networks and communication channels that allow collaborative ideation. In the ‘Solve’ phase, individuals will learn how to make unusual connections to find the best solutions, while examining how to increase engagement at the organizational level to support the sort of perseverance and commitment needed at this stage. In the final ‘Apply’ stage individuals learn practical implementation skills, while the need for an optimistic culture that supports new innovations at the organizational level is also addressed. As well as teaching specific cognitive skills and looking at corresponding systems and structures, you will also be addressing mindset and affective skills (at the individual level) along with organizational climate (at the organizational level). After all, the climate is a composite of the affective state of the individuals in the organization!

By following this holistic and systematic approach you can ensure there is creativity at all levels of the organization.

Creative people are known to be difficult to manage oftentimes. What simple techniques can managers follow to achieve their business objectives without creating repressive atmosphere and scaring off their best talent?

AG: Yes, creative people typically don’t like to follow the rules – that’s how they can come up with new and different ideas! But sometimes the difficulty in managing these people can simply be because they do not have the freedom to explore different ideas, the permission to try new ideas and potentially fail, and/or the time and space to generate creative ideas. By providing more freedom and practical support, creative people can have greater work satisfaction and therefore achieve more highly.

Some simple ideas are, for example, to give these people ‘creative thinking time’- to actually allocate it into their schedule, or to allow them to schedule in a certain amount of time themselves each week so that they can choose the times they are most inspired. By giving creative people the time and permission to be creative, they will have the opportunity to reach their potential. Another idea is to allow for ‘failure share times’ in meetings, so that people feel free to discuss what new ideas they have and how they are being developed without fear. They will then feel confident to continue taking more risks and trialing new ideas knowing that not all new ideas succeed the first time, but in fact a process of trial and error is important in working through the creative process. Formal structures such as Creativity or Innovation Labs and Ideas Boxes will also often help to promote a culture of innovation in an organization. Pernod Rickard Winemakers, for example, actively train selected staff in a three-day ‘creative thinking and problem solving’ intensive program, and then follow up with additional communications and courses. They are already seeing good results in the quality of contributions from staff.

We’ve seen evolution of knowledge management from top down (manuals) to collaborative (wikis) to informal and social (enterprise social networks). What’s next?

AG: That’s an interesting question! We would like to see integrated sharing systems, which provide the opportunities for ‘expertise’ to be shared at the same time as allowing for fresh new ideas that have arisen from ‘experience’ to be contributed. This sort of ‘spider web’ structure will not be as neat as a simple top down or bottom up structure, it will have to cope with the chaos of rapidly changing systems, but it would instead be dynamic and organic. It would also be trans-disciplinary, not being confined to one discipline or another. On the ‘Expertise’ side, you would want to see contributions from universities and research centers along with those from industry experts. On the 'Experience' side you would want to get contributions from complete novices, from those working on the ‘coal face. And from people coming from completely different industries / departments / perspectives. One simple example we have seen of this is the Australian Council for international Development, which brings together NFP organizations working in the field of development with academic specialists in the area from universities in a series of newsletter communications and conferences. By bringing together two usually disconnected areas, research can be better targeted and needs can be better met. Can you imagine if there was appropriate collaboration between the ‘experts’ and those with the ‘experiences’ how much more effective we would be.

What idea management techniques do you personally use and found to work best?

AG: We use our own techniques from our book and workshops (in the SID model as described above) to practice what we preach. We have found that by using a simple systematic approach everyone can learn it, remember and use it effectively. It provides a shared platform and common language.

What is the biggest misconception/bad advice about creativity and innovation that you hear people repeat again and again?

AG: The main misconception we hear is that creativity is inherited, not learnt – that it is a trait or talent rather than a skill that can be developed. According to Rex Jung, only 40% of our creativity comes from our genes, and the other 60% can be learnt from the environment. So there is a lot of room to actively and deliberately develop creative thinking. This means also, in the context of the organization, everyone can be involved in innovation at every level. ‘Specialists’ or ‘experts’ in creative thinking, those who seem to have the natural talent, should not be exclusively responsible for creative thinking and innovation. Everyone should feel involved and engaged in the process. Everyone’s contributions should be recognized and valued. That creates a dynamic organization wh ere there is buy-in.

We have designed a simple CSI style game that can be downloaded and played in teams to help individuals, teams and even organizations discover the areas of blockage, and how to over come them. primarily a powerful diagnostic tool that can be used to understand the climate of creative thinking and innovation. The game style nature is not only a “creative” method, but also deeply effective, as it allows for important discussion, ideas and insights on the topic in a safe environment. The result is an honest and clear picture of the current state of the individual, teams and the organisation culture. - Have a look at

Andrew Grant is the CEO of Tirian and co-author of the breakthrough book “Who Killed Creativity?... And How Can We Get It Back?” In his role as a keynote speaker, Andrew has been in high demand internationally: including delivering the opening keynote at the Young Presidents' Organization (YPO) Global Leadership ROW Conference, Four Seasons Hotels International Conference, World Innovation Conference, and sharing the stage with other internationally recognised names such as Stephen Covey and Jonas Ridderstrale. Andrew consistently receives the highest rated feedback for his sessions. Andrew has been featured in a number of international media including BBC, Reuters and ABC TV, Harvard Business Review, Fast Company and the Wall St Journal. Andrew’s significant success comes from the fact that he is not only able to talk intelligently and engagingly about the important elements of creative thinking and innovation, but it is easy to see it in everything he does. His sessions are engaging, thought provoking, and motivating, addressing both the creative and intelligent sides of the topic. He is a master at using a mix of humour and audience interactivity for diverse & cross cultural audiences, to drive home practical key outcomes.

Gaia Grant- is the MD of Tirian, co-author of “Who Killed Creativity?” and a number of books and resources, including “A Patch of Paradise” and “The Rhythm of Life”. Gaia has a BA, Dip Ed, BD (hons), Grad Dip Change Leadership, and is currently studying a Post Grad Masters of Science in Creative Thinking (International Centre for Studies in Creativity State University of NY) leading into a PhD looking at culture change and innovation. She is a highly skilled facilitator carrying with her a wide range of tools that can be used to find solutions to the most difficult challenges.

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