David Cox author of ‘Creative Thinking for Dummies’ speaks at Cass

Shivanee Brigham, a postgraduate on the Masters for Innovation, Creativity and Leadership shares her thoughts on ‘I wouldn’t start from here…’ with David Cox, author of ‘Creative Thinking for Dummies’. The seminar was hosted by the Centre for Creativity in Professional Practice.

So we hear a lot about innovation, but what does it mean in the company context? What does it look like and how does it happen? Too often, we think product development, R&D and technological or scientific breakthrough. Like everyone, I often think of tecCassCreativitySeminarDavid Coxh companies like Apple when I hear the term innovation and ponder what innovation looks like in a ‘normal’ corporate business and if a leopard really can change its spots in terms of management practice?

With over 30 years of experience of working with companies like Lego, Saab and publishing group Wiley (behind the ‘for Dummies’ book range) as a consultant, David Cox gave us a different insight into innovation and why companies find it so hard to innovate. The starting point being that since 2000, half of the Fortune 500 companies have disappeared – mainly because of digital.

David talked us through Lego’s journey of transformation: from being a traditional toymaker with typical corporate structures and a rigid set of principles on the brand and product; to being challenged by a rapidly-changing world where children were now problem-solving through electronic games and excited by Pixar movies and a new revival of comic heroes.

Lego’s initial response was interesting and perhaps unsurprising to those of us who have worked in corporate environments. Nevertheless, the company did embark on changing itself to survive in a crowded and complex marketplace. That meant really focusing on what was going on around them, listening and realising how digital was changing children’s’ play.

What was really interesting was the story of when businesses face-up to reality and recognise that they need to change to survive and the emotions behind it: resistance, (even reluctance) and fear of the unfamiliar. Innovation means more than new products – it also involvees creative output from all employees, not just a select few. As David put it, “Innovation is not a bolt-on.”

As a Cass student on the Masters for Innovation, Creativity and Leadership (MICL) for me, David gave an interesting perspective on what innovation really means for organisations. The intricacies between creativity and innovation, and how it can be taken forward in businesses that were not born in the digital revolution, because innovation is more than just digital – it is as much about leadership and management practice.

As I near the end of the MICL, I am now faced with choices about what to do next and how I can put my creative skills into professional practice. I don’t yet have the answers but what I have realised from the programme, reinforced by this talk is that you don’t have to be working for Amazon or Google to be part of innovation. It depends on creative thinking and recognising the need for change. What I do know is there are plenty of organisations out there that need people who can think creatively and are ready to tackle the choices and opportunities unleashed by digital, and the MICL has helped me unlock that potential.

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Centre for Creativity in Professional Practice

The Centre for Creativity in Professional Practice is an interdisciplinary research centre in the Cass Business School, City University London. http://www.cass.city.ac.uk/research-and-faculty/centres/creativity