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An Interview with Andrew Razeghi: Improving Creative Fitness

One is the poet laureate of pop music with a Nobel Prize for literature. The other is an inventor and electric car wunderkind with designs on establishing a human colony on Mars.

Bob Dylan and Elon Musk are examples of those who Andrew Razeghi calls peak innovators. And while peak innovators like these typically share many characteristics, otherworldly talent isn’t necessarily one of them, says Razeghi, founder/managing director of StrategyLab Inc. and lecturer at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

Razeghi will share insight into how peak innovators such as Dylan and Musk have used ordinary skills to achieve extraordinary things at i4cp’s 2018 Conference: Next Practices Now (to be held March 26 – 29 at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Scottsdale, AZ).

“As it turns out, peak innovators are not superhuman,” says Razeghi, “they are simply more creatively fit humans.”

Facing a given task, the creatively fit are not beholden to any specific process to get it done, Razeghi says. “Peak innovators choose whatever process will help them accelerate action.”

These individuals also allow themselves to trust their intuition—and have a knack for knowing when to listen to their guts.

Now, it’s fair to point out that Bob Dylan doesn’t have to clear his professional choices with a CEO or board of directors. CHROs do. And they don’t always have the freedom to simply follow their gut instincts. Corporate leaders aren’t generally comfortable with making big decisions based on gut instinct.

“We like data. We want to know it’s a sure thing,” says Razeghi. “We are risk-averse. And, at times, for good reason. We don’t want to be the ones who burn the store down.”

That said, there’s a balance to be struck between exercising caution and taking (calculated) risks. And, leaders’ indecision can ultimately leave an organization lagging in the race to innovate.

Assessing Fitness Levels 

Creatively fit leaders view the cost of inaction as greater than the cost of trying, says Razeghi. Conducting a creative fitness assessment is a key step toward becoming an organization with a bias toward action.  

In his i4cp 2018 Conference presentation, Razeghi will offer guidance on how to evaluate your company’s creative fitness levels as well as your own, answering questions such as:

  • What does it mean to be creatively fit?
  • How creatively fit is your team?
  • How creatively fit is your organization?
  • How creatively fit are you?

This appraisal is also designed to gauge the company’s comfort level with ambiguity, uncertainty and risk, and to evaluate the firm’s typical approach to solving problems, for example.

“Do we look to experts within our company?” asks Razeghi. “Or do we look for inspiration outside of our company and our industry? Would we describe our culture as ‘not invented here’ or are we open to anyone who might be able to provide help, regardless of whether they work for us?”

Razeghi asserts that the creatively fit are unafraid to look for ideas in unexpected and even unorthodox places. And the companies that these innovators call home encourage this type of creative thinking, and provide an environment where bright ideas, however large or small, are always being brought to fruition.  

“Organizations that fail at innovation do so because they fall in love with ideas at the expense of the capability to produce those ideas continuously,” says Razeghi. “This is why there are so many one-hit wonders—in the arts, in science, in commerce. Those who focus solely on the big idea will likely never have another one.”