Creating a culture of creativity to spur innovation

By Arvin Patel

Today, disruption is a constant, and it’s all around us. The pace of change spurred by those who dare to dream can sometimes feel daunting and it can be difficult to push yourself to think outside the traditional boxes we’re required to work within. But let’s not forget that even the smallest innovations when added up can have major impact. To think creatively is to think freely and it’s what I consider the epicenter of innovation.

“I make more mistakes than anyone else I know, and sooner or later, I patent most of them.” — Thomas Edison

I’ve found, as many before me have as well, that the entertainment industry not only wants — but demands — a way of thinking and ideating that is almost magical. That culture of creativity results in an output that captures the attention of millions of viewers each week across a myriad of devices and platforms. Whether it’s music that allows us to clear our minds, or the latest sci-fi flick that immerses you into a world almost unimaginable, it’s that culture that brings those dreams and innovative ideas to life. The radical creativity that emerges from the freedom to experiment, ask “why not?” and fail a few times along the way, is probably one of the reasons I love working in this industry so much.

Culture and creativity are the inputs and innovation the output. But it’s not enough for leadership to say that they stand for a culture of creativity. From the bottom up, and the top down, organizations need to instill a spirit of freedom, independence and choice. That atmosphere isn’t in contrast to business ideologies such as collaboration and horizontal leadership, but in support of.

Over the years I have found that three core principles are required to succeed in this effort and these very principles have helped me and my teams instill that culture of creativity:

  • Freedom to fail. While we certainly can’t give carte blanche across every aspect of a person’s job, employees should have the freedom to experiment, fail and learn from it. I deeply believe we learn by doing, and with doing will come a few failures along the way, which can only better inform our next creation. The Museum of Failure, currently on tour in Hollywood echoes that message. It shines light on imperfections and mistakes to create an environment where people are moved to innovate.
  • Independence. Yes, great ideas come from collaboration but ideas that are micromanaged often fall short. Building barriers around free thought — and with it the ability to be creative — limit the output and innovative ideas that can come from any given person or team. As Apple put it in there well-known ‘1984’ Super Bowl commercial, “Think Different.” Imagine where we’d be if Steve Jobs hadn’t stopped and asked, “why not?” and reimagined the cellphone experience entirely. We’d have a lot less entertainment on our commutes that’s for sure!
  • The opportunity to choose. There will always be days we don’t get to choose what we do. That said, if you offer your colleagues the opportunity to collaborate on paving their way in an organization it can pay off tenfold in the end. Benjamin Franklin understood this. His passion and curiosity paved the way for him to become one of the greatest scientific minds of his time. If someone had told me I needed to stick to paperwork as a lawyer, I would have never had the opportunity to work so closely with our R&D teams, partnering on the future of entertainment.

An inventor and leading voice on #entertainment and #innovation. COO, Invention Investment Funds @Intellectual Ventures