Creativity, Discipline & Courage: the three dimensions needed for successful and repeated innovations

13/11/2019 The number one challenge international organisations face in innovation is finding the best way to rapidly and repeatedly spread transformational solutions beyond the borders of the country or business unit where the idea originated. Finding the right dissemination method to scale and generate massive adoption of an innovation throughout a multi-national, multi-cultural and multi-generational organisation is a tough task. However, it is achievable and very rewarding.

Innovation should always be approached proactively. If it is a reactionary effort, then the organisation is cornered in a frenzy to catch-up. Adopting a proactive standpoint removes this element of fear. It enables the innovation teams to freely explore new areas and unleash creativity. The most forward-looking organisations will endorse a bold mindset. If they are not the first to do it, they will simply not even go down that road.

Innovation also calls for excellence. The expectations are high, the competition is fierce. To reach a large audience, teams need to provide the best in class and perfectly polished solutions, that provide significant new added-value. Successfully and rapidly spreading innovation repeatedly is very difficult as it extends to large components of communication, conviction and dissemination.

The right balance

With these parameters in mind and from the challenges we have faced within Mazars, we defined an approach for repeated successes in innovation. Three qualities should be combined: creativity, discipline and courage.

First, creativity. Creativity is the most popular dimension of innovation. Imaginativeness is indeed the starting point of innovation and it can spring from anywhere in the organisation. There is no creativity monopoly and we, at Mazars, crowdsource ideas as much as possible. However, creativity does not stop at the ideation stage[1]. Most people focus their creativity on that first part of the job when it should instead be used throughout the innovation process. From inception all the way through completion, resourceful and original implementation is key. We, at Mazars, value greatly creative implementers[2]. Creativity is necessary but it overcasts the importance of the other two qualities. Too often, innovation is wrongly reduced to creativity. It obviously needed but it can be messy.

Discipline can channel creativity and maximise its impact. This second quality ensures that the teams are not merely working on prototyping for the sake of it but that their idea is turned into an actionable solution that can be efficiently rolled-out to the entire organisation or into a productive insight on the reasons for failure. Discipline is not as prestigious as creativity, but it is the backbone that will instil a much-needed coherence within the organisation’s informal network of innovators over time and that will gradually raise the level of the solutions provided. Discipline and rigor allow for a greater tolerance for failure because it lets the organisation capitalize on the failures of its most competent people and depersonalises endeavours. The philosophy should be to learn quickly what needs getting rid of and to move quickly in more-promising directions.

To do so, a final major quality is needed: courage. Accepting criticism and opening up ideas to the outside world is critical. The sooner you present a new product or service to a client, the faster you will get tangible feedback and suggestions for improvements. This dialogue is crucial to make sure projects are evolving in the right direction and do not stay trapped in time[3].  The challenge of geographical breadth is non-negligible. Working with different cultures or historically different tools and dealing with the subtleties of human nature are a challenge, but can be turned into a strength. It takes resilience to face new markets, to adapt to new and more restrictive regulations, to compete with sometimes unexpected competitors and to adapt to cultural differences that can be surprising. Courage is not the absence of fear but, on the contrary, the ability to move through it creatively, with new ideas and visions.

Creativity, discipline and courage are the three values our network of innovation ambassadors all agree on and nurture across our organisation.

This paper is part of the #InnovatorsAtMazars series. If you would like to learn more about this campaign, please visit our website.

[1] In October 2018, Mazars held its first global hackathon “Mazars Shake”, which brought together 45 participants from 22 countries, to find innovative solutions to transform Mazars. Moreover, in June 2019, Mazars launched a global idea crowdsourcing application “BIM”. This mobile app allows Mazars employees the world over to share and support ideas to change the way Mazars does business.

[2] Choain, L. and Malzy, T. (2019), “Leading change through your creative class”, Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 32 No. 3, pp. 377-384.

[3] Mazars has started implementing a network of “Labs”, dedicated spaces to foster ideation, prototype testing and client presentations.