Can We Design the Right Conditions for Creative Teams?

There are certain areas that require a systems thinking lens when the aim is to create a type of culture, and creativity is one of them. 

Like any complex system, creativity is sensitive to environment, is not a linear process, and is generative--inspiration is pieced together from an amalgamation of conscious and unconscious processes, frames and external stimuli. We stand on (and rub against) the shoulders of everyone in our cultural and intellectual networks.

We say that creativity comes "from the mind." But where is the mind? Is there any singular, original idea? 

If we're finally acknowledging that creativity involves some level of collective intelligence, how should we build teams to yield the kind of creativity that becomes innovative for the organization? 

A recent article from the World Economic Forum explores creativity as a growing discipline, examining the complex relationship (and the difference) between intelligence and creativity. 

Bolman and Deal's Reframing Organizations acknowledged complexity within organizations, advocating flatter structures and a four-frame model for team-building based on informal roles that emerge. Katzenbach & Smith's The Wisdom of Teams introduced the notion of a high-performance organization, citing shared leadership and self-organization as keystones to innovative teams. 

The common denominators in all cases of the ultimate creative dream-team seem to be adaptability, social leadership skills, and a supportive culture.

Ultimately, creativity itself is not so much "built-in" to teams, because you can't build for it. But you can structure for emergence, for tolerance of uncertainty--which is where so many teams get stuck trying to avoid or achieve specific outcomes. How does your team or project work with emergence?

And how do you plan for the unexpected? Stay tuned--this month (which happens to be National Preparedness Month) we'll be tackling the topic of readiness and in the coming weeks, we'll be talking to experts in public health policy and emergency management about how systems thinking can help us design readiness for the unexpected.

The HumanCurrent podcast is hosted by Angie Cross & Stacy Hale. Subscribe in iTunes or listen at