This blog will discuss the current issues in creativity by the graduate students at the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State. www.buffalostate.edu/creativity
The views expressed herein are those of the graduate students and do not necessarily represent the views of the International Center for Studies in Creativity or of any other Buffalo State College body.
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Quick and Nimble: Lessons From Leading CEOs on How to Create a Culture of Innovation
A book review by: Courtney Zwart
Buffalo State College
BOOK REVIEW OF ADAM BRYANT's Quick & NiMBLE
and Link to Creativity
you wish that you could pick the brains of leading CEOs on how to create a
culture of innovation within your organization?If so, then journalist Adam Bryant’s non-fiction book,
“Quick and Nimble:Lessons From
Leading CEOs on How to Create a Culture of Innovation” is just the resource you
are looking for.If the name Adam
Bryant sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the author of the New York Times’
weekly feature, “The Corner Office,” which provides highlights from discussions
with today’s leaders about both leadership and management.
from discussions with more than 200 CEOs occurring between March 2009 and May
2013, Bryant distills their insights regarding essential ingredients of an
effective corporate culture as well as leadership strategies for cultivating
and sustaining innovation in organizations.A journalist, not scholarly researcher, Bryant’s book
represents a qualitative approach to identifying and understanding these ingredients.
this book, Bryant dives headfirst into one of the primary influences on
creativity – the environment in which creativity operates.Grounded in actual experiences –
stories by CEOs – his book provides “practical tips and insights that would be
useful and relevant for any organization” trying to build a culture of
innovation and drive growth.This
work is an excellent complement to studies and assessments of optimal
environments for creativity by researchers such a Teresa Amabile and Goran
book is organized into two parts.Part I, “Setting the Foundation,” delves into the necessary elements of
an effective culture.Part II,
“Taking Leadership to the Next Level,” offers leadership strategies (that build
on this foundation) to cultivate and embed innovation.
detailed in Part I range from the high-level to the tactical.The first, and perhaps most important
chapter in the book, explores why culture matters: “A successful culture is
like a greenhouse where people and ideas can flourish—where everybody in the
organization, regardless of rank or role, feels encouraged to speak frankly and
openly and is rewarded for sharing ideas about new products, more efficient
processes, and better ways to serve customers.” The last chapter in Part I discusses a much more tactical
element, the hazards of e-mail, and offers that email “does nothing to build
the connective links among people that foster a sense of teamwork, and you need
teamwork to innovate.”
chapters in Part I explore elements related to the importance of a simple plan
(no more than three measurable goals), values and their adherence (enforce them
with a zero-tolerance policy), culture of respect, trust within the team and timely
and instructive feedback.The
latter is especially critical as Bryant advises, “these conversations can
uncork energy that is otherwise bottled up because people are reluctant to say
what’s really on their minds.”
strategies detailed in Part II offer ways that organizations can build on the
foundation established in Part I.These include strategies related to communication, management, learning
strategies include elements such as consistent (and frequent – there is no such
thing as over-communication) communication of the organization’s vision and
goals by the leader and encouragement of feedback, in all directions, to
strategies include management training (especially on emotional intelligence), how
to run a smarter meeting (hint:it
lies in having an agenda and being clear about decision makers) and actions to
be taken to break down silos within organizations.“Learning” is a key strategy, as, Bryant articulates, “creating
an environment of continuing education” will help retain the brightest employees.Finally, pursuing strategies that
promote playfulness are critical, Bryant advises us, because “there’s nothing
like some good, honest fun and a few shared laughs to bring people together and
provide some glue for the team.”Strategies
on this topic offered by CEOs include pajama days and Disco Friday (breaks
during which people dance in the hall).
Bryant has assembled is a highly instructive treasure trove of elements that
leaders have incorporated into their organizations to help cultivate and
sustain creativity and innovation.And, he has done so in an engaging way – the stories told by CEOs are
powerful and detail live application of strategies.However, every organization is different, so the readers
should take caution not to try to apply strategies outright, but to customize
them for their organizations.
book reinforces my belief and experience that the environment, especially the
psychological environment in which the creative operates, is one of the biggest
drivers of both creativity and innovation.It also echoes my thinking about the critical role leaders play
in deliberately cultivating and sustaining supportive environments, especially
as it relates to establishing trust and respect and working as one team.In my professional life, I have seen
the negative impact on creativity and innovation that occurs when these
elements are absent and, going forward, I will champion their prioritization.
the book falls short of expectations for me is in the lack of connection of
these strategies to actual business results related to creativity and
innovation.As a follow on, or
follow up, it would be great to see Bryant elicit and summarize measurable
impacts of these strategies.Additionally, Bryant doesn’t provide commentary on key environmental
dimensions known to positively impact creativity and innovation in
organizations, such as diverse work teams and having autonomy over how one
completes one’s work. It is widely
accepted that we learn through story and it would be valuable to include CEO
tales on these dimensions.If Adam
Bryant is listening, perhaps this just provided him fodder for a sequel to this
important and timely book.
T. M., Conti, R., Coon, H., Lazenby, J., & Herron, M. (1996). Assessing the
creativity. The Academy of Management Journal, 39(5), 1154-1184.
(2014). Quick and nimble: Lessons from leading CEOs on how to create a
culture of innovation.
New York, NY:Times Books.
Ekvall, G. (1996). Organizational climate for creativity and
innovation. European Journal of Work and
Organizational Psychology, 5(1), 105-123.
About Courtney Zwart:
innovator with a passion for creativity, Courtney has spent most of her career creating,
developing and implementing novel solutions to business problems. She has held senior level positions in
innovation and new product development at both J.P. Morgan Chase and Citibank
and currently consults with individuals and organizations on applying creative
problem solving processes to business challenges and goals.
facilitated creative problem solving sessions, and delivered workshops on
deliberate creativity, at Fortune 500 companies including Citibank, HSBC, CVS
Caremark Corporation and Loews Corporation. She also instructs on creativity at
colleges in the State University of New York (SUNY) system.
She received an
MBA in Marketing from Vanderbilt University and a BA from the University of
Virginia. She holds certificates in Design Thinking from both the Darden School
of Business and the Creative Problem Solving Institute.She also holds a Master of Science
degree in Creativity, Creative Problem Solving and Change Leadership from the
internationally recognized Center for Studies in Creativity at SUNY Buffalo
State.She can be reached at