Sitting through a debate session at the European Commission’s conference on creativity and innovation, I wondered how this very conservative and structured assembly would harness creative ideas. Glancing at the serious faces surrounding me, I wondered if I had arrived at the right event. One of the panel speakers must have read my mind as he addressed the question on bringing creativity into our workshop sessions: “Let’s tell a story, paint a picture, or sing a song when we report our final results”. The facilitator, a European Commission Director, dropped his jaw and looked at the audience with a bewildered expression as he said “ohhkay, we promised you an entertaining day”.
And so the music started. Participants eagerly shared their stories. Images were created on screens and note pads to visualize ideas. Interpreters were sitting in their booths trying to translate the creative buzz into German, French, Spanish, Italian, and English. Representatives from business, government, and non-profit were discussing and exchanging experiences. The audience seemed to respond to their call to action and the rest of the day was alive with energy and creativity as participants presented and shared innovation projects on local and regional levels during the workshops. Focused on Best Practices from European Union programs, the workshops presented projects involving entrepreneurship, learning, art, digital entertainment, cultural awareness and expression, and green initiatives.
As I looked around the room, I wondered if I had been transported back to Apple or Google land in Silicon Valley rather than the European Commission in Brussels. We actually talked about creativity and innovation at the European Commission. Wow. And it also happens to be the Year of Creativity and Innovation in Europe. Outstanding. It’s a topic that’s being taken seriously as European businesses and governments are renewing and strengthening their innovation mission across the region. And it’s just the kind of stimulus needed for a challenging economy.
At the end of the day, attendees turned back to business as it was time to move from ideas to the project planning stage. In reviewing best practices and lessons learned, each workshop brought in their key recommendations. The workshop that I attended on creative partnerships even featured a team singer who delivered a closing tune. Before you start humming that tune, take note of the top recommendations from the European Commission and representative Jan Figel in launching successful innovation projects across cultures:
- Imagination is more important than information and knowledge.
- Explore partnerships between government, business, and universities.
- Develop innovation capabilities within private and public organizations.
- Focus on sharing and collaboration.
- Learn from failures and successes.
- Improve accountability and dissemination of projects.
- Increase collaboration across cultures.
- Success = hardworking, team working, and networking.
As my train left Brussels for Paris, I thought about the energy and inspiration generated from this event. Innovation and creativity sessions can help facilitate problem-solving, planning, and team collaboration from project initiation to implementation. How is your organization and team developing innovation capabilities within the international project management process? Consider building additional time for team discussion and brainstorming meetings that facilitate new solutions to project barriers. Story-telling, singing, or painting are optional. We’ll take a closer look at global teamwork with the next blog entry.