Creativity and innovation as important drivers of business and growth

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Flor G. Tarriela-125


I was recently invited by Organization Development Practitioners Network (ODPN) President Milalin Javellana to speak at a webinar with the theme SympODium: Propagating Creative OD aptly chaired by Bong Austero, former Philippine National Bank human resource head.

What is creativity? Creativity is thinking differently, being inspired, or connecting with what is already there. Great innovations that changed the world happened because there were creative people who saw something different that others see as mundane or ordinary. If we apply creativity to our daily lives, or the ability to commercialize an idea, there is innovation.

We live in a VUCA world — volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Most problems today have no precedence. To survive in this new world, old mindsets and old solutions will not work anymore. We need to create and innovate, or else, we evaporate. Remember Kodak and Fujifilm — Fuji thrived while Kodak got disrupted.

This challenge has been made urgent and critical by the ongoing pandemic. 2020 will be remembered as the year the global economy went into a tailspin and how we lost 1.4 million lives to COVID-19, but this year will also be remembered for the many stories of courage and resilience, of creativity and innovation. There are people who “reimagined” and “reinvented” during this pandemic, and consequently, helped carry us forward. This reminds us that every crisis is an occasion for reflection; that crisis also opens windows for new opportunities. So, let us not waste this crisis!

The four challenges to be responded by OD professionals today are:


First, how do we rebuild better? The work from home arrangement will continue even after the pandemic. We need to reinvent and reenergize our organizations, our work, and how we relate to each other.

Second, how do we help everyone get accustomed to digital thinking as the new default paradigm? Speed, accuracy, and data-driven — i.e., algorithm — solutions will become the benchmarks of customer interaction. Any program, product, or service will now be approached with a digital-first mindset. This means we will all need to unlearn and relearn, reskill and upskill.

Third, how do we strengthen human connections in the face of increasing alienation and depersonalization? Technology has made us connected to each other virtually, but paradoxically, has also made us more disconnected from each other as humans, reducing our interactions to emojis and pictures. We need to discover new ways of reaching out, touching people, empathizing and building trust, even without physical interaction.

And finally, we all need to embrace a new social contract in the workplace and help our respective organizations embrace the concept of The New Social Enterprise. The pandemic has highlighted that there is a business case for more human-centered business organizations. Others call this the Case for The Good. We need to reorient everyone that People, Planet and Profit is a viable and sustainable business model.

The most important leadership competency is creativity, based on an IBM study done 10 years ago. Lead with bold creativity, connect with customers in imaginative ways, and design their operations for speed and flexibility. Leaders must nurture and harness creativity and innovation for the greater good, to change and heal the world for the better.

How do we normalize creativity and innovation in our organizations as legitimate competencies that will drive business and growth? People are creatures of habit and have a natural aversion towards new ideas. Our educational system teaches students to follow theories, not break them; to obey rules and formulas, rather than ask “why not?” As Albert Einstein said, “Doing the same thing over and over again and yet expecting a different result each time is not wisdom. It is insanity.”

Creativity emanates from certain character traits. We must have an open mind and an open heart to experience new things. We must have courage. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to go ahead despite fear. And lest we forget, moral courage — which can also be called integrity or the ability to do the right thing even when no one is looking — is just as important. Also, a sense of purpose, like Nick Vujicic born without arms and limbs, rose above his disability and is now an inspiration.

Remember when David faced Goliath, people told him he was crazy. “How can you win? He is too big!” But David thought differently. He said to himself, “He is too big, how can I miss?” Positive mindset and optimism are logical wellspring for creativity.

Sympodium means propagation and new growth. Do you know that to induce new growth, you need to remove part of the skin, so you actually “hurt” the plant? The same principle applies to pruning. Many plants need to be pruned, where you cut branches and leaves to induce better growth, to make the plant fruitful and serve its purpose.

Let us consider this pandemic with its “pain” as our propagation stage and let us be hopeful of new and fruitful growth!

Merry Christmas and abundant blessings! Remember, the reason for the season is our Lord, Jesus Christ!


Ms. Flor Gozon Tarriela is chairman of the Philippine National Bank and PNB Capital. She is a former Undersecretary of Finance and the first Filipina vice-president of Citibank N.A. She is a trustee of FINEX Foundation, FINEX Academy and an Institute of Corporate Directors fellow.