Innovative Capacity

January/February 2001

Innovative Capacity


Happy new millennium! Appropriate to begin 2001 with an odyssey? Here’s an interesting perspective about increasing creativity in your firms.

In a recent interview with Phil Hall, Chairman Emeritus of CH2M Hill, he observed that different markets (and clients within those markets) seem to have different rates of change that are comfortable. He also observed that different people in the firm have different comfort zones when it comes to rate of change.

  • If clients, such as highway or municipal infrastructure clients have a slower rate of change, then the people we send in to serve those clients need also to have a slower rate of change, or they’ll drive the client nuts!
  • If clients, such as chip manufacturers, operate in a high-rate-of-change environment, then we need to match them with people who also have a high desire and comfort with rapid change … or the client will see us as retarding their progress … and their competitive edge.

Dr. Jacqueline Byrd, daughter of the late Dr. Richard E. Byrd … and, in a sense, “The Daughter of Mandeville” … has taken her father’s research into “Creativity and Risk Taking” to new levels of sophistication … and application. Jackie observes that different organizations have different degrees of “Innovative Capacity.” And … that capacity seems to be crucial to your firm’s ability to adapt and succeed in these fast-changing times … as markets and service delivery modes are changing. Simply expressed …

Creativity  x  Risk Taking Capacity = Innovative Capacity

Jackie has identified seven factors that are “Drivers” in both our personal and organizational abilities to be creative and to take risks. To begin, people (and firms) who are high in “Risk Taking” capacity tend to be:

  1. More authentic. They simply tell it like it is. If that’s done diplomatically, fine. But if diplomacy is at odds with authenticity, the latter wins.
  2. Resilient. They can try something, fail, but bounce right back and be ready to try something else “that’ll be even more successful!”
  3. Self-Accepting. People who are high-risk takers like themselves. They rarely ever say “I’m sorry” feel the need to apologize for some effort.

    People or firms who are high in “Creativity” tend to:

  4. Enjoy Ambiguity. They cannot only operate with all sorts of vagueness … they need it in order to have “room to create.”
  5. Be highly independent.They don’t want to be “managed” in the traditional sense … although they enjoy feeding off of stimulus around them.
  6. Be inner-directed. To please others, we try to respond to their wishes and needs. If we please ourselves, we’re happy … but others may not feel as good about us. Creative people move to their own drummer!

  7. Enjoy uniqueness. They appreciate and value the differences between themselves and others … as a source for sparking new ideas.

The “Creatrix” behavioral instrument was initially developed by Dr. Richard Byrd, then refined by Dr. Jacqueline Byrd. The test has no “right” or “wrong” answer, and reliably measures your capacity in these two dimensions. Your style readout is quite enlightening. (Take the test on the web, free, by going to: Sign in as “Byrd”. Then type the password as “JB” … following the upper/lower cases shown.)

Now, how do you increase your entire firm’s Innovative Capacity?

Have each person take the Creatrix test. Then have groups share their results. You’ll quickly see large clusters centered in one of the eight dominant styles … which really does begin to depict your “firm’s culture.” By discussing similarities and differences, people can see why things feel as they do, why some people don’t seem to “fit” or are seen as “mavericks.” If people wish to increase their scores, they can use exercises Jackie has created for increasing scores … the one or two drivers that score lowest.

As larger numbers of people engage in this form of development, you’ll begin to experience a shift … a growth … in your firm’s Innovative Capacity. While not every job in a firm demands Innovative Capacity, most firms want their people to more innovative …

  • To maintain market edge.
  • To initiate better customer service.
  • To create new ideas for services or deliverables.
  • And to constantly re-create your firm’s vision, for future success.

Your firm’s overall ability to comfortably adapt to the faster rate of change that’s occurring in many markets will improve … sowing seeds for your longer-term prosperity.

• • • • • • • •

Stu Rose and Lou Marines’ Library of Leadership Legacies” is completing its inaugural effort with an in-depth interview of “Phil Hall of CH2M Hill.” It’s a four-cassette, 3½ hour video program featuring Phil’s candid and insightful perspectives about a huge range of leadership issues … plus commentary by Lou and me, to distill “lessons” your leaders and future leaders can apply in your firm. (It’s an awesome program you need to have!) Announcements are coming very soon; keep an eye out.

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