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Why industrial plant teams need to embrace their creativity to achieve greater success

June 30, 2022
Itching to drive even greater process improvements? In this Big Picture Interview, learn how to foster greater creativity with your team.

Lee Kitchen is the founder of Magical Dude Consulting, where he guides, trains, and inspires teams to think more creatively, helping them solve challenges and invent incredible new things. He has 32 years of experience at the Walt Disney Corporation across multiple roles, during which he got to co-create some of Disney’s most impactful marketing campaigns. Lee spoke with Editor in Chief Thomas Wilk about why it’s crucial for industrial plant teams to embrace their creativity to achieve even greater success.

PS: The field of industrial asset management, our core readership, it’s full of people who like to solve problems. Yet these workers may only occasionally get credit for demonstrating that quality. What would you say to those teams in order to keep them inspired while helping them message better with other people in the organization about their own creativity?

LK: I think a lot of times when people equate creativity, they equate it to people who have creative in their title. So if you’re not a creative art director or creative writer or whatever it is, then you’re not creative. Well, of course, everybody in the organization is creative. You heard me say that my finance manager was one of the most creative people in my realm because they would always figure out what to do with that budget by the end of the year, really creatively.

Creativity, you have to exercise it, it’s a muscle. So I think just having the mindset of, hey, I have to start with creativity, but I want to add to it by collaborating together, I think would be a good message for them. You guys have to partner with different styles of people throughout the day, like people who do different things.

And I think that partnership, that collaboration leads to that next big idea, always. Going outside your realm and outside your organization is really important just to see how other people are solving challenges. But again, collaborating with those closest to the problem is important, it’s an important part of the step. It’s not just me and you, it’s us doing this, right? It’s we.

PS: Part of the problem is that you get isolated, right? Sometimes people you have to talk to are the ones who aren’t in the room when these sessions are going on.

LK: Yeah, I found when I would host brainstorms specifically, in my realm, it was a marketing situation, but still marketing affects the operations team, it affects the merchandise team, it affects the custodial team. So I would invite a representative from those teams to join us, even though marketing wasn’t their expertise.

I wanted them early on to have a stake in what we were doing, because I told you about a principle called “assisters or resistors,” right? I like to invite those resistors early on because I want them to have a piece of it, have a stake in it, so they have a little bit of ownership to it when it goes live. There’s nothing worse than coming up with an idea in isolation and then going to your legal team and your HR team afterwards, because they most likely don’t understand how we got there, and so the first thing they’re going to do is try to poke holes in it.

So I say, let’s involve those people early on, because again, they will help collaborate with you. And when it comes time for execution, they will own it more and they will become those assistors to help you bring that idea to life.

Big Picture Interview

This article is part of our monthly Big Picture Interview column. Read more interviews from our monthly Big Picture series.

And I know it’s probably difficult in your environment, but there’s probably standard meetings where those teams get together. Let’s set aside time just for, “hey, this problem might come up, let’s talk about solving it now, before we get to the reactive part of it, right? Let’s do that part together and have input on it together.”

Also, you can’t argue with facts. I always talk about how important the step is before you get to ideation: empathy, walking in your end users’ and your consumers’ shoes. What I always tell my groups is, trust facts over assumption. You can make intuition later, but exhaust all the facts you have because it’s hard to argue with data. Everybody has an assumption about what’s going to happen when that critical moment happens, but if somebody in your organization has data that shows, “hey, actually that’s not going to happen, here’s how we see it, so we do have an opportunity here,” that’s a beautiful thing. But the trick of that is, everybody has to have that a-ha moment together. Do it as a collaborative group, get that data, throw it out on the table, make connections with it and decide together.

This story originally appeared in the June 2022 issue of Plant Services. Subscribe to Plant Services here.

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