Executive Coach Michael O. Cooper Delivers Innovation Address on Fostering Creativity

Innovation Conference speaker Michael O. Cooper, founder of Innovators + Influencers. Photography by Erik Bardin.

It’s no secret that creativity is the key to continued innovation in the design industry. According to executive coach and Innovators + Influencers founder Michael O. Cooper, the biggest threat to the industry’s creative spirit isn’t limited budgets or talent pools—though those circumstances certainly don’t help.

In his talk, “How Most Leaders Kill Creativity and Destroy the Environment Needed for Creative Expression,” he revealed that poor executive leadership is the one challenge that even the most tenacious creatives are unable to overcome. Cooper, whose prolific client list ranges from Google to Sony, walked attendees through management best-practices to foster creativity.

To kick off his talk, Cooper asked the audience, “How many of you actually rely on creativity for your business to thrive?” Nearly every hand in the room shot up. He went on to share 12 of the biggest creativity killers—management worst-practices that actively inhibit creativity:

1. A workplace culture of fear that's lacking in psychological safety

2. Micromanaging

3. Lack of autonomy

4. Lack of recognition

5. Trust issues

6. Alignment issues

7. Lack of cooperation

8. Bureaucracy

9. Chronic lack of resources

10. Lack of support

11. Chronic busy-ness

12. Lack of stimulating/interesting work

While every organization has its unique strengths and challenges, Cooper emphasized the universal importance of trust and collaboration in any workplace. “Trust, alignment, and collaboration are the three main things I work on in every single organization that I visit,” he said. “They are universal human dynamics in any organization that you go to. And so even Google, Facebook, eBay, I've worked in all those organizations, they all have trust, alignment, and collaboration issues,” he went on to reveal.

To counteract the destructive effects of these issues, Cooper ended his presentation with suggestions to the room on how they can stimulate an environment that supports creativity: “Give people autonomy. Promote curiosity, experimentation. And support failure within reason.”

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