Interview with Kaiser Yang, Author of Crack the Code
Posted 2 years ago
This month we spoke to Kaiser Yang, author of Crack the Code: 8 Surprising Keys to Unlock Innovation. Kaiser provides compelling evidence as to why creativity is a critical professional skill, explains the five routines and behaviours that can help you build your creative capacity, and shares what he has found to be the most pervasive barrier to innovation in any organisation.
What was the impetus behind writing this book? What problem did you observe that made you feel the book was needed?
Throughout my career, from working at large global organizations to building and scaling tech startups, the ability to challenge the status quo and creatively solve challenges has been the one underlying key to success. As a lifelong problem-solver, I’ve used a systematic approach to harnessing my creativity to not only build successful teams and organisations, but also to better serve my community and to even raise my two teenage twins! Crack the Code is the culmination of my 30 years of experience innovating and driving growth and performance, but more importantly, for me, this book is personal. From a young age, developing my creative skills has enabled my success. I wasn’t born with an abundance of creativity, but rather deliberately developed my creative ability over time and I truly believe that the mindsets and tactics in Crack the Code can make a meaningful difference in people’s lives, as well as within their teams and organisations.
“I wasn’t born with an abundance of creativity, but rather
deliberately developed my creative ability over time.”
What regular routines or behaviours can individuals adopt to foster and maintain their creative abilities?
When we work with our clients, we often point to the results of a study published by The Harvard Business Review entitled The Innovator’s DNA. The research revealed that creative capacity is only 20% genetics, and 80% learned behavior. Very encouraging news for those who don‘t feel especially creative. The study concluded that there are five skills that separate the most accomplished innovators from the rest – these are the “routines and behaviors” we recommend developing in order to develop a sustainable culture of innovation:
1. Associating – This skill involves creating links between seemingly unrelated items. The best innovators are able to connect concepts, things, and people in new and imaginative ways.
2. Questioning – Asking questions are at the core of creativity. The best creative minds embrace the beginner’s mindset and continuously seek opportunities by asking, why?, what if? and why not?
3. Observing – This skill involves raising your level of awareness, observing—in great detail—what is happening in the world, and then imagining what could be different. Having more heads up time.
4. Experimenting – The most effective creative minds are not afraid of failure. Instead, they experiment and dabble until they stumble upon the best solutions.
5. Networking – In the creative process, networking is about finding diverse people whose ideas challenge your own thinking and expand your perspective. Discussing your challenge with people who have divergent viewpoints can spark incredible insight and fresh solutions.
Some senior executives regard creativity as an artistic trait, not something to be applied to business. What would you say to change their mind?
Here are some compelling reasons why creativity and creative problem-solving is more important now more than ever:
– In the 2020 C-Suite Challenge Report published by the Conference Board, “building an innovative culture” was listed among top three most pressing internal concerns of 740 CEOs surveyed globally.
– According to a 2020 report published by McKinsey & Co., 90% of executives surveyed believe that the COVID-19 pandemic will fundamentally change the way they do business over the next 5 years. Yet, only 21% feel that they have the expertise and resources to successfully pursue new growth opportunities.
– Each year, the World Economic Forum publishes a list of the top ten most important, most competitive job skills, taking into consideration changes in technology, work environments, industry disruption, and a host of other factors. In 2015, creativity ranked number ten. In their 2021 projections for 2025, it jumped to number five. Interestingly, analytical thinking and innovation, complex problem-solving, and critical thinking ranked in the Top 5, meaning that by mastering the techniques of the creative problem-solver, you’ll be well equipped with the most valuable job skills for the near future.
– Finally, LinkedIn analyzed over twenty million job posts globally and revealed that creativity is the number-one job skill employers have searched for on their platform for the last two years in a row.
The ability to leverage your creativity to challenge the status quo and explore fresh new approaches is mission-critical.
What industries do you think will thrive most in the next five years, in this period of change and uncertainty?
Given the exponential complexity, the disruptive technologies, and dizzying speeds that we’re currently seeing, I think this question is very difficult to answer. In just the last couple of years, we’ve seen so many organizations stand by and watch their competitive advantages become commoditized. However, the industries where our team at Platypus Labs is doing most of our work are Health Care (personalization and access), Automotive (sustainability and electrification), and Information Services (big data).
You say ‘Human creativity is the one true source of sustainable competitive advantage’. Do you think there will ever come a time when AI will be able to simulate creativity?
In today’s hyper-competitive environment I would argue that the hottest technology we have available to us is not robotics, quantum computing, or machine learning, but rather human creativity. I believe it’s the one thing that can’t be automated or readily outsourced. It’s a free, natural renewable resource that often lays dormant in many organizations. And when unlocked, it can be an incredible asset to help drive a sustainable competitive advantage.
What is something every organisation can do today to foster creativity in their workforce?
By far, I believe that the fear of failure is the greatest barrier to innovative thinking. I’ve seen it time and time again – even our most brilliant creative sparks can be extinguished in an instant by the fear of having our ideas judged by others. The fear of looking foolish, the fear of embarrassment. Crack the Code is designed specifically to give readers the creative confidence they need to seize new opportunities. It provides a systematic framework to unlock creativity and apply it towards generating innovative outcomes.
“Even our most brilliant creative sparks can be extinguished in an instant
by the fear of having our ideas judged by others.”
What did you learn in the process of writing this book?
The entire book-writing experience was an incredibly rewarding and satisfying process. However, the greatest learning for me was that innovation is truly accessible to all of us. That it’s NOT something that’s reserved for the CEO or the R&D department, but rather, that we all have a tremendous capacity to do amazing things. I had a chance to research and interview hundreds of business leaders and successful entrepreneurs, but I also had the chance to interview artists, musicians, athletes, teachers, and even hackers. And through this diverse group of amazing people, I learned that we can all be incredible innovators if we learn to unlock our innate creativity and systematically apply it to the challenges and opportunities we face.
You can also take this 10-minute Creativity Assessment to find out how Crack the Code can help you boost your creative potential and strengthen your innovator’s mindset. Take the Assessment here