Welcome to our interview with Hrund Gunnsteinsdottir. Hrund is an experienced manager, consultant, entrepreneur, thought-leader, and speaker in creative and critical thinking in education, global trends and the workplace of the 21st century. She is also the scriptwriter and co-director of the documentary film InnSæi – The Power of Intuition (or The Sea Within), which explores our ability to be creative, compassionate and connected in a world of distraction and stress.
After resigning from the UN in 2004, her work has been focused on individuals as drivers of change. She believes that fostering creative mindsets, originality in thought and diversity is the key to unlocking the infinite possibilities of human beings in today’s world. Hrund has become a powerful voice in showing us that creativity is the crucial 21st-century skill that we need to solve today’s pressing problems.
Welcome Hrund, and thank you for contributing to the questions that are at the heart of Forward-Thinking Workplaces.
How can we create workplaces where every voice matters, everyone thrives and finds meaning, and change and innovation happen naturally?
Hrund Gunnsteindottir: One of the things that come to mind is the word constellation. If you think about a workplace in the sense that you can create a constellation, which represents a clear framework then there are some borders to what we do. But inside the constellation, there is a lot of trust. I trust my colleagues and my supervisors in a way that I can speak openly, ask silly questions, or be genuine about what I’m thinking. I’m free to think outside the box and open my mind. Then there’s encouragement and affirmation, so I’m encouraged to be who I am. I feel that what I say and how I see things really matters. I think that is important to people.Inside a constellation, there’s a lot of trust. I feel that what I say and how I see things really matters.
Innovation is very much about risks. What I mean by risks is that you take a risk in suggesting something, so it’s the way you talk to people. You’re not afraid to take risks to come up with ideas. We often talk about economic risks and financial risks when we talk about innovation, but I really think it’s minimal when you both allow space for something that’s a known risk and something that’s an unknown risk. But in order to create that creative workplace, you need to have that constellation that makes people feel secure in their space where they are genuinely listened to. People appreciate what they have to offer because of who they are – not only what they studied. It’s also a workplace that encourages you to use tools that you’re not necessarily specialized in. And when I say tools, I mean knowledge. It can be a concept, theory or just a bit of information from somewhere that is not your specialty but you have feeling it may help a thought process, strategy, way of seeing things, something that is worth exploring.
I also think in essence it’s about leadership within that workplace that understands the incredible value of intrinsic motivation. You’re willing to do so many things when you are intrinsically motivated. My friend Gordon Torr, who wrote Managing Creative People, said if you have a room with five highly creative individuals and you want them to come up a very original creative idea, then you don’t say to them, “You know, if you do this in a week then you’ll get a free parking space for a year or I’ll give you a pay raise.” It’s not really going to motivate them in a creative or innovative sense. But if you see who they are and you see them for who they are and you want more of them, they can feel that. Then they feel like you respect what they have to offer – that’s a whole different way of approaching things. They will feel safe, unafraid to take risks by coming up with ideas and explore because you are willing to take that risk with them – and you trust the process. This way, they will trust that their exploration and ideas will have value, that they matter in the bigger context. They will not be afraid to ask challenging or critical questions, which ultimately lead to something that will give that company or organization the lead, small or big. That is what intrinsic motivation does. When matched with extrinsic motivation, which defines the framework, you’ve created that alchemy we are all looking for.