Sustainable Innovation: How to Create a Possibility Ecosystem

Kathryn HaydonBusiness, Grow Your Creativity

Sustainable Innovation: How to Create a Possibility Ecosystem

By Kathryn P. Haydon

Business, Grow Your Creativity

How would you like to live and work in a culture that supports new possibilities, from personal growth to large-scale innovation?

A respected researcher in the field of creativity, Anna Craft, coined the term possibility thinking. I built on this term in my latest book, The Non-Obvious Guide to Being More Creative, to teach you how to create a possibility ecosystem:

“. . . a context—home, team, entire organization—in which people are aware of, and employ, the mindsets, tools, and processes that support creativity. A possibility ecosystem supports the sustained growth that results in positive change.”

Depending on your circumstances, it may seem a tall order to transform the culture around you into a possibility ecosystem. But to get started, you don’t have to rely on anyone else. You can take simple steps to create a possibility ecosystem wherever you go, starting with the one-on-one interactions you have today.

4 Steps to Start Building a Possibility Ecosystem

Here are four easy strategies from The Non-Obvious Guide to Being More Creative to help you build possibility strategies into your interactions. 

  1. Get Curious

Possibility ecosystems start with curiosity. When you operate with a genuinely curious mindset, you not only discover new opportunities but you inspire others to do the same. 

To build your curiosity, start by thinking about all the ways your curiosity has been sparked in the last few months. What inputs cause you to want to learn more and explore? Are they questions? Mysteries? Conundrums? Photographs? Visuals? Complex problems? Make a list of at least 10 general or specific catalysts that pique your curiosity. Be sure that you have access to at least one of these on a daily basis. 

2. Respond with a Three-Letter Word

As often as possible, replace the two-letter word no with the three-letter inquiry, Why? When someone comes to you with an idea or suggestion, Why? can uncover information that leads you to the right problem to solve.

Consider this: 

Teammate: I need one more day to complete the project? 

You: Why? 

Teammate: The draft was just sent back to me and I’d like to take it home tonight to go line-by-line to make sure it’s perfect. 

From here, you can decide whether the delay is worth it, but you now know that your teammate was not trying to procrastinate but instead was willing to do extra work. Had you simply said no outright, it might have come across as a shut-down to someone who was ready to go the extra mile. Also, this interaction may have uncovered potential pitfalls in the project to consider. 

3. Walk Around the Rim of the Party

People who operate on the outskirts of the crowd have unique perspectives that can help us gain new insights. When you’re at a formal party, those people can be valets, bartenders, caterers, security guards, or the guy by himself in the corner. Take time to talk to people who operate on the edge. Ask them questions about what they notice, what they think. If you are on the edge yourself, feel confident about sharing your perspective. 

4. Check Your Climate

Certain dimensions of your working atmosphere determine whether people feel confident that they are operating in a psychologically safe climate where their creativity is welcome. These dimensions, such as trust, risk-taking, and playfulness, are nurtured through the daily interactions we have with others. In Being More Creative, I included the trashy backstory and research behind these climate dimensions. 

You can access my free Climate Check Tool here. Use it for a back-of-the-napkin assessment of the environment you think you create for those around you. Ask your teammates to do it themselves to give you honest feedback. Then, find one or two dimensions that you have control over improving, and work on them. 

There are many more strategies to create a sustainable possibility ecosystem in interactions, meetings, and throughout entire companies. Start with these, and when you’re ready, check out The Non-Obvious Guide to Being More Creative for more. 


Kathryn Haydon helps you maximize your creative strengths so you can do your best work. Through keynotes, workshops, and consulting, she trains individuals, leaders, and teams to find the unique spark that leads to deep engagement and productivity.

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