Leaders, consultants and managers must be competent in at least thirteen domains to even begin effectively managing creativity and innovation. Part 1 of Managing Creativity and Innovation covers the first seven of these domains.
a) The difference between creativity and innovation. Often used interchangeably, the two must be thought of as separate and distinct. One definition for creativity is that it is problem identification and idea generation, whilst innovation is best described as idea selection, development and commercialisation. These definitions alone imply at least six competencies (including one holistic). At a minimum, the differences mean that, at each stage, varying skills, processes and structures are required.
b) The size and richness of idea pools. Initially creative thinking is used to generate an idea pool and then critical thinking reduces those ideas to feasible ones. To maximise the quantity and quality of the idea pool, a conscious application of processes and techniques must be applied. Some of these include:
1) Using a variety of stimuli and frameworks to open up pathways.
2) Not stopping when a good idea seems to present itself.
3) Consciously stimulating change in direction.
4) Distinguishing between the numbers of ideas produced, their novelty, diversity and frequency of production.
c) Creative types. There is common belief that some people just are more creative and certain theorists argue for creativity characteristics such as tolerance of ambiguity and intolerance for conformity. However, traits are notoriously difficult to detect and not stable nor transferable across situations. Also, motivation is thought to be more important than traits – this is similar to possessing high intelligence – one must be motivated to improve and apply it.
d) Learning versus Talent. Can creativity be learned and developed or is it a natural talent or gift? The best way to answer this question is to investigate whether creativity improves with practice. The experience curve, automisation, learning theories and the experiences of practitioners suggest that people do get better at generating more, better, diverse and novel ideas – but there are caveats, such as an increase in path dependency and peaks and troughs in motivation.
e) Motivation. Someone with natural ability or placed in the right environment may not take advantage of it unless motivated. Intrinsically motivated individuals tend to expend more effort and create more output and synergistic extrinsic motivation better enables a person to complete an endeavour. On the other hand, non-synergistic extrinsic motivation leads to a person feeling controlled and manipulated and is incompatible with intrinsic motivation. Specific motivators such as material reward, progress to the ideal self, self-determination, self-evaluation, feedback, enjoyment, competency expansion, recognition and feasibility can all be quantitatively measured and monitored.
f) Organisational Culture. We can all be more creative, so what is stopping us? Often people complain of some degree of evaluation apprehension – this manifests itself in many ways but two of the most common are a fear of seeming unintelligent or unoriginal. Some cultures are more risk averse than others, others do not manage competition well and yet others engender friction by misallocating resources.
g) Organisational structure. Many theories argue that certain structures, such as hierarchical and mechanistic, hinder creativity and innovation. Whilst these theories generally tend towards validity, there are many reasons why a business has a particular organisational structure – history, logistics, market segmentation, product line, strategy and so forth – therefore it is unreasonable to ask a firm to change it. Ultimately, what managers need, is a knowledge of the properties of a fostering structure so that they may incorporate those elements into their existing one.
This field yields much interesting data. For example, many respondents argued that all structures, even those so-called flat structures, are in reality hierarchical.
Some very simple changes can be implemented. These include:
1) Direct communication links to decision makers.
2) Cross-divisional information flow.
3) Tangible progress of ideas.
Part 2 of Managing Creativity & Innovation will discuss Group Structure, Knowledge, Networks and Collaboration, Radical and Incremental Creativity and Innovation, Structure and Goals, Process and Valuation.