Harnessing Creativity and Innovation in Organization for Excellence

Harnessing Creativity and Innovation in Organization for Excellence

 In the present day of complex and volatile global environment, an organization having rapid adaptability only succeed. The best practices of success of yesterday are no more valid and following of those practices can push the organization towards disaster. There are several examples of the organizations which became so charmed  with, or paralyzed by, the status quo that they failed to notice the winds of change and faded into oblivion.

A successful organization of today is aware that the work processes are changing at a much faster pace these days and it has to face the challenges of rapidly changing technology, globalization, uncertainty, unpredictability, and turbulence. Such organization understand the importance of harnessing creativity and innovation and knows that this activity is critical for the success of the organization in maintaining its competitive advantage as well as in its survival. Management of such organization unleash the talents of its employees and also harness all these diverse talents to yield a useful and cohesive result.

Differentiating creativity and innovation

Often creativity and innovation are considered synonym of each other. But these two words convey different aspects. While creativity is always been at the heart of human endeavor, innovation creates value and is recognized as central to organizational performance. Innovation is considered, quite simply, an absolute necessity for the survival of the organization.

Creativity is a process of developing and expressing new ideas that are likely to be useful. The process of creativity ends in an innovation. Innovation is the embodiment, combination, and or synthesis of these ideas in relevant, valued, and new products, services, processes or procedures.

Creativity is about the generation and sharing of ideas, while innovation is the process by which these creative ideas get implemented. The real challenge for an organization is not of finding a way of getting its employees to come up with ideas, but finding the best and practical way of implementation of those ideas.

Creativity is the mental and social process of generating ideas, concepts, and associations fuelled by conscious or unconscious insight. Innovation is the successful exploitation of these ideas, concepts, and associations. It is a profitable outcome of the creative process, which involves in generating new products, services, procedures, and processes which are required, desirable and viable. People who create and people who innovate can have different attributes and perspectives.

One can define innovation as creating something new and useful. This also reflects a paradox. It is easy to think of many new ideas, but it is much more difficult to convert these ideas into something new that actually solves a problem.

Creativity is the starting point for the innovation.  When the creativity and innovation lacks in an organization, then the organization begins to stagnate and unable to perform or meet change. Further creative thinking cannot be turned on and off at the flick of a switch. Also innovation does not occur in a vacuum. It requires effective strategies and frameworks.

Creativity flourishes in the organization if it supports open ideas. The organization must create environment that inspires personnel and maintain innovative workplaces. The organization fails if it stifles creativity with rules and regulations and does not provide any slack for change.

If an organization lacks creativity in its approach, then it may be either the employees are simply not inventive, or  it may be because there are obstructions in the organization that block their ideas from being expressed. There is a role for the management in the creative process: but it is not to manage it; it is to manage for it.

For promoting creativity in the organization social interaction is an important aspect. Since the organization operates in an external environment, an interactionist model of creativity and innovation needs to encompass the entire organization, organizational knowledge, and inter- and intra organizational relationships, the creative makeup of the individuals (antecedent conditions, cognitive style, ability, intrinsic motivation, knowledge, personality) and teams (group composition, characteristics, and processes).

The three components of creativity  are expertise, creative thinking skill, and motivation. The expertise can be described in a word as knowledge which can be technical, procedural or intellectual. Creative thinking skills determine how flexibly and imaginatively people approach problems. Intrinsic motivation which is the inner passion to solve the problem at hand leading to solutions is far more creative than do external motivation which consists of rewards, such as money. The motivation is the component which can be most immediately influenced by the work environment. The three components are shown in Fig 1.

Creativity and innovation

Fig 1 The three components of creativity

 Innovation can be classified as product innovations, service innovations, and organizational (procedural or process) innovations. Innovations can be market led, market push or technology led innovations. Further the impact of the innovation can be incremental, radical or systematic.

Peter Drucker has identified the following seven sources of innovation.

  • Unexpected occurrences
  • Inconsistencies of various kinds
  • Process needs
  • Changes taking place in the industry or market
  • Demographic changes
  • Changes in perceptions
  • New knowledge.

These seven sources usually overlap, and the potential for innovation lies in more than one area at a time. The purposeful, systematic innovation begins with the analysis of the sources of new opportunities. While seeking opportunities, the organization need to look for simple, focused solutions to real problems and it requires diligence, persistence, ingenuity, and knowledge.

Since the things are changing very fast as well as in a non-logical and irrational way in the present day global environment , the importance of creativity in products, services, procedures, and processes has increased a lot. However in many  organizations, management unwittingly carry out managerial practices which destroy the creativity amongst the employees. In these organizations, management does not stifle creativity with purpose. Yet, it weakens and destroys the creativity in the organization in the pursuit of productivity, efficiency, and control.

It is necessary for the management to understand that creative thinking skill is one part of creativity but that expertise and motivation are also essential. Intrinsic motivation of the employees is a very effective way of boosting up of creativity amongst them. For the effective management of the creativity and innovation in the organization the following tools can be used by the management.

  • The personnel are to be given certain amount of challenge to stimulate their mind
  • Some degree of freedom is to be granted around procedures and processes to minimize hassle
  • Managers must tap ideas from all levels of the employees
  • The employees must be encouraged and given incentives and this should include rewards and recognition
  • The personnel must get organizational support for which managers must themselves be first motivated.

The organizational culture plays an important role in the harnessing of the creativity and innovation in the organization. Tab 1 shows closed and open innovation principles.

Tab 1 Closed and Open Innovation Principles (Source: Wikipedia)
Sl. No. Closed Innovation Principles Open Innovation Principles
1 The smart people in our field work for us. Not all the smart people work for us. We need to work with smart people inside and outside our company.
2 To profit from research and development, we must discover it, develop it, and ship it ourselves. External research and development can create significant value; internal research and development is needed to claim some portion of that value.
3 If we discover it ourselves, we will get it to market first. We do not have to originate the research to profit from it.
4 The company that gets an innovation to market first will
Building a better business model is better than getting to market first.
5 If we create the most and the best ideas in the industry, we
will win.
If we make the best use of internal and external ideas, we
will win.
6 We should control our innovation process, so that our competitors do not profit from our ideas. We should profit from others’ use of our innovation process, and we should buy others’ intellectual property whenever it advances our own business model.

For an organization aiming for harnessing creativity and innovation in it, there is no single universal formula for success. It is because people are involved. Though highly skilled and trained employees with access to knowledge base along with encouragement to think and act innovatively aids the process of creativity and innovation, yet it does not provide a total success in the direction of harnessing creativity and innovation in the organization. For this a systematic approach is needed. The organizational culture which promotes harnessing of creativity and innovation have the following characteristics. The list is only indicative and not exhaustive.

  • The organizational vision and mission should clearly indicate the commitment of the organization towards creativity and innovation.
  • Visible commitment of the top management is available along with responsibility towards taking the risks associated with the innovative actions.
  • There is encouragement for employees to think differently, take calculated risks, and challenge the status quo. all the processes of the organization are to be aligned in support of harnessing creativity and innovation in the organization.
  • Organization is to follow a process approach so as to understand that creativity and innovation is one part of a wider context. This approach must appreciate the interconnections between various processes, coordination across these interconnections, integration in place of compartmentalization and carrying out of systematic analyses.
  • Organization has provided adequate resources in the budget for the cost associated with the harnessing of creativity and innovation.
  • There is a culture of shared responsibility in the organization.
  • Employees have access for interactions both inside and outside the organization.
  • There is available in the organization a sound and healthy communication system.
  • The work place of the employees is such that it enhances the desire of creativity in the employees
  • The organization to have such system of training and development of employees which facilitates creativity and innovation in them.
  • Organization must have creativity and innovation enhancing practices like quality circles, suggestion schemes, value engineering etc.
  • Organization has a sound knowledge management system which makes available to the employees the knowledge they need for creative and innovative thinking.
  • Organization has got the right type of motivational schemes which facilitates the harnessing of creativity and innovation.
  • Organization has a well established measurement, monitoring, and evaluation system for measuring and monitoring the process and the outcome of the creativity and innovation in the organizational functioning.

In a world where best processes and practices are standardized across industries and regions, creativity and innovation are the building blocks of differentiation  between the organizations. It separates outperforming organization from the irrelevant organization. Managing the increasing complexity inherent in the environment of present day, requires organizational management which works to unlock, uncover and unleash the collective creative capabilities of the organization. The management must muster the will to challenge assumptions and encourage the disruption of the status quo. It must find a way to harness the dynamic tension between the opposing forces of integration and differentiation and let loose the drivers of creativity and innovation that, ultimately, can position the organization to surprise and delight customers, employees, and shareholders alike.