Sunday, December 14, 2008

Influencing Business - Creativity Defined

As business environments become ever more turbulent, the importance of organisational innovation has been frequently recognised. Consisting of a new idea, innovation has been further defined as “the development and implementation of new ideas by people who over time engage in transactions with others in an institutional context” (see Van de Ven, 1986, p. 604). Innovation is an organisational imperative for ongoing strategic success; as the rate of change hastens, the organisations that survive and flourish are those that prepare for the future, not those that allow their product offerings and systems to become idle. An era in which new product lifespans have never been shorter, such stagnation will invariably prove a significant organisational handicap towards change. Stagnation can be avoided by ensuring that innovation is encouraged and facilitated at the organisational level.

As interest in innovation continues to grow, many academics are recognising the value of creativity within the literature. Although these two terms have on occasion been used synonymously, many authors have identified clear distinctions between Innovation and Creativity. Indeed, to suggest that creativity and innovation are one and the same is a foolish submission, for whilst inextricable associations between the two exist, so too do several integral idiosyncrasies. Whilst innovation is generally agreed to comprise the implementation of new ideas, and is typically a response to unfamiliar, unexpected, or non-routine problems, Amabile defines creativity thus:

“We tend to associate creativity with the arts and to think of it as the expression of highly original ideas... In business, originality isn’t enough. To be creative, an idea must also be appropriate – useful and actionable. It must somehow influence the way business gets done – by improving a product, for instance, or by opening up a new way to approach a process”
(1998, p. 78)

Although an exact definition of creativity is hard to find, many authors agree that creativity must be novel, useful, and should offer value. Although some authors have examined creativity as a process through which people engage in organisational sensemaking, over the coming week I shall primarily observe creativity as producing novel, useful and valuable outcomes. As innovation involves the development and implementation of new ideas, creativity is a central component of organisational innovation. Whilst not synonymous, both creativity and innovation rely upon one another to offer value to the organisation.

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  1. It's interesting to think that creativity and innovation can be two separate entities. I would be more of the view that the two are more closely linked than often given credit for.

    The great creators usually lead the way in innovation; and without that innovation; creativity is often stifled.

    I guess the same principle could be lent to thought leaders and thought creators - leaders offer the encouragement to move forward, yet who instills these thoughts into the leaders? Is it something they've seen or heard elsewhere and stored subconsciously? If so, does that make the initial thought creator more of a leader?

    I think there's a lot of synergy that isn't being recognised and it'll be interesting to see how both sides of any given argument come together.

  2. Danny,
    As usual, you are spot on. My research found that, whilst separate, Innovation can not exist in the absence of Creativity. In a slight change to the blog list which I posted earlier this week, I shall be looking into the above later this afternoon.

    To give you a quick overview, organisational innovation requires individual creativity to function. Failure to create and foster a culture which if conducive to organisational innovation will essentially erode any opportunity for the organisation to innovate, essentially causing it to stagnate.