Dec 13, 2017 in Management

Mobilizing Creativity and Innovation

Abstract

In any work environment, talent is considered to be the backbone of the creative part of the society. Talent should be encouraged and developed through a mobilizing culture as a part of the traditions of the organization. Human resources can be increased by building necessary institutions and instilling good values, which initiates further achievements and enhances the overall quality. The skill eventually translates into efficiency which can be seen through the ideas given. Innovation is a form of organizational capability which is based on strategy and vision. It can also be built from organizational ability as well as the structures and organizational systems.

Keywords: creativity, innovation, organizational dynamic capabilities.

Introduction

Innovation can be described as the technique in which firms end up with new products, systems and processes required to adapt to the technologies, changing markets, and modes of competition (Dougherty & Hardy, 1996). One of the top priorities of CEOs in organizations today is the development of innovations and new ideas (Porter & Stern, 1999). Over the past few years, innovation has become increasingly significant in competitiveness due to technological advancements and the intense global competition. If a company seriously focuses on innovation, its performance advances.

The rising levels of commitment to innovations are required to stay at the same place and improve the competitive position. Management of the unpredictable and complex process of transformation, however, has been fraught with difficulties (Kanter, 1989). My greatest asset as a manager is being innovative. I developed most of the end products in our company together with my colleagues. 

As a manager, I realize that it is imperative to be innovative. Innovation should be encouraged from the management level down to the employees. As an individual, my contribution significantly affects the rest of the employees. Over the past years, organizations faced operational challenges which affected their functional integrity. These organizations were reluctant to accept the changes that were significantly influencing the market. Instead, they spent a lot of time and money rationalizing about core businesses, outsourcing and also reengineering production. Multiple incentives are required to convert innovation into change as well as sustaining it. This requires a lot of investment in both practical and the research part. The transition from innovation to functional products requires a collaboration of skills and multiple service providers of different firms.

Historically, innovation and creativity have never been considered as essential items to the success of organizations. There has been a growing awareness of the fact that innovation and creativity are essential items in the long-term shaping of success of businesses, governments and organizations. It is found that the key to a great influence in innovation and creativity is being introduced at the individual level of an organization. It is vital for creativity and innovation to be enhanced at the work place. As a matter of fact, we work as a separate division of our company. Each individual is gifted in different ways, and we each contribute with our strengths to our projects, and consequently to the significant improvement of our products.

Since innovation and creativity are essential to any organization’s growth and performance, they need to be encouraged. Ideal performance is not the only concern for creativity though it profoundly influences it. It can otherwise be defined as the production of sophisticated, innovative and high quality solutions to any organization’s problems. There are three things that organizations need to consider in order to be able to capitalize on innovation and creativity.

a)       Multiple phenomena do occur at different stages/levels of an organization, namely, individual, group and organizational ones.

b)                 At any level of analysis, innovation and creativity are extremely complex ideas.

c)                  Not all levels are fully integrated or even consistent with each other or other levels.

The greatest challenge for any organization is to have the ability to deal with the complexities and inconsistencies brought about by these levels as they encourage innovation and creativity in an organization.  

Methods in Creativity Research

Creative efforts lead to innovative products as well as creativity in an organization, and they may be considered as such bearing exceptional interest for organizations. There are five principal methods which are applied in creativity research:

a)                 Qualitative

b)                 Historiometric

c)                  Survey

d)                 Psychometric

e)                 Experimental.

Creativity can be viewed as a product since it helps in the creation of innovative solutions to problems which the company faces. This is because the problems provide room for creativity which supports the company’s capabilities in speed, efficiency, quality and flexibility. It helps organizations improve the future of the industries they represent. Today, organizations have an additional responsibility to repeatedly react with a quick but also a stable success rate to be competitive in the market. Innovation is what gives companies an advantage in the current market. They can also use these processes as a means of improving their products and increasing their customer base. Having the ability to lead the market and bringing out new products at a fast rate undoubtedly takes a company to the top of the “food chain” and ahead of its competitors. This gives an organization an opportunity for dynamic sustainable development.

Methods of developing and maximizing creativity in an organization:

a)        Organizational agility: to effectively develop this, the workforce should be properly qualified and be sufficient in terms of volume, which will help an organization respond strategically and swiftly to market opportunities. It involves an integrated approach which covers several areas necessary in the organizational requirements. There are different approaches which help manage multiple dimensions like human capital value chain, the translation of the business strategy into certain leadership, and culture and organizational requirements. Certain approaches can be used to deal with the building of the organizational structures, leadership effectiveness and aligning of the cultures to strategic needs. Eventually, the organization will end up with a well-defined operational model which states the processes, structure, governance and the overall business strategy which helps the work force perform optimally at the same time supporting the strategic goals of the organization.

b)       Strategizing the human capital: Developing leadership capabilities as well as cultural capabilities of the staff enables an organization to achieve the highest development and make it an edge in the emerging markets. Even when company executives plan on how to improve their performance and expertise in their organizations, they also consider the fact that people affect the implementation strategy in a significant way. It is implemented through their skills, knowledge and abilities which are essential for the work forces. An organization should make use of any analytical tools that may be used to identify the human capital opportunities. By placing the correct numbers of skilled employees in place, they are able to meet any future organizational needs. The effectiveness of workforces which are responsible for sustaining a performance advantage in an organization is revealed by improving engagements, building on competencies and increasing the productivity for the future growth of the organization. These strategies help inform an organization of its vital decisions on how to compete with others. At the same time it supports short-term decisions which propel the long-term goals. It enables a business entity to compete in the modern market and still be agile enough to change itself to the ongoing market growth and competitiveness. 

c)      Leadership development: One of the main and essential units in any organization is leadership. With good leadership, an organization should end up being a single logical unit. In order to achieve this, an organization should be prepared to administer educational programs to its leadership, which will turn its business strategy into a great system. It is necessary for a firm to align its leadership capabilities to support the organization’s strategy which includes such processes as succession planning, performance management and also governance which leads to the shaping of behaviors of leaders and their capabilities.

d)       Work force re-skilling: In order to implement it, a company should encourage cost reductions, further efficiency improvements and acquisitions. It enables an organization to get better skilled, talented, motivated and productive work force which can support its mission due to critical capabilities. The work force can deal with such customer-related issues as customer service, sales and marketing. Such work force is industry-specific in such areas as information technology and human resource and finance. 

e)       Talent sourcing: At first an organization needs to define the workforce requirements which are necessary to execute its business strategy. It includes the development of competency frameworks, identification of mission critical work forces as well as having a detailed work force planning. By getting the necessary talent that is needed to achieve its objectives, a company should outperform its competition. It should be done through “smart sourcing,” which is a strategy leading to hiring of skilled and talented staff.

f)          Outsourcing: There are times when it is hard for an organization to find a competent department for a certain project. In this case, it is necessary to find the expert laborers from an outside organization. The outside effect may lead to an improvement in the department and may also be used as a learning curve.

g)       Change: some people always complain that change is not good, but it is not always true. In most cases, a company stays at the same place because there are no fresh ideas to promote the organization in a different way. The change that is brought to the company serves as a successful and exciting re-organization means.

When compared to my workplace environment, my original ideas and practices, in addition to the collaborative mindset, enable me to address each unit’s specific needs and goals. I partner with some of the leaders in each strategic component to create a medium through which all the employees from all levels of the organization can exchange ideas and insights with the management. It has proven to be a particularly vital key in the organization. In the long run, we have found out that it helps an organization in increasing its efficiency and continually aligning its investments with its strategies to adapt to change.  

Types of innovation:

a)        New technologies creation: By creating new technologies, a company is able to respond faster and also have an edge over its competitors.

b)       Change in business dynamics: At times companies focus on only at a segment of their customers, therefore, limit its perspectives. By changing and targeting a wider range of clients, an organization widens its horizon as well as its customer range.

c)        Synthesize technologies: By adapting to the needs of the market, an organization is able to be dynamic and also retain its clients. It is achieved by creating new technologies to attend to new capabilities which may make an organization a pace-setter for other similar companies. Such an enterprise relies on the knowledge base of the specialized institutions and sets its standards extremely high in the market area.

How to Do Innovation Right

There are some methods that if applied well may lead to effective innovation. First, developing a commitment to serve those who are not generally served is important. The second point is being articulate in one’s plan and embracing a clearly defined vision. The third point is accepting the challenges that may envelop the strategy and creatively operate within them. Fourth, it is necessary to foster an entrepreneurial spirit within the organization by setting some ambitious goals. If an organization sets aspirations that are beyond its scope, it leads to its employees becoming creative and entrepreneurial. The difference between the resources and its goals is the factor that inspires the innovation and the essence of entrepreneurship. As Hamel writes, “…setting ambitious goals is what is defined as strategic intent” (Hamel, 1989). The fifth method which is hugely beneficial is to focus on the employees and consumers and not just the shareholders, wealth and profits. Most of the time, organizations only focus on the consumer and the investors forgetting employees who work hard to make it possible.

The Innovative Imperative

In the modern market, innovation helps a firm play a dominant role in leading the rest of the companies and also in shaping the future of the industry it is into. Great innovators are able to continually bring out new quality products at a faster rate. They also have the ability to maintain several juggling acts. These organizations often use system innovations as well as new processes to improve their products as well as add value to their consumers. Though a lot of entrepreneurs do not notice it, it is a combination of dynamic and strategic positions which makes the company into a moving target compared to its competitors (Kiernan, 1996).

It is noted that managers need to coordinate with the mainstream operation on a daily basis while at the same time cultivating creativity and innovation within their organizations. Oddly, trying to manage the main competencies efficiently is seen as a stumbling block to the proper development of any successful innovation. Some activities like marketing and manufacturing are the keys to success together with the organizational processes such as efficiency, stability and profitability. The latter create the basis built around marginal elements and act as cash generators. The company develops processes which shape the mainstream business units to formalize structures and perform routines (Starbuck, 1983).

The short-term focus is affected by operational challenges as well as any set objectives. Innovation is considered a force of instability as it requires a long-term vision and commitment to ensure that results are yielded. The dynamic environment leads to the manufacturing of new products, systems and processes which guide the future success. Different people have various views on the characteristics of the new stream and mainstream processes. “Organizations are most effective where and when the new stream and the mainstream have different resources and they are recognized while the management is autonomous” (Kanter, 1989). When organizations handle their businesses this way, they are able to handle the tensions of change and stability.

Kanter further explained that the mainstream projects ended up funding the new stream development (Kanter, 1989). The new processes and products are then assimilated into the mainstream projects. In order to be able to do the same things better, continuous development as well as communications between the two streams should be constant. It is, however, difficult to handle the two streams independently in a dynamic operating environment. If strong communication flows, information flows and connections of effort are not established, successful commercialization will not be possible.     

Is an Organization Capable of Innovation?

Our business model is found to have limited applications in the modern business environment which is “uncertain and fast- moving”. This approach creates an “efficient” but not an ideally innovative business unit. When it comes to management, a lot of focus is given to the general management like customer responsiveness, quality of service and efficiency without consideration to the innovation. Although this type of model is attractive especially while dealing with the stability and change tensions caused, it does not integrate all the organizational capabilities in the innovative process. Effective innovation is hard to come by and achieve especially in an organization where the two types of streams are handled separately. Innovation in a high performance organization is presented by an effort which recognizes the interdependency in the mainstream and new stream and is able to manage them accordingly.

Many innovators often expect, reward and encourage innovation from all parts of the organization not limiting themselves to the development and research only. They ensure that they link organizational knowledge of processes, products, technologies and mainstream capabilities with the organizational learning. Such organizations do not view innovation as a consumer of the scarce resources to create unknown outcomes but rather as a tool to create competitive advantage and give knowledge. They accept that most of the business units that are producing profits at the moment do not offer the best opportunities for business in the future. Innovation and the mainstream factors are bound to work in unison and harmony if managed interactively. As Platt quotes Hewlett, “the creative process works well if it is not too structured. However, in the long run it will need to be harnessed, tamed and hitched to suit the wagon of mankind’s needs” (Platt. 1997). A business is driven by the need to manufacture products on budget and on time to make it successful.

The New Stream Innovation

The new stream may be defined as the resources that are used and devoted by an organization to create value and identify new customers. Before this approach emerged, companies were viewed as autonomous entities which searched for competitive advantage from outsides influences rather than their internal capabilities and resources (Gulati, Nohria & Zaheer, 2000). Many firms end up looking at the organization and its resources as the key factors that drive innovation (Barney, 1991). It has, however, been discovered that development from research and investment in the mainstream programs and organizational systems is what contributes to the new stream innovation.

Fierce competition and the great change in technology make firms unable to maintain and manage capabilities in the potentially relevant market and technical areas. The increased research of the way organizations develop and manage exchange relationships with both individuals and units beyond the traditional and well-know organizational boundaries has led to some discoveries. Some of the discoveries maintain, for instance, that alliances of customers, competitors, networks and other non-market participants are parts of the innovations (von Hippel, 1998). There are also some effective means of reducing risk, cost and attaining scales of economics which inhibit the development of new products. Access to key resources like capital, information, services and goods which is derived from the company’s environment exists due to widened networks which make a company have the potential to enhance or maintain its competitive advantage (Gulati et al., 2000). A firm’s ability to gain knowledge through participation in any external network is essential to successful innovation (Levinthal, 1990).       

Is the New Stream Innovation Capable?  

Among the definitions and models presented in this paper, the innovation capability powers the new stream model. Here, the new stream acts like the one locating, funnel seeking and developing potential innovations, which is powered by the innovation capabilities and can eventually be transferred into the main stream. This is vital to the rediscovery of an organization and its products. The creativity of the new stream and the efficiency of the mainstream are brought together by the innovative capability. Organizations are able to achieve it by leveraging their knowledge base (Cohen & Levinthal, 1990). Innovation capability can, therefore, be defined as the ability of an organization to continuously transform its ideas and knowledge into new systems, products and processes for its stakeholders’ and its own benefit. Innovation capability is not only about the organization’s ability to run a business successfully while being able to manage the mainstream or directing it to a new stream but also about being able to synthesize the two paradigms.

The Mainstream

The mainstream of a business always remains essential as it is the organization’s interface with the market and consumers. It is not only important for a company to be innovative. It should also implement management and control practices in place which allow the organization to manage the tensions that is brought about by innovation versus growth control. A good example is presented by the company Apple Computer in the 80s. This innovative company produced the Macintosh which was greatly acclaimed but lacked the expertise needed to control its growth. At this time, they hired an executive who was given the responsibility of instilling some strong management practices and also retaining the innovative nature of Apple. The transformation, however, brought about some significant problems, especially for the new manufacturing processes and product development which nearly tore the company apart (Sculley, 1987). It led to the company’s innovative founder to almost move from the company at that time.

For these reasons, I recommend the balance of the new stream and the mainstream resources for great and optimal performance outcomes. The vital requirements for success are the combination of these two streams throughout the development cycle of the new products and services which is known as “company- wide innovation capability”. This enables organizations to develop new services and products in an efficient, responsive and quality-focused manner. Innovation is not only about technical development and research; neither can it be achieved from one arm of an organization only. It, however, resonates in all areas of an organization and its existence, from the system that measures its behaviors to its core values which are manifested daily.

Effects of Disconnected New Stream and Mainstream

According to Kanter (1989), there are two types of companies which may be compared in this section: “new stream- mainstream based” companies and the “innovation- capability based” ones (p. 89). Dysfunctional outcomes may occur in the organizations in which the mainstream and the new stream methods are run separately and are disconnected. There are many examples of organizations affected by it. Some of them create new divisions that may not be affected by the parent company’s bureaucracy in a bid to have some radical innovations. These new divisions were often treated as start-ups and were lacking in resources and the necessary support that they required to be successful in the market. A good case study would be a software development company where the managers often ignore the mainstream which already exists and end up developing a new product using new employees in a new market. This leads to the investors “re-inventing the wheel” (Brown & Eisenhardt, 1998).

Communication between the newly developed unit and the already existing one is almost nonexistent as the mainstream managers are often busy dealing with the mainstream. This new development process may eventually lead to a company’s bankruptcy. A good case study is the IBM personal computer (PC). The IBM PC was developed and created off-site, in a location separate from the company’s headquarters. In the process, the development team ended up with the creation of a new product development of which broke all rules. Separate locations meant that two development teams could not test the competencies of semiconductors and the operating system. This led to the company eventually turning to other partners who ended up profiting from their efforts. During this process IBM ceded most of the profits that it could potentially have received (Rosenbloom & Spenser, 1996).

Another example of companies that had dysfunctional consequences rising from the mainstream to the new stream would be the Xerox Palo technology park that made historic advances in its domain. They had a brilliant innovative team of scientist who developed the mouse, the graphic user interface (GUI), the intranet and many other hardware and software items. However, they were unable to transfer the technologies from the new stream to the mainstream due to their inability to take advantage of these exploits (Miller & Morris, 1999).

Structures and Systems

For an innovation to be considered successful, an optimal business structure is required (Burgelman & Maidique, 1988). This business structure and its processes should be conducive for a favorable environment; otherwise other components of the system would be unsuccessful. Below are other aspects of structures and systems:

a)                  Organizational structure

Layers tend to be added in a growing business which in turn makes it more institutionalized and mechanistic with bureaucracy (Kanter, 1983). Companies with high performance enable and motivate innovative behavior by helping break down barriers which separate product groups, functions and businesses by creating preamble business boundaries (Ashkenas, 1998; Maria & Thomas, 1998). The potential for innovative ideas to come up is encouraged by an organic and permeable structure.

b)                 Reward systems

A reward is always the greatest and the most powerful motivator of any behavior leading to successful innovative activity (Saleh & Wang, 1993). There is a significant difference in the aspects of use of a reward system by innovative companies compared to the low innovative ones. The innovative firms developed a reward system which fostered a breeding ground for creative behavior. It included a system which suggested schemes, financial bonuses and public recognition, and the “dual ladder” system. Behavior is greatly influenced by the reward systems and managers should be aware of this fact. This is because if a system is not properly focused, it could lead to the staff acting in potentially unintended ways. A good example quoted by Angle (1989) is that the individual rewards lead to an increase in radical innovations as well as an increase in idea generation, while the group/unit rewards increases incremental innovations and innovation implementation. It was further discovered that without clear support, managers are likely going to adopt a less risky action and turn their focus to developing of incremental variations of the existing products, as observed by Mezia and Glynn (1993). This type of approach will lead to the advancement of the products and services which are already in the mainstream rather than the development of a radical innovation leading to the creation of a new market.

c)                  Big goals for innovation

If companies end up setting up big goals for their staff, it will lead to an increase in innovativeness among the employees as they help the organizations attain them. It forces a bias for creativity among the employees especially if there are incentives involved which are tied to the achievements of any of the targets.

Technology Management

Technology is very essential in organizations today and should be considered by management. There has been a shift toward the leveraging of external networks and the knowledge bases for corporations. It means that people are now more concerned with technology management, especially in the overall management of an organization, rather than with the development and research per se (Fusfeld, 1995). Highly innovative organizations have been found to be able to connect their technological strategies with innovative business strategy. It is one of the best alignments as it creates a powerful tactic for a competitive advantage over its rivals. Roberts (1995) found that there is a connection between the business strategy and the technological strategy.

Through effective forecasting, companies are able to identify future developments in the market, products, and technologies. It helps them come up with better information which the company may use to grasp new opportunities as well as avoid threats. It helps in the overall operational decision making and can be used to improve the performance of an organization (Burgelman & Miadique, 1988). There are methodologies which have been used to help in the prediction of technology forecasting.

Climate and culture

In any organization it is necessary to develop the conducive climate and culture in order to nurture innovation and ensure that it is successful. There are components that add up to the perfect climate and culture:

a)                  Communication

In order to achieve innovation and get the learning outcomes, it is necessary for the company to have clear lines of communication. Communication is the tool which facilitates understanding by combining different and varying experiences, building on ideas, opening dialogue and exploring relevant issues to innovate. Companies which foster innovation encourage cross-hierarchical, cross-functional, cross-cultural, cross-technological and cross-functional exchange of knowledge and information.

b)                 Expect creative time

After being given goals to achieve, the staff (managers and employees) focus mostly on the short-term goals and hardly think beyond what they have been told. If an organization encourages its employees to think outside the box, it should provide them with funding, facilities, time and even environment, which fosters creativity.

c)                  Empowerment

Investing and respecting people is one of the ways through which a company can develop an innovative culture. The company should hire the most qualified individuals and empower them. This can be done if the management recognizes the different visions that these individuals have and looks for ways to incorporate them in their innovation direction.

d)                 Ambiguity tolerance

Saleh and Wang (1993) have found out that most of the innovative firms are willing to undertake risks at a higher level than the others. They, however, do not take unnecessary risks which contradict the practices across the firm. It is achieved by setting up milestones and management groups which have a tight control over the projects taken. In case of mistakes and failure, the innovative companies do not hide them from the corporate front. They have come up with a system through which they view their failed projects and use them as learning tools for the future (Grady et al., 1993).

Conclusion

In this paper, the grounds for implementations and development of creativity and innovation have been discussed. Here the use of capability to innovate is encouraged, for it leads to changed behaviors in the organization and systematic innovation activities within any given organization. It was determined that the innovation capability is generally divided into some aspects like vision and strategy, climate and culture, organizational structures and systems, idea and creativity management, and technology management. I propose that organizations which develop and invest into these aspects of innovation capability have higher chance or achieving successful results, especially in achieving sustainable innovation outcomes.

I have highlighted the need for organizations to adopt a more holistic company-wide approach when it comes to incorporating the new stream and mainstream as well as the mode of management of innovation. The concepts of capabilities identified in this paper may be tested, validated and refined using other worthy research methods or surveys. Through scientific methods applied in the modes of investigation of the concept, progress may be made, especially in analyzing the difficulties and complexities of the innovation processes as well as the business performance. It can be concluded that innovation capability has a potential to be further developed to make a contribution to further knowledge on management of innovation.       

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