Leaders, consultants and managers must be competent in at least thirteen domains to even begin effectively managing creativity and innovation. Part 2 of Managing Creativity and Innovation covers the last six of these domains.
h) Group Structure. There is much confusion as which group structure (or combination of structures) maximises creative output. Workshop leaders randomly seem to make people work alone, in pairs, or in small or large groups. Each combination has strong arguments for and against:
1) The individual working alone can be very creative; after all, many people who are acknowledged to have made great contributions to society have worked alone. 2) Pairs reduce the path dependency and enhance the intellectual cross-pollination that limits the individual. 3) Many successful enterprises grow rapidly in the early stages, when there are only a small team of people working together. 4) Large groups benefit from massive intellectual cross-pollination but introduce politicking, core and peripheral groups, a dilution of ideas and more negatives.
i) The degree of knowledge input has a significant effect on output. There are three types of knowledge input:
1)Tacit knowledge. That experience which results from a natural life-long interest and curiosity in many subjects and experiences. 2) Depth versus Breadth. Can someone with limited knowledge of a field make a significant contribution to it? Does excess knowledge cause blinkered vision? 3) Networks and Collaboration. Importing competencies from networks and collaboration overcomes path dependency and parochialism and allows greater frame breaking.
j) Radical versus Incremental productivity. Radical / transformational / disruptive creativity is very much glamorised. But is this what is required most often? Is radical really radical or the result of incremental improvement? How is radical defined? If we want a radical idea as opposed to an incremental change, what are the implications? Incremental and radical creativity require vastly different structures, processes, skills and resources.
k) Structure and goals. Many creative people object to structure and goals - they argue they interfere with thought processes and originality; there is a very fine line between structure and conformity. But structure and goals help set the boundaries of a problem and produce more output that when an individual is simply allowed to "do their best." How many people have a half finished novel or screenplay in their office?
l) Process. It seems somehow incongruous that creativity can be a process. Ask many practitioners what process they engage in and they may well deny there is one. But if you examine the activities of many creative people, common patterns of behaviour emerge. This common process makes insight / eureka / the aha! experience more likely. The process includes identifying and intensely investigating the problem, forcing production of ideas using creative versus critical thinking and other techniques; seeking stimuli and allowing the unconscious mind to take over by engaging in rest and unrelated activities.
m) Valuation. How do we value an idea, so as to decide how to invest resources? Even a painter who creates for pure pleasure has to decide which one of his ideas is best; there is always a value system and (some argue) always some sort of promotional instinct. There are decisions as to whether you are looking for applied creativity and who the consumer is; how do they benefit? There is no sure fire way to evaluate perfectly because there is no sure fire route to commercial success. But we can benchmark against those types of ideas that have succeeded in the past; firms must make a decision as to their strategic, competence and technical fit; there are comparisons against rivals and practical impediments; how do we make the go or kill decision and what are the trade-offs?
Kal Bishop is a management consultant based in London, UK. He has consulted in the visual media and software industries and for clients such as Toshiba and Transport for London. He has led improv workshops, exhibited artwork in San Francisco, Los Angeles and London and written a number of screenplays. He is a passionate traveller. Kal regularly conducts creativity and innovation workshops and presentations in London and can be reached via kalB@managing-creativity.com.