Many professionals challenge me on the need for a process to foster creativity and innovation. In their opinion creativity and innovation are the fruits of inspiration. Innovation management, or any process for that matter, would just add a smothering layer of bureaucracy.
Creativity as the fruit of inspiration
Creativity may be the fruit of inspiration, but creativity alone does not get you any results. For it to pay off, the ideas have to be transformed into actual applications, which requires a lot of arduous, diligent labor and resilience.
Nature or nurture
Some people are more creative than others, sure. Just as some are more artistic or athletic. Since our education systems do not teach or encourage creativity, it is typically only those with talent who exhibit creativity in their jobs. However, that does not mean that creative thinking cannot be taught. With discipline and hard work anyone can be creative, not only the talented. And many, like Albert Einstein and Michael Jordan among others, have shown that average talent and a lot hard work will get you much farther than talent alone. Practice makes perfect.
Disciplined and hard work
What has discipline to do with creativity? A lot! For example, when looking for a solution, do you force yourself to create 5 different solutions before picking one? Do you systematically look into how other disciplines have solved similar problems? These are just a few simple, low-cost steps that can help any professional find more creative and valuable solutions.
Why is an innovation management process often considered stifling and bureaucratic? Probably because all professionals have a healthy skepticism towards any type of management and would prefer to practice their profession without any interference. At the same time, most also acknowledge that their limited understanding of marketing, business, and people management, hampers their practice. So it may be a focus on the “management” aspects rather than on the innovation “process” it enables that makes professionals believe that “innovation management” only brings bureaucracy.
Organizing for Innovation
Innovation management, a top-down process developed for the innovation needs of manufacturing firms, may indeed add bureaucracy and smother innovation in professional service firms. A top-down approach is doomed to fail for a variety of reasons:
- Most innovative ideas generated by professionals are cutting-edge and require expert knowledge to fully understand their potential and value. In the early phases, these ideas are like rough diamonds, i.e., not yet well articulated, making it very difficult for the untrained eye to see the beauty and potential of each idea.
- Professionals are used to making decisions autonomously.
- Each professional has his or her own expertise, meaning that innovation strategies and initiatives need to be far more diverse than, for instance, in manufacturing firms, where all innovation efforts contribute to making the next product.
But this does not mean that you don’t need an innovation process. You just need to organize it differently. Organizing4Innovation training program is a bottom-up approach that fosters and facilitates ideas that organically sprout up in the organization. It teaches professionals the skills they need to bring these ideas to practice, in a just-in-time manner. Organizing4Innovation is a lean and nimble way to help professionals be creative and bring their ideas to practice, while avoiding wasting time and reinventing the wheel.
A process for innovation helps to:
- Bring ideas to practice faster
- Strengthen ideas and build strong teams
- Unite and give muscle to ideas that are scattered throughout the organization
A process alone is, however, insufficient for fostering innovation. For innovation to thrive you also need an appropriate organizational culture. Creating a culture for innovation is more difficult than creating an innovation process, but with proper incentives, collaboration and will, any professional service organization can become a hot spot for innovation.
Interested in learning how to put your professional service organization at the forefront of innovation? Or how to ensure a reliable and sustainable pipeline of innovative offerings that your clients value? Please contact us to learn more at info”at”organizing4innovation”dot”com or visit our website for more information www. organizing4innovation.com.
Resources on creative thinking
Oech, R.v., A Kick in the seat of the pants. Harper&Row, Publishers.
De Bono, E., Serious Creativity. 1992, New York: Harper Business.
Lumsdaine, E., M. Lumsdaine, and J.W. Shelnutt, Creative Problem Solving and Engineering Design. 1999, New York: McGraw-Hill Inc.