Your newsletter on applied creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in
Tuesday, 5 February 2008
Hello and welcome to another issue of Report 103, your fortnightly newsletter
on creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business.
As always, if you have news about creativity, imagination, ideas, or innovation
please feel free to forward it to me for potential inclusion in Report103. Your
comments and feedback are also always welcome.
Information on unsubscribing, archives, reprinting articles, etc can be found
at the end of this newsletter.
INNOVATION AND ECONOMIC SLOW-DOWN
I was living in Bangkok in 1997 when the Thai Baht collapsed, wrecking havoc
upon the local economy and sending other South-East Asian economies into free
fall. At the time, I was running a web and multimedia production company –
which had been a pioneer in the field. Although we were a well established company
– business slowed dramatically in the months following the collapse. The
reason was not hard to fathom. The Internet was still a very new concept to
Thai managers. And with their debts ballooning (many companies had taken on
debt in US dollars – so when the Baht's value fell dramatically against
the dollar, debts grew huge in Baht terms) and demand rapidly disappearing,
managers were unwilling to risk investing in a new and not well understood communications
That was a mistake, especially for our primary client type: Thai companies
marketing internationally. The web allowed them to reach a larger audience at
lower cost, while facilitating better, lower cost communication. All benefits
at any time, but particularly so during a recession.
Fortunately, we pulled through thanks to our reputation for quality and service.
Now the US economy is slowing down and there are real fears for a recession.
Moreover, a US recession will almost certainly have strong consequences globally.
As a result, I fear many companies, that are just dipping their toes in implementing
innovation tools such as idea management, will follow the example of the Thai
companies in 1997 and back off investing in innovation – particularly
if the slowdown becomes a recession.
There's nothing like a recession to bring on managerial conservatism. Business
leaders watching their markets shrink fear investing in anything new or in anything
which they believe to be potentially risky. They fear that if the investment
does not pay off, their situation will be made worse. This would not only be
bad for their companies, but also for their jobs!
Because idea management – or any structured innovation process (although
idea management is the most effective) – is a new concept to many managers,
I predict that too many of them will opt to put off investing in idea management
over the next year or two.
This is an even bigger mistake than the Thai managers made. There is one very
big reason for this and numerous smaller reasons.
The big reason relates to the only reason any business should invest in idea
management: to keep ahead of the competition. This is particularly important
during an economic slowdown when markets are stagnating or even shrinking. You
and your competitors have fewer opportunities to sell your products. So whoever
can better serve their customers will come through the economic slow-down in
In addition, your innovation prospects are further improved if your competitors'
managers take the typical conservative route to surviving the slow-down: avoidance
of anything new and untried. If your competitors are afraid to innovate, while
you innovate, you gain further competitive advantage.
In addition to helping you increase your competitive lead over other businesses
in your sector, idea management brings other benefits to your firm:
1. You Cut Costs
While the glamorous side of innovation is about disruptive new products that
redefine a market, the less sexy but still important side of innovation is about
cost cutting. Indeed, companies like Dell and Toyota are considered major innovators,
even though their products are not particularly exciting. They have continuously
innovated by cutting costs in their production lines, enabling them to manufacture
their respective products more cost effectively.
Cost cutting is important to every industry in good times and bad times. But
it is during bad times that cost cutting becomes critical. And the people who
generally have the best ideas about how to reduce operational expenses in your
firm are the people who are performing the operations. Idea management, of course,
allows you to solicit and capture ideas from all of those people.
2. You Better Meet Your Customer Needs
This should be obvious to everyone in a business, particularly the managers,
but is surprisingly often overlooked. The better you meet your customer needs,
the more likely you are to sell to your customers. And when the number of customers
(or their budgets) are dwindling – making those customers happy is a good
way to retain them.
Again, idea management via ideas campaigns focusing on customer needs –
and ideally involving customers – is an excellent way to discover and
implement innovative ways of ensuring your products and services best meet your
3. You Boost Your Image
When the business press is full of bad news, your good news has substantial
public relations benefits. Implementing innovative new products, services and
operations boost your image to your customers, employees and shareholders. That's
always good, but even better when people are worried about the economy.
Don't Just Manage Ideas – Implement Them
While continuing to invest in idea management during economic downturns is
an effective way to survive the slow-down, a critical component of the process
is implementing the innovative ideas you capture. So be sure that you are not
falling into the trap of generating great ideas that your decision makers will
be afraid to implement!
Best of All
Best of all, an idea management solution is a relatively inexpensive investment.
Jenni idea management, for instance, probably costs less per employee than you
spend on coffee. Of course the major cost is not in software, but in employee
time spent innovating. But a tool like Jenni, which focuses innovation on business
needs and makes managing your innovation process more efficient ensures you
maximise your employees' innovation potential while minimising costs.
Conclusion: don't be afraid to innovate!
For more information about Jenni, please visit http://www.jpb.com/jenni/
I am delighted to offer you another article from my friend and creative whiz
Randah Taher. The article below is an introduction to a more substantial white
paper which you may download from the web site (link is at the end of the article).
Randah is the founder and coordinator of “My Arabic Story”, a cultural
hub with worldwide volunteers, telling folktales stories through storytelling,
puppet shows, and other media. (www.myarabicstory.org). She is currently a graduate
student at Buffalo State College getting her degree in Masters in Creative studies,
while working as a freelancer consultant and trainer, and writes occasionally
in “Contagious Creativity” http://contagiouscreativity.wordpress.com.
By the way, if
you would like to contribute an article to Report 103, I'd like to know about
ORGANIZATIONAL CREATIVITY THROUGH SPACE DESIGN
By Randah Taher
Both exterior and interior design influence individual and team performances
using its shapes, textures and materials; while opening them up to our own interpretations.
When it comes to space design and its effect on creativity, flexibility is the
key word. With space design, we strike a balance between dense areas that enhance
interactions and transform thoughts into team work, and separate closed areas
that boost individuals’ concentration and development of ideas.
Taking into account the different activities that occur in the work space environment,
flexibility also manifests itself in movable furniture, multiple write-on surfaces,
multimedia tools, the physical distance between team members, and communication
spaces that support both small and large group sizes. Features such as ceilings,
windows and hallways have been proved to alter our perceptions in the space,
and in essence, our feelings of freedom or confinement.
Designing rooms to mirror the activities performed within their walls can enhance
the creativity potential of the place, and at the same time, represent the values
and purposes of the organization as a whole.
With each purpose, we convey sensations that express the intent of those who
are to use a space and those who are to be influenced by it, all the while keeping
flexible as to how to interpret the designs according to needs and activities.
Suggestions to Organizations
Traditionally the workspace has been designed favouring one particular setting
– offices or cubicles vs. open-plan space – and this pattern cannot
accommodate the different phases of creativity. As a consequence, it is to be
expected that offices offering hybrid infrastructure will become more popular
in organizations (Haner, 2005), suggesting that “if the firm is to invest
resources in the creation of a dedicated innovation environment, then it is
essential that the strategic intentions underpinning this space are explicit”
(Moultrie et al, 2007, p.61).
In this sense, VanGundy (1992) persuades companies to design a creativity room
specifically for this purpose and load it with materials, books, idea generation
aids and group setting.
Design firms such as IDEO also develop spaces that support visualization, exploration
and inspiration through access to materials and artifacts. Another example is
a space developed to improve and advance pharmaceutical products (Kristensen,
2004), as they provided a separate area with walls and floor filled with objects
and models, bulletin boards, flat tabletops, drawers, cabinets, progress reports,
sketches, computers with CAD, metal and wood workshops, competing products,
props, wood and metal workshops, recording of previous sessions, bulletins displayed
previous attempts, isolation from disturbance. Companies can add to this list
by providing different layouts for the activities taken in the office; such
as access to information and support, gathering zones and interaction areas
for informal as well as formal meetings and sections and moving furniture for
different thinking processes.
Other organizations might want to adopt some guidelines to creativity and problem
solving. A well known model developed by Alex Osborn and Sid Parnes is called
the Creative Problem Solving (CPS). Supporters of this method use stages to
move between steps. Those stages can be installed in the design blueprint and
plan for rooms that can be called: The Clarification Chamber ® (CC), The
Transformational Hall ® (TH) or the Implementation Lab ® (IL). (Puccio,
Murdock, & Mance, 2007; Taher, 2008).
As per the architectural design, while some design values are targeted at encouraging
specific behaviours (i.e. Futuristic, playful, minimalist, etc), the use of
imagery can reinforce actions, i.e. triangular room for creative divergence
(Moultrie et al, 2007, p.61). I am not suggesting constructing the building
itself as triangular, as this might impede future changes to the place, but
the use of temporary architecture has more to offer than meets the eye. Those
installations can exist “without a determinate function, because they
are free to suggest uses rather than being governed by them, and because they
are free to exist on sites inaccessible to permanent architecture (Lévesque,
2007, P.2). As in the unfinished, Levesque presumes, “one can imagine
new realities” (P.2).
In conclusion, the essential meaning of the space is to allow emotions to surface
in the work area in order to further enhance the performance of the occupants
and not necessarily suppress them for productivity's sake. Whether it is the
movable walls that support small and big group sizes or the warm colors that
contrast a high-stress environment, movable furniture that accommodates informal
idea development, or the geometrical propositions that stimulate various expressions
of movement, serious effort on understanding the effects of such atmosphere
will stimulate creative behavior in the work environment.
You can download Randah's full paper at http://www.jpb.com/creative/creative_spaces_Taher.pdf
(PDF document about 750KB)
For the full research study, please read “Organizational Creativity Through
Space Design”, Randah Taher, January 2008. visit http://contagiouscreativity.wordpress.com
When it comes to rewarding innovation, many managers focus on rewarding individuals.
This is a good thing. Indeed, a well designed rewards scheme is crucial to the
success of any innovation initiative, particularly in organisations which are
new to innovation.
But, rewarding teams can also be an effective strategy for rewarding innovation
and one that brings added benefits over rewarding individuals.
Benefit 1: Improved Collaboration
When you reward individuals for innovation, each individual wants to own the
best ideas in order to be rewarded for them. As a result, an idea owner may
retain information so that her team-mates cannot improve upon her ideas. She
is also likely to become defensive about her ideas for fear that improvements
will erode her ownership of the idea and threaten her rewards.
On the other hand, if the entire team benefits from good ideas, the individual's
best strategy is to share information and collaborate in order to ensure that
the team produces better ideas and so is more likely to be rewarded for those
Moreover, collaboratively developed ideas are potentially more innovative and
more powerful than individually developed ideas. As the old adage states: two
heads are better than one. And a dozen heads are better still.
More creative minds bring together more knowledge, more experience and more
ideas. In an ideal scenario, the result is a broader, more creative range of
thinking and that translates into more creative ideas. Of course there is a
lot that can go wrong in collaborative innovation – but that is the subject
for another article (actually it has been covered in several Report 103 articles
– see http://www.jpb.com/report103/archives.php
Benefit 2: Faster Team Bonding
As we have noted, rewarding teams encourages collaboration. This is important
in the early days of a team when members may not know each other well and may
be reluctant to co-operate. By encouraging team members to bond and work together,
the team collaborates sooner and generates results faster.
Benefit 3: Easier Sell
When a creative idea is developed collaboratively by a group, each member has
a stake in the idea and the desire to see it implemented. This makes the idea
more likely to be sold to top management and so more likely to make the transition
from a creative idea to a profitable innovation.
As made clear in benefit 1, when you reward collaboration, you get collaborative
Benefit 4: Improved Team Spirit
When team members collaborate in order to gain rewards or other benefits, there
is inevitably a greater sense of belonging to the team, sharing the team's values
and wanting the team to succeed in its tasks. This is what we call, “team
spirit”. When there is good team spirit, teams perform well together and
the team generates better results.
Clearly building teams and rewarding each as a group for its creativity and
innovation is an effective method not only for promoting collaborative creativity,
but also for making it more likely that ideas will come to life.
However, it is also important to change membership of teams on a regular basis
– at least if creative thinking is your goal.
As teams develop together, they eventually move towards groupthink. That is,
a particular approach to problem solving becomes the norm and the team becomes
poor at approaching problems and generating creative solutions in ways that
differ from its groupthink. Moreover, as group members grow to know each other,
they learn from each other and come to predict how fellow group members will
respond to challenges and ideas. As a result, thinking tends to get stale and
the level of creativity falls. However, the potential of each member –
who has learned from the others - increases.
Thus, it is better to disband teams frequently and create new ones.
In other words, your team strategy is a simple cycle: build new teams, reward
teams, disband teams, build new teams and so on.
Finally, bear in mind that rewards for teams should not necessarily replace
rewards for individuals. You should offer both to encourage participation in
For more about rewarding individuals for creativity and innovation, please
take a look at the article REWARDING INNOVATION at http://www.jpb.com/creative/rewards.php
EVENT: CREATIVITY & INNOVATION MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE
Buffalo, New York; 28-30 May 2008
The Creativity and Innovation Management Journal and the International Center
for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State College, in Buffalo New York, are
proud to co-host the 2nd Creativity and Innovation Management (CIM) International
The CIM conference will explore the idea of “integrating inquiry and
action” through presentations by business leaders and recognized thought
leaders in the fields of creativity and innovation. The Creativity and Innovation
Management Journal will sponsor the conference in conjunction with the International
center for Studies in Creativity, Buffalo State College.
Learn from more than 30 paper presentations as well as keynote speakers, including
Professor Micheal Mumford from the University of Oklahoma, Professor Tudor Rickards
University of Manchester, Dr. Ming-Huei Chen of Chung Hsing University, Taiwan,
Professor Todd Lubart of University of Paris, Miriam Kelly of Fisher Price Toys,
and Dr. Casimer DeCusatis of IBM.
Learn more and register at www.buffalostate.edu/creativity/x735.xml
Want to publicise your event in Report 103? E-mail me the details at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LATEST IN BUSINESS INNOVATION
If you want to keep up with the latest news in business innovation, I recommend
Chuck Frey's INNOVATIONweek
(http://www.innovationtools.com/News/subscribe.asp). It's the only e-newsletter
that keeps you up-to-date on all of the latest innovation news, research, trends,
case histories of leading companies and more. And it's the perfect complement
to Report 103!
Report 103 is a complimentary weekly electronic newsletter from Bwiti bvba
of Belgium (a jpb.com company: http://www.jpb.com).
Archives and subscription information can be found at http://www.jpb.com/report103/
Report 103 is edited by Jeffrey Baumgartner and is published on the first and
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