Creativity And Innovation In Various Contexts Business Essay


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Coincidentally there are a number of persons, who still consider software development as an art Ambler, 2009; Pollice, 2005. Nonetheless, it is acknowledged that in the last decades software development has come a long way and become a much more complex and intricate discipline that requires knowledge of Software Engineering practises (Wirth, 2008), that includes various software development methodologies (Appelo, 2011), and adherence to quality and standards (NIST, 2002). The fact that this engineering (and somewhat mechanical) practise is still considered an art may be due to the fact that developers are still required to think out of the box, and thus the relevance of this subject to creativity and innovation. Nevertheless, is this intermingling of art and discipline the only factor that affects software development innovation? How are software development team (SDT) and organisational innovation influenced by a highly turbulent and constantly changing environment (see also: Lashinsky, 2005; Stedman, 2009; Thibodeau, 2009) in an industry which faces numerous crises (Jones, 1999; "NATO Science Committee", 1968); and constantly demands different skills and traits (Wynekoop & Walz, 2000)?

Whilst fully appreciative that the permeability between the environment (political, economical, social and technological) and the organizational system is crucial for the survival of the latter, the literature review and research will focus on factors on team aspects that promote innovation with due consideration to the organisational structure and context. In other words, this research will examine specifically two strata: namely the team and the organization as a function of a set of fixed points: the social and political environment. Moreover, the research will shed some light and understanding of these factors in the local context.

Structure of Dissertation

According to Mumford, Hester, and Robledo (2012), to expedite creativity and innovation in organisations, three important aspects must be recognised, namely that

"First creativity and innovation are highly complex phenomena at any given level of analysis. Second, multiple phenomena exist at the individual, group, and organizational levels. Third, the phenomena that operate at one level are not necessarily well integrated, or consistent with, those operating at other levels." (Mumford et al., 2012, pg 13)

Chapter II shall cover general concepts and literature that will serve as the foundation for Chapter III. Aspects and terms such as creativity, innovation and innovation types shall be discussed. After looking at the original studies of organisation structure; as a means of promoting efficiency and further-on as a construct to address the ever-increasing complex environment, Chapter II shall cover aspects of the contemporary world of Information Technology (IT) and its disruptive and complex nature . Subsequently, General Systems Theory (GST) will be pointed out as a superior model to understand how individuals, teams and organisations work in a context. To appreciate the contextual influences on creativity and the complexity aspects of the creativity phenomena, two widely known scholarly system related models shall be pointed out.

Chapter III shall address the multilevel aspects of creativity and innovation within an organisation. The focus shall be on the structure of teams, the processes and characteristics promoting (or hindering) team creativity and innovation. This shall be done using some models that scholars claim to promote creativity and innovation in teams. Chapter III also includes a GST model that can help managers to holistically understand and tailor its organisation structure for a better fit into its. The formulation of the research questions that will be applied in the subsequent chapters shall close Chapter III. Where possible and applicable, in this chapter we shall try to point out the salient aspects of creativity and innovation as they operate in different strata of the organisation.

Research literature and tools measuring organisational climate for creativity together with the research methodology shall be covered in Chapter IV. Chapter V and VI will present the results and discussion, respectively.

Creativity and Innovation in Various Contexts

'Individual creativity and group creativity are two different beasts' (Williams & Yang, 1999, pg 373)

Simply put, the forces behind individual creativity are very different from group creativity. Since the famous speech given by Guildford in 1950, various research has been carried out on the forces and approaches behind creativity, namely: mystical forces, pragmatic approaches (ex. Edward De Bono's thinking methods; see De Bono, 1994), psychodynamic approaches (i.e. the study of eminent creators), psychometric approaches (i.e. using paper-and-pen techniques), social-personality approaches (i.e. nature or nurture debate) and finally the cognitive approaches (Sternberg & Lubart, 1999). Increasingly, creativity is seen to be more than just the sum of an individual's attributes but influenced by multiple components such as the environment, motivation, and so forth. Similarly team creativity, and to an extent innovation, is not just the sum of the individuals making up the team. In this regards, understanding the influences of the work environment on team and organisation creativity has been considered as crucial by scholars such as Amabile (1988), Ekvall (1996) and West and Anderson (1998). Starting with what is creativity and what is innovation all these aspects are discussed further in the Chapter III.

Success factors for Organisational and Team Innovation

Studies made by Cook (1998) indicate that "Success in product and service innovation depends on creativity as a key input" (pg 179). A number of factors have been identified as enhancing organisational innovativeness. These are broadly grouped under organisations which have:

The right cultural, leadership style and values that push employees to think and work outside the comfort zone, possibly undertaking risks and 'uncertain' activities

Informal structures and communications, that also reduce bureaucracy and provide enough slack to try new ways of doing things

A climate that encourages biodiversity of employees (and skills) that are exposed and encouraged to try out new ideas

According to Bordia, Kronenberg, and Neely (2005) structure is one of the four dimensions that constitute an organisation's DNA. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for having the right organisational structure to promote innovation, and the authors described three models (i.e. functional, product or program) which provide different benefits. Nonetheless, it is commonly acknowledged that a multiple layer organisation can be a costly and bureaucratic organisation that is silo and control based, and has a hindered responsiveness and creativity rate (Bordia et al., 2005; NESTA, 2008). Moreover small organisations, which normally have little or no formal structure, tend to react quickly because everyone is aware of what is going on and can take practical decisions (Dingli, 2007). Cook (1998) quotes the Corporate Research Foundation as having identified structural flexibility as one of the six drivers for future success. The same author places structure and system as one of the three pillars holding creative strategy and looks at the importance (and reliance) on more informal means of communication; such as networking and proper information structures.

Rogers (2003) claims that structure in a social system is necessary since the units in the same system are all different. He defines structure "as the patterned arrangements of the units in a system" (Rogers, 2003, pg 24). In an organisation this structure is normally reflected in the hierarchical structures (Rogers, 2003), and through processes and procedures, policies, ranks and reporting mechanisms. Rogers (2003) suggests that these formal structures are normally accompanied with an informal structure that consists of interpersonal networks made up cliques or homophilous [1] groups; which are beneficial or detrimental for the diffusion of innovation from the constituent units (teams) to the organisation as a whole (Rogers, 2003). More about the structure can be found in Chapter II

GST has been developed using information and case studies made across various disciplines (Mele, Pels, & Polese, 2010). A number of models and approaches (ex. viable system model, viable system approach, open systems theory) are discussed by the same author(s); to sustain that a system (in our case study - an organisation or a team) is an aggregate of units (teams or individuals) that are held together by constant dependencies and interactions. Moreover there needs to be a constant adjustment within the systems to guarantee the survival of the whole (Mele et al., 2010); and that this adjustment needs to reach stability and growth - before the next transformation is taken up. Thus the study of the constituent parts (in our case - the teams) and the structure in which they operate is crucial to understand the whole system (i.e. the organisation).

Relevance of Creative Teams within Organisations

"Teams are essential in projects for tackling complex work requiring a variety of knowledge and skills, stimulating creativity and innovation, empowering workers, and other positive consequences" (Loo, 2003, pg 511)

The study of group development, for example: Tuckman (1965) and Tuckman and Jensen (1977) 's four and five stage model, and leadership styles (ex. Hersey -Blanchard's Situational Leadership® Model) has always carried a lot of importance in literature and as a means to understand and improve team work and efficiency. Some studies of the late 20th century look at the 'group dynamics' and the members of the group as opposed to specific leadership traits (Tannenbaum & Schmidt, 1973) supporting the view that a group is not just the sum of its constituent members or team leader. As innovation becomes an integral part for the survival of more and more organisations, the latter are continuously seeking ways and means to improve group interaction and teamwork as a direct means to achieve organisation innovation (DeCusatis, 2008).

Reiter-Palmon, Wigert and de Vreed (2012) claim that team creativity and innovation has become increasingly important in a highly globalised and competitive world where organisation problems have become extremely complex for one single individual to solve. DeCusatis (2008) states that a new approach called 'collaborative innovation' has superseded the dominating monolithic approach with the former being more adapted to meet the new market demands. He describes four very differently structured types of teams (called Genius, Foursight, Virtual and Improve teams) that are more suited with the traits and aspirations of mixed generation workers. A case in point is FourSight teams; which teams satisfy the desire for continuous learning, no strong leadership and self actualisation. In Chapter III we shall cover two models suggested by West, Sacramento, and Fay (2006) and Nijstad, Rietzchel, and Stroebe (2006) that promote team innovation.

Context Factors in Support of Organisation and Team Innovation

Without delving too much into Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (see Maslow, 1943), it has to be acknowledged that the threats of losing a job has implications on an individual's behaviour and thus on his creativity. West (2000) cites two articles from Claxton G.L issued in 1997 and 1998 as stating that 'Creativity occurs when individuals feel free from pressure, safe and positive' (pg 460) and contrasts this 'with the implementation of innovation which usually occurs when people, groups or originators are facing high levels of demand or even threat" (pg 460). Thus West (2000) sees threat or challenge as necessary for innovation and argues that we are seen to innovate more when we are under pressure, work on particular tasks and within a group, organisation or society. West (2000) quotes a number of factors that have been found to work for team or workgroup innovation some of which are further discussed in Chapter III. These factors were also seen as overcoming unfavourable organisational settings or conditions such as poor premises. On the other hand, factors such as an increased organisational structure, bureaucracy and lack of commitment and processes towards enhancing innovation are seen to inhibit innovation (West, 2000). Simply put organisation context has implications on team innovation that is mediated by various other contextual variables, some of which are (or are not) within the control of the organisation. In this regards the environment in which the organisation is operating has also to be given due attention as this is, most of the time, outside the control of the organisation.

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