Work Practices To Promote Innovation


There are no doubts that organizational capability to promote innovation and creativity are key drivers of competitive advantage (Grabner 2007; Cho and Pucik 2005). If an organisation aspires to offer innovative products, it needs creative and innovative employees who are highly motivated to unfold their potential and produce creative ideas - the source of innovation and of an organization's competitive advantage.

What is creativity?

Over last few centuries many researches from various branches of sciences tried to find a definition, factors and motivators for creativity. For example Johnson, the author of 'Systematic Introduction to the Psychology of Thinking', summarized the main dimensions of creative achievement as intellectual leadership, originality, sensitivity to problems, ingenuity, unusualness, appropriateness, usefulness, and breadth. Another researcher, Amabile (1983), identified three basic ingredients to creativity: domain skills acquired by becoming an expert in the field, creative thinking skills (e.g. seeking novelty and diversity, being independent, being persistent, and having high standards), and intrinsic motivation, meaning that all actions of the individual are stimulated by passion and pleasure, not being a result external demands or pressures. Another researcher, Gardner (1993), connected creative expression with intelligence, and Sternberg (1996) examined differences between creative and practical intelligence. Weisberg (1986) demythologised creativity by rejecting both the 'muse' and 'genius' and proving that creativity is a result of standard cognitive processes and psychological mechanisms. Finally, Fueur et al. (1996) proposed a definition of creativity as a process by which ideas are constantly generated for developing opportunities or addressing problems without limiting the organization to one particular solution to develop a framework within which the concept of creativity can be utilized in organizations. According to Amabile (1988), creativity in an organisational context can be defined in terms of outcome such as the production of novel and useful ideas by an individual or group.

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How to measure creativity?

During last fifty or so years many researches were conducted on creativity and innovation. The outcomes were not identical, but some factors and determinants were similar. According to Richards (1997) evaluated for attributes associated with creativity students' group most frequently pointed out: fluency, novelty, open-mindedness, synthesis, unconventionality, attitude and insightfulness. In Richards's survey the most frequently cited creative person was Einstein, followed by Edison, Da Vinci, Jefferson, and Bill Gates. Another research was conducted by Klukken, Parsons, and Columbus (1997), who examined a group of professional engineers for their views on creativity, personal experiences with creative work, as well as their reflections on engineering education. Klukken et al. identified four clusters of attributes which - according to the engineers - influenced creative performance: desire and fulfillment, autonomy and support, openness and knowledge, and engrossment and connection. Other researchers identified various traits associated with creativity, e.g.: desire for autonomy social independence, high tolerance of ambiguity, a propensity for taking risk, or anxiety at moderate levels. Creativity is a broad subject for discussion to researchers from many areas, such as psychology, economy, HRM, sociology and others.

How to stimulate and encourage creativity and innovation in people, teams and organisations?

Creativity and innovation are just as important at a personal level as they are for the company as a whole, because stimulating and enhancing company's creativity gives it a better chance for success and stimulating and enhancing individual creativity gives one's career prospects and raise one's potential for enjoyment of what he or she is doing. But researchers also point out that group creativity is also an important factor of building individual and organizational success: The best creativity takes an idea, builds on it, perhaps combines it with one or more other ideas and refines it out of all recognition. All these activities work particularly effectively in a group. By bringing together the experience and knowledge of a range of people, most ideas can be improved. (Clegg 1999, p. 25) Team creativity and cooperation need to be stimulated; as Maturana and Bunnell (1998, p. 143) state: As we release these restrictions, as we let humans be humans, without this demand of robotizations, then creativity, cooperation and co-inspiration appear. If we have the same inspiration we don't need control, we have freedom, and we have responsibility.

There are many ways that creativity is being actively supported and encouraged in modern companies. It is generally agreed that without a culture of creativity as a part of an organizational culture, a company is unlikely to be able to encourage effective innovation (Clegg 1999). As a part of that, organisational environmental can largely influence creative behavior - in both positive and negative ways. Amabile (1988) indicates three broad organizational factors that are assumed to influence organizational creativity: (1) organizational motivation to innovate, (2) resources, and (3) management practices. Environmental factors that affect creativity and innovation of the employees may include encouragement of creativity e.g. rewards and recognition of creativity, supervisory encouragement, work group supports; autonomy and freedom (e.g. high autonomy and self control over individuals' work); resources; pressures (e.g. challenging work and workload pressure; organizational impediments (e.g. rigid, formal management structures or conservatism in the organisation).

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Lawler and Bilson state that modern mechanistic models for organizations create difficulty in adapting to changing circumstances because their rule-based structures make them rigid and inflexible and restrain creativity and innovation: They can create mindless conformity to rules and regulations, producing at worst a 'jobsworth' approach in which anything out of the ordinary cannot be done as 'It's more than my job's worth'; or a simple blindness to those aspects that fall outside the standard, routinized responses to problems. (2010, p. 97) Lawler and Bilson argue that nowadays complex problems concerning organisation require both flexibility and creativity, and management control should be replaced by approaches to promote creativity within all levels of the organization. They propose actions such as joint working and interdependence of organisations, highlight the importance of flattening hierarchies, facilitating informal networks and celebrating diversity. Also Clegg (1999) argues that if creativity is not actively encouraged in the company, front-line employees will feel restrained by the system, they will plainly follow the rules and will not do anything 'more than their job are worth'. But if creativity will be accepted as a fundamental tenet of the company, then employees will do whatever is required to get the job done.

There is a strong need to identify and develop opportunities for change in the organisation, including the identification of the options for innovation and change (e.g. vision, goals, objectives, timescales and resources), encouraging individuals and teams to challenge existing ways of working, analysing the risks and benefits associated with these options and persuading decision-makers to commit themselves to change. Implementing changes that are required for enhancing innovation and creativity include appropriate communicating the plans for change, encouraging colleagues/subordinates/management to contribute to the plans, providing information, support and motivation to those affected, identifying and solving problems which may occur on the way, and monitoring and evaluating change. At this point success requires leadership rather than management. A creativity training for both managers and employees can also be considered.

There are various theories concerning methods for stimulating personal, team and organizational creativity. For example, Richards (1998) summarised strategies and techniques for enhancing personal creativity and distinguished: immersing in a domain or problem, being prolific, using tools for representation and thought, playing with ideas, avoiding premature closure, being different, being open and receptive to new ideas, being active, maintaining a product orientation, learning not to act in a hurry, reflecting, having fun it what you are doing. Also Altier (2001) proposed a simple summation of the fundamental steps to developing creative thinking capabilities, such as recognizing the triggers one's exposed to every day, defining the problem in terms of the 'True Choice', recognizing your barriers and overcoming them, rearranging the knowledge, experience and ways of doing things.

There are many controversies around the matter of rewards and their influence on motivation and creativity. Collins and Amabile argue that creative performance may be encouraged when rewards provide information or enable the person to better complete the task. (1999, p. 304) Rewards may serve as a motivational factor not as such, but by engaging individuals to any important processes and actions necessary to bring a creative project to fruition. For those researchers, a critical feature of creativity - the generation of novel ideas - is hindered by reward. Results of their studies indicate that rewards serve as stimulation for people to become more creative by making them believe, they can obtain rewards by being creative. Also Cameron, Banko and Pierce (2001) argue that rewards can be used effectively to enhance interest without disrupting performance of an activity in a free-choice setting and - unlike many researchers still think - rewards do not inevitably have pervasive negative effects on intrinsic motivation.

To sum up, we can say that factors defined as 'creativity enhancers' include: focusing on intrinsic motivation, creativity goals, developmental feedback, supportive supervision, healthy competition, participative decision making, autonomy, creative people around, enriched and complex jobs, resources, clear organizational goals, instructions to be creative, recognizing and rewarding creativity, encouraging risk taking, no punishment for failure. There are also so called 'creativity killers' - factors that have negative influence on employees creativity, such as excessive focus on extrinsic motivation, limits set by superiors, close and controlling supervision, competition in a win-lose situation, control of decision making or control of information. Also a serious mistake in trying to implement a culture of creativity is forcing creativity as yet another formal process or relying on job descriptions, using a detailed project plan or letting the risk control everything.

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Some researchers state that innovation can make the difference between survival and disaster (Clegg 1999, p. 2). Richard Branson once said that an innovative business is a combination of good ideas, motivated staff and an instinctive understanding of what the customer wants, and then combining these elements to achieve outstanding results. Encouraging creativity requires a different style of management - a leadership. The important thing is that an example of creativity, innovation and good management has to come from the top people in the company. Organizing for innovation is also not about setting up an innovation centre or the post of innovation manager, but requires a much more radical change from the company - a change of not only acting, but also a change of thinking. Also recruitment policies may need changes, because if an organisation wants to become creative, it will definitely need creative employees and managers. Examining and building creative resources should also be an early activity. Both individuals and teams need to be in the change process and encouraged to feel they are contributing to the process and the top management needs to have a vision and goals for change and innovation and to communicate them to those involved and to be committed to change. Also different types of problems that may arise during a change process and management must be ready to respond to them.