According to the oxford dictionary of the English language creativity is "the use of imagination or original ideas to create something" and innovation is "the action or process of making changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products". However creativity and innovation are so much more; they are the cornerstones of our economy, the foundations of our modern society and high quality of living, what gives meaning and purpose to our existence.
Creativity is a unique characteristic of the human race. Of all the creatures roaming this planet, only humans have the ability of abstract thinking and creativity. Our history is the history of human creativity and innovations. From the first steps that Homo sapiens took on Europe, the weapons they created to hunt for food and fend off dangers, to the pendants that they crafted to indicate statues and the amazing petroglyphs found in France (Vallée des Merveilles), Greece (Irakleia - Cyclades), Italy (Bagnolo stele) and Spain (Galicia). Creativity and innovation are what created the pyramids in Egypt, Stonehenge in the UK and the megalithic monuments in Marta. Innovation is what armed the Greeks in Thermopylae and gave them a tactical advantage against an army ten times their own, and again in Salamis and Plataea. Creativity is what build the Parthenon and guided the arm of Phidias to sculpt some of the most important everlasting sculptures this world has ever seen. Then the Macedonians and other Greeks of Alexander the Great started spreading on most of the known world, and after them the romans and the mighty legions established the first superpower and Rome as the first mega city and all these started from few creative people that envisioned and created new ideas, new technologies and methods, new innovations (Association, 2008). Innovations, that paved the way, after hundreds of years of darkness, the dark ages, for the Renaissance and the age of Creativity; Michelangelo, Rafael, the great Leonardo Da Vinci as well as Copernicus, Galileo Galilei and Gutenberg. The human race's intellectual revolution, all based on creativity and innovations.
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Our "modern" age starts with the industrial revolution that took place in the UK in 1750. Few very creative very innovative people started shaping the world to what it is now. Brunel, Watt and Maudslay; their dreams and creations can still be seen in the city we live in. The British Empire and the establishment of the first form of international trade and together with it the first multinational corporations like the Dutch East India Company that helped create the first global economic ideas and theories, as theses were described by Adam Smith in his book An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). And then to the 19th century of the two world wars, but also of Dali, Picasso, Matisse and Einstein, Plank, Bohr and Heisenberg. Our history, the human existence on this planet, is a hymn to creativity, innovation and survival (Association, 2008).
Creativity plays a very important role in the improvement of our society and of our living standard. New innovations make our lives easier, allow us to do things that we could not do before, as well as create workplaces and bust the economy (Bennett, 2006). Everywhere we look creativity and innovations is there; from an art gallery displaying Van Gogh's masterpieces, to our mobile phones that provide us with information and functionality that previous generations could only dream of, to the way we shop using the internet and the new digital economy we live it. I, and the majority of people in the western world, can, from the comfort of my home, "stream" my favour movie and watch it on my smart TV any time I want, order a pizza online by using my mobile and at the same time keep an eye on the FTSE 250, live from New York. Actually digital and mobile applications and devices can do more, a lot more. They help people with diabetic monitor their disease, they guide millions of motorists, with the use of GPS, to their destinations, they connect the entire world, as well as help me, and thousands of students, find the information I want in order to write this assignment. Innovations and creativity in the medical field help people live longer, healthier lives, cure diseases that once thought to be incurable, and provide comfort and hope to all. Even things we now have come to consider small, trivial, every-day, like running water, public transportation or the post we receive every morning, were the inspirations and work for people, and are very important in rising our quality of life. Can anyone in the western world even consider every-day life without running water or even without the weather forecast? I think not.
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Our modern society, has recognised the importance of creativity and continuous innovation, and improvement, and has adapted both its educational and business systems to encourage it, incubate it and reword it (Burleson, 2005). Schools promote creativity and some even go as far as trying to teach pupils how to be creative. However, creativity is not something you can force on someone. Creativity is the result of a number of conditions that have to be met, with the primary being freedom. Freedom to speak, freedom to write, freedom to think and express yourself as you like, and freedom to choose what to do, what to create. Also, creativity is not the characteristic of an individual, no matter how intelligent, creative and innovative this individual is; it is a social characteristic; small ideas, in a free environment with no communication barriers, linking up, combining, to create a "big" great idea. It is not a coincidence that there are periods in human history that great minds come together and lay the foundations, or start, industrial-scientific-intellectual-spiritual revolutions. The great Athenian philosophers of the 5th century BC, the great British engineers of the 1700's century, the great theoretical physicists of the beginning of the 19th century, and now the great "digital" minds of our era, are some of the examples that one can think. Creativity can be taught, however, as with all other aspects of the human mind and nature, creativity is a talent too. Some people have it and some do not. As a society however, we are a creative innovative society, a society that looks into the future, creates ideas, dreams and designs about how it wants this future to be and then starts working on making it happen (Casson, 2007).
Business, innovation and creativity are interlinked terms. Business, any business, cannot exist without creativity. The common characteristic between a broker in New York, a fair trade luxury furniture shop owner in Islington, London, an independent cocoa farmer in Equator and a the owner of a silk textiles family business in China is creativity. The very notion of starting up your own business, take calculated risks and give your best to succeed, is the definition for entrepreneurial creativity. Innovation is what makes the difference, what gives a company a competitive edge, what turns a small "garage" business to a multinational with offices around the world and with billions of pounds in its corporate accounts. Creativity, realised through innovation is what drives our economy, is what capitalism is built on, is what creates companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Dyson and Goldman-Sacks (Davis, 2009).
The important role of creativity and innovation in the entrepreneurial process
Every sector of business and every sector of life is subject to creativity and innovation. If is strange that when the word creativity is mentioned most people think of painters or sculptors or even photographers, the likes of Modigliani and Petrocelli, and when the word innovation is used they think of technological advances, like 3D TVs, and companies like Apple and Siemens. If for example the banking industry is used as an example of innovation in a lecture, the majority of people from the audience will most like wonder about the appropriacy of the use of the word, when it comes to financial institutions such as Goldman-Sacks, J. P. Morgan and even the Royal Bank of Scotland. However, the financial institutions that compose our economic system are the epitome of innovation. Their continuous innovation in creating new financial products and finding ways to generate wealth is what led to the technological, commercial, entrepreneurial and consumption "boom" that started after the end of the 2nd world war and is still going strong now, even after many financial crisis that this same system produced, with the most serious being that of 2008 with many countries and millions of people still experiencing its effects.
Nowadays creativity and innovation is the driving force of the economy, usually in the form of digital and mobile applications and devices. Economists have even given this new type of economy a, very appropriate, name; digital economy. Iphones, ipads, tablet PCs, smartphones and millions of applications that help the user cook a nice meal, pay his bills online or even monitor his diabetes are the life-line of the post 2008 crises economy. And rightly so, as they provide incredible flexibility and utility to the users, improving their way of life and quality of life, and at the same time generating new jobs and money. They also provide a platform on which small businesses, utilising the benefits of the new technologies and the new digital marketplace, can compete even with multinational corporations in a global marketplace.
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However the link between creativity, which gives birth to innovations, with the business process is deeper than just new products and services, no matter how revolutionary these might be. The whole idea of starting up a new business, a new company, comes from ones creativity. (Eysenck, 2008) The starting up of a business is creation. The new entrepreneur wants to be independent, to do what he enjoys and believes he is best in doing, to leave his mark, to create. It is creativity that enables an entrepreneur to act on the opportunities that present to him, in order to create competitive advantage for his company. His company does not need to be about revolutionary technology, new designs or new products. He does not need to be an inspirational writer, a painter or an architect. He is creative because he made that first very important step of becoming an entrepreneur. So, not all entrepreneurs are innovative, however those who are, shape the world we live in with their creations. Innovation is the next step of creativity; it is its materialisation and the means to generate wealth. It is, or it can be, the financial link between ones thoughts and fantasies with the economy. Creativity is the heart of entrepreneurship and innovation is the oxygen that is keeping it alive.
Creativity needs a spark and innovation needs fuel. These are provided in the form of physical rewards and generation of wealth; money. Money has been blamed for many things, and most of the times rightly so, however, together with an inherited ability and need for humans to be creative, it is the most common motive for business creativity and innovation. Not the only, but one of the most significant reasons why people want to become entrepreneurs and push themselves to create something new, something exciting, something that other people, many other people, will buy. So creativity and innovation are fundamental factors of wealth generation which is the cornerstone of our capitalistic economic system, which is the only applicable economic system in the world, as we speak. One can even go as far as saying that creativity and innovation is business.
Is the creative process a way to trigger self-actualisation and motivation?
The question about what motivates us humans to do what we do, to wake up in the morning to go to work, to wait three hours in the rain in order to buy tickets for our favourite pop group or to create new art, technology and literature has fascinated many people before, among them many famous philosophers, like Hume and Kant.
When someone first asks about what motivates us to do what we do, the first answer he will usually receive is money. However, this in not, in the majority of times, true, or at least, not the entire truth. Self-actualisation is "the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming" (Goble, 1970). Maslow in his theory of basic needs, states that the goals for self-actualisation are as fundamental as those of education, continues learning and self-improvement and creativity. These goals or some may say needs or fundamentals of human existence promote and focus on learning in relationship to imagination, creativity, experience and challenge. However, all these notions are interconnected between them. Learning, experience and creativity are essential to self-actualisation, as self-actualisation is a fundamental requirement for learning and creativity.
The idea of self-actualisation comes from Maslow. He describes two human need systems; the deficiency needs system, also called "D" values, and the "Being" system, also called "B" values. D values denote the defensive nature of humans that leads us to be as safe as possible in all situations, but sometimes stops us from experiencing, improving and growing, and B values are the opposite, is what drives us to learn, experience, get in love, try new things and enhance our abilities, taking risks. According to Maslow, the most self-actualised people are "mature adults with a history of a productive involvement in their work" (Maslow, 1943).
Creativity is one of the fundamental ways to trigger self-actualisation and motivation. When one is creative, he feels good about himself, he feels and is productive, his blood rushes through his veins and his mind is on fire. He is creating something new, he is full of energy and confidence. Also, usually creativity means being social, coming in contact with many people, who themselves are creative and exchanging ideas and opinions, networking, interacting and synthesising hunches and observations to theories and great ideas. Just the process of doing so is what motivates many people and the result and excitement to see your idea materialised what motivates the rest (Becherer, 2008).
High self-confidence and belief to you, to your abilities and what you can do, which comes from being creative, being alive and contributing to the society, are the basic ingredients of self-actualisation, which lead you to accomplish your targets, and set new, which again kick-start the creative process that triggers your motivation and enhances your self-actualisation. The creative process, self-actualisation and motivation are all parts of human nature.
How creativity can help us in problem solving process?
The first step of problem solving is to define the problem. Although this may sound trivial, in many cases it is not. Many people and organisations rush in to tackle a problem by finding a solution, without previously knowing that the problem really is. So, to achieve a solution, one first has to fully understand the problem.
Once the problems have been clearly defined, the most important factor in solving it is creativity. Creativity is required in order to create a ask the right questions about the problem and find the correct and appropriate answers to them, creativity is necessary in order to provide "out of the box" ideas and suggestions and creativity is what defines the process of finding a new way in doing things.
Brainstorming is a very popular way to solve a problem and it is a characteristically creative method. It involves the rapid exchange of ideas, any ideas, about the solution to a specific problem. What it does actually is to help people to come up with "out of the box" unconventional ideas and solutions, which in the majority of times are the combination of various ideas that are "thrown" during the start of the brainstorming session (McNamara, 2010).
Also, creativity is what helps us to overcome the, very natural and common negative initial reaction to a problem; the anger and despair that a problem can cause, and actually make something good out of a bad situation but putting our minds and talents to work in order to find a solution that may just not be the solution to one problem but many (McNamara, 2010).
A good example of a very creative solution to a common problem that later became a lifesaving method in medicine is the use of ultrasounds. When the first metallic ships and buildings started to appear, a problem manifested in the form of cracks in the metals that had the potential to result in catastrophic failure. The solution that was improvised in order to detect such material failures was the use of ultrasounds. Soon enough ultrasounds were used in humans to image their anatomy and monitor their health. Ultrasounds are nowadays used in every hospital, having a variety of applications such as in obstetrics, oncology and dermatology.
Problem solving requires the generation, the production of something new; a new idea, a new device, a new product or new services. This is what creativity is.
Examples of organisations that foster Creativity process
One of the most creative and innovating companies in the UK is of course Dyson.
Dyson is a modern British icon of design, functionality, creativity and innovations. The company was started in 1933 by James Dyson, an inventor and designer, after he graduated from the Royal College of Art. What started as a tiny company with a single product, a vacuum cleaner, developed in a tiny workshop in the backward of Sir Dyson's family house, is now a multinational company, that sells its products in over 50 countries and which employs more than 3,000 people. The company's headquarters are located in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, UK (Dyson, 2012).
Technological innovations such as the cyclone technology and the air multiplier technology have changed the industry of commercial home appliances, giving tremendous status to Dyson.
The company makes extensive use of computer aided design software as well as 3D printing and 3D visualisation technologies. It also actively promotes creativity and innovation by encouraging its employees to come forward with new ideas, and by having weekly brainstorming sessions where all employees, no maters their speciality and rank, can seat together and exchange ideas in order to provide solutions in existing problems or suggest new products, technologies and methods. The company also promotes training and education, as it is a firm supporter of the notion that "the more your get involved and study something in depth, the more creative ideas arise" (Dyson, 2012).
In 2002 Sir Dyson founded the James Dyson foundation to support design and engineering education, and the creative process.
Google is one of the most powerful and rich companies in the world. The company was founded in 1998 and it became a public limited company in 2004. Google currently employs more than 53,000 people worldwide. The company's headquarters, Googleplex, are located in Mountain View, California, United States (Google, 2012).
Google is not just an innovator in terms of technology, networking, mobile applications and the internet, but also in terms of company structure and employee motivation and creativity encouragement techniques. One of its most popular and innovative company policies is what Google calls "personal projects time" (Google, 2012). In essence Google allows and encourages every one of its employees to spend a whole day, every week, working on their personal projects and ideas. Also the company has created an internal "blackboard" that all personal finished projects are published for testing and for generation of discussion, cooperation and the creation of even more, more advanced projects. Finally, these projects are published on the internet, on Google Labs, for everyone to test and feedback.
Google actively promotes and supports innovation and creativity and has faith on the abilities of its employees to deliver outstanding new ideas and products. It is a company founded on a great idea and still working towards the next great idea. It provides a work environment that is designed to keep its employees happy and satisfied and cater to all their needs, in order for them to be able to give back their great ideas. It promotes communication, freedom of expression and clearly sets the priority targets which are none other than the generation of new great ideas and the improvement of old.
It is an environment that creativity is not forced, it just happens. Google search, Android, Google Maps and Google Goggles are but a few of the results of the abundance of creativity that this company has (Google, 2012).
Apple Inc. is nowadays considered the most innovative company in the world. Its products are rapidly reaching legendary status, with their names being used, in many occasions, to define an entire market sector and not just a product. The IPad is a good example of Apple's innovation. Apple actually created the marketplace for tablet PC with its introduction of IPad. Many people will refer to any tablet PC as an IPad. The same goes for the IPhone which was the first, real, smartphone, the smartphone that started the revolution we live today (Apple, 2012).
Steven Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple Inc. back in 1977. Jobs and Wozniak worked in Job's parents' garage in order to create the first Apple PC. Nowadays, Apple employs more than 73,000 people around the world, has its headquarters in a 130,000 square metres in Cupertino, California, USA and generates an annual turnover in excess of 156 billion US dollars (Apple, 2012).
Apple Inc. is not just a huge, very successful, very profitable company; it is one of the very few companies in the world that successfully combines, promotes and excels in creativity, innovation and design. Products like the Ipad, the Iphone and the Ipod, combine the creativity and vision of a company, and of a very charismatic man, Steven Jobs, who sought to develop (create) new revolutionary products, with innovation of continuously updating and upgrading, introducing new and improved versions with design, aesthetically pleasing, trendy, fashionable devices that are more than a "mobile phone" or a "portable PC", they are status enchanting, life-style items (Business, 2009). Many companies have attempted to do this, very few have achieved it and only a handful have mastered it. Apple is a level above them.
Of course this is not just down to the vision and charisma of Steven Jobs. Apple employs some of the most creative mind in the world and provides the conditions for them to create and innovate. The image of Steven Jobs walking around the office barefooted, chatting with his employees about ideas he or they has is characteristic about the company culture (Deutschman, 2010). In building nurseries, a small clinic, dentist, even a virtual reality game suits and more than twelve restaurants are but some of the benefits that Apple employees enjoy.
Apple employees are encouraged to think "outside the box", to speak up and always share their thoughts, opinions, as well as projects and ideas with their colleagues. It is an inspiring environment that actively promotes thinking. However, Apple has also contributed in the business creativity and innovation field its influence, or the influence its huge success has, to hundreds of other companies, most of them its competitors. Apple has forced its competitors to rethink their products and sales techniques, to focus on design, to innovate. Apple has made other companies creative, by changing the market and the consumers. Apple is a company that its actions reverberate in the entire business and consuming world, as well as in the technological developments of our era.
As the topic of this assignment requests for examples of institutes that promote creative thinking and creativity, Universities would not be mentioned here. Although, technically Universities are not companies, so they do not promote business creativity per say, they are the places, the incubators, where the next generation of CEOs, entrepreneurs, managers and directors are bummed. They are the places from where most great ideas start, and although some do not make it to the "real" world, some do and they change it, they live their mark and the mark of their creator on it. Examples like Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, David Dell and Dell computers and Erik Wallenberg and Tetra Pak (Leander, 1996), are but few of thousands of great ideas that started in University.
Universities are for some the most creative places in the world. They take kids and turn them into scientists and business man and leaders. Although corporate entrepreneurship does not apply here in the sense that applies with Google and Apple, individual imagination, radical viewing of the world and an environment that is designed particularly to direct the mind to create, to dream and image, more than makes up for it.
The young human mind, still unshaped, still uncorrupted by the "do-nots" and "should-nots" of our world, has an unimaginable capacity for creativity, innovation and ideas generation. It only needs direction and encouragement.
Universities are the creativity centres of this world. Corporations have to work closely with them in order to use this creativity in the production processes, as well as in business, for the production of new products and services and for the generation of wealth, and for the betterment of the humankind.
Creativity and innovation is the foundation of business development and the driving force behind the improvement in the quality of living the western societies have experienced the last centuries.
Business is about profit and the generation of wealth. However, what motivates individuals is not just money. The human need to create and to contribute to the society, being social and belonging to a group or a "big family, is a fundamental factor of creativity and innovation. Self-actualisation and status is also closely related with creativity. "I think, there for I am" (Britannica, 2012), to the words of Descartes, a 17th century French philosopher.
Hoverer, creativity and innovation is not just food for the mind and the needs of us humans. Creativity and innovation is what has shared the world we leave in today. From the first human being that created the wheel, to creation of Democracy in ancient Greece, and from the industrial revolution to the digital revolution of our era, creativity, materialised to innovation, is everywhere, is our everyday life, our education, entertainment and work, our existence.
Creativity can help us solve problems in our personal lives as well as in our business lives and can help a company overcome hard times and go from near bankruptcy to being one of the biggest and richest companies in the world (Apple).
More importantly, creativity is that makes us better, what makes opens our minds and makes us see things differently and act differently. It has to be promoted, protected, and encouraged, by businesses, universities and governments alike.
One can say that as the only intelligent species on this world, actually the only intelligent species known to exist in the Cosmos, is our destiny to create.