Company A originated as a small company, affiliated to national government with a remit to conduct drug testing on race horses. It had established itself for over forty years, devoid of change and managed in a limiting environment. If it had not adopted a creative and innovative new strategy the outcomes of the business would never have evolved or enabled work and further scientific progress to occur.
The American psychologist Abraham Maslow is considered to be the founder of creativity and innovation and his theories are still adhered to in business over half a century after he delivered his first paper on the subject. He believed that human behaviour was linked to productivity in any business and that self-actualizing managers were fundamental to breaking down the social conventions of passive company policies. In particular Maslow was concerned with the need for Scientists to become more creative in their thinking, as this was often a quality that was lacking in their approach to work.
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(Maslow and Stephens, 2000:189-190) From this perspective it is clear that company A, run predominantly by scientists working in an environment devoid of any structure or ambition, were clearly in a position where creativity and innovation was needed to address a number of the issues preventing them from developing.
How is creativity and innovation stimulated, supported and sustained?
Senior management is critical to the success of sustaining these values by ensuring that knowledge sharing and team work are utilised to maintain levels of enthusiasm and shared ideas. The Chief executive has stimulated the need to be innovative and creative by creating an environment which is at times more informal and conversational. Meetings have been renamed and reconfigured into clubs and groups, some of which have timed schedules, so that the focus remains on strategic decisions rather than diverting away from the main objectives. These types of dynamic and playful atmospheres are integral to stimulating this process. (Henry, 2006:138) The very fact that the CE is committed to the principles of creative innovation and has replaced staff who are not like minded with those that are more receptive to the 'open, accessible and transparent' working philosophy as well as willing to be trained, is integral to the stimulation process. If the team of workers in the business consists of individuals who have the appropriate skills and motivation, with clear goals that are supported and nurtured along the way by the overall organisational commitment, these are all actions likely to stimulate the ongoing drive for creativity and innovation. (Amabile and Gryskiewicz, 1987:38)
The adoption of the ultra-ego, 'Uncle Bernard' has provided staff with a channel of communication, which is clearly informal and designed to encourage personnel to question and raise their concerns and queries in a forum that offers support and guidance. Additionally performance reviews and financial incentives including bonuses and non financial incentives such as regular coffee and cake meetings. The researchers Mumford and Gustafson (1998) suggest that there are a number of conditions that should be made available in the workplace in order to effectively support the principles of innovation and creativity and that one of these should include meaningful rewards.
One of the key components to sustaining innovation is by continuing to gain competitive advantage. (Clegg, 1999:61) The company's rate of expansion has resulted in a take-over and diversification of scientific research and delivery, involving humans as well as animals. As part of an entrepreneurial consortium it has succeeded in growing its staff numbers considerably, increasing its turnover by millions and branching out into even greater areas of innovative development. The level of internal practices and processes have evolved to such an extent that they will enable employees to continue to generate new ideas and create cultures of change and innovation into the future. (Dawson and Andriopoulos, 2009:10)
How important was the appointment of the new CE to the process?
Creating the right climate is integral to embedding creativity and innovation. By creating a working atmosphere that provides an outlet for creative can generate tremendous opportunities for developing innovative challenges (Isaksen, 2007:3)
And this is what the new CE advocated. Just as the researchers Kouzes and Posner determined, there are five main principals typical amongst the objectives for leaders of innovation and creativity:
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
Challenging the process
Inspiring a shared vision
Enabling others to act
Modelling the way
Encouraging the heart
(Kouzes & Posner, 1987).
The CE has essentially achieved all of these by attempting to gain the best from his staff and differentiate the company itself based on changing the overall culture of the business. He has proved inspirational by exacting very considerable changes to the working ethos and achieving substantial results from doing this. Typically the leadership patterns that correlate best with this example are the authentic and transformational models. Authentic leaders are able to influence attitude and behaviours by instilling trust, hope, positivism and optimism. The leader engages the hearts and minds of their staff, in order to persuade them of the greater good that their work can achieve. There are many similarities between transformational and authentic management styles, with the transformational model demonstrating qualities that are assertive as well as analytical by way of understanding cross-technological and cultural external environmental factors. (Hellriegel and Slocum, 2007:245) This is evident in the CE's capabilities of recognising scientific value, alongside business acumen. His background in Engineering and Business administration is again testament to this skill.
The CE emphasises his intentions to lead in a style designed to 'animate and facilitate'. This assumes that he favours the facilitation of communication and suggests his awareness of the need to guide staff, rather than dictate and oppress. The word animate is indicative of aspiring to enthuse staff through motivational and interactive processes that are more emotionally based. These are all characteristic of participative leadership, where senior staff shares the decision-making with group members and work side by side to contribute to the organizational objectives. (DuBrin, 2009:113) Without these qualities it is unlikely that the existing situation that company A found themselves in would lead to much future progression. Above all the CE has a commitment to knowledge sharing, which is beneficial both to internal staff development and motivation, but also to remain informed about competition amongst similar markets. Such methods have been proven to improve productivity and decision quality of participating organisations. (Gottschalk, 2007:61)
Why is effective communication so important to changing organisational culture?
What are the techniques used by Company A to promote internal and external communication. How do the informal reinforce formal techniques?
Effective communication is fundamental to achieving success; it can affect the quality of the exchange of information which can in turn impact negatively on working relationships and performance. Essentially communication serves four different functions; control, motivation, emotional expression and information. Silverthorne, (2005:217)
Company A uses a range of both formal and informal methods to ensure that the levels of communication are in particular generating motivation and sharing information; internally and externally for the business. Most notably a Business Intelligence Group, a Creativity Club and an Innovation Club help actively contribute towards knowledge sharing and problem solving across different types of group discussion forums. The clubs are also non hierarchal with volunteer staff attending the Creativity Club and the Innovation Club offering mandatory membership for all workers. These can be viewed simply as extensions to traditional networking practices as well as continuing to build the culture of the organisation into one where staff think they are needed and accepted, where their opinions will be taken seriously and implemented where possible.
In particular The Business Intelligence Group had a specific remit to research external projects and potential, which ultimately led to the company expansion.
Email communication has also played a significant role by encouraging clarification of ideas with the introduction of the 'Uncle Bernard' tool.
Internal and external communication are merged through the use of a shared database, where improvement on the ideas of others; both inside and outside the organization, more commonly termed 'creative swiping' (Hodgetts and Hegar, 2007:555) are considered and discussed in more detail and rated in terms of their practicality.
The CE encourages the reading of business books amongst all staff so that they may be inspired by new ideas, which are then shared in a group situation by way of a company book club. Ford's multiple social domains model emphasises the importance of creative action being the product of motivation, knowledge and ability of staff to share information across various channels. (Neck, 2006:331) which is consistent with the objectives of company A.
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Informal meetings that challenge peoples inhibitions by introducing activities designed to act in a non-conforming way, to break down some of the barriers which often inhibit scientists, has also been fundamental to this strategy. Formal communication, as exemplified by the rigidly timetabled one hour 'creative charter' facilitated within the Creativity Club meetings are attended by the Board of Directors. These help attain some of the main objectives for the organisation
Economic success has been achieved for the company in part through the application of all their communication strategies, both formal and informal which is demonstrable of its overall success. Just as the formal communication elements rationalise the main business operations, the business-related and personal information that yields additional information relating to external company rumour, can help achieve benchmarking objectives by way of comparison. (Krizan et al, 2007:7)
Why is it important to replace senior managers who block change?
The CEO and the top team in an organisation are in position to manage the overall strategic changes, alongside the daily ongoing business. Team building is often used in organisations to improve this level of management so that they are in a position to set the standards and influence the rest of the staff accordingly. (Fogg, 1999:31)
With the constant development of globalisation, many companies now need senior managers in place that can meet the challenges of aspects of change associated with globalisation such as devaluation and advances in technology. This also requires a degree of risk taking and re-invention. (Hayden et al, 2007:445)
It is impetrative for senior managers to present a vision with which to empower their staff, which will help to embed motivation and confidence amongst personnel.
Similarly by sharing information in an open organisational culture for people to relay problems and potential ideas and opportunities, this acts to minimise bureaucracy and maximise personal commitment and empowerment. (Cleland, 1996:45)
Managers who continue to manage in an autocratic and bureaucratic way that allows no room for creativity or innovation can promote low-morale amongst staff, whilst risking a crisis of business management that is unable to meet the fluctuating needs of the modern markets.