Discussion forum for members of the Massachusetts Bay Organizational Development Learning Group

Thursday, September 29, 2005

How are creativity and innovation different?

I think we're all a little guilty of buying into the interchangeability of "creativity" and "innovation." It's difficult in the mad cycle speed of business to slow things down long enough to differentiate them for our clients as OD professionals. Even if we can't accomplish that slow mo for them, we can try to keep creativity & innovation straight in our own minds for the sake of the structure and spirit of our recommendations. I subscribe to Ned Hermann's philosophy on this one point: "...creativity is a PROCESS that produces an original outcome or product, while innovation is THE CHANGE, MODIFICATION OR IMPROVEMENT of an existing product." Even if we can't agree that creativity leads to innovation, we can agree that innovation is an event and creativity is a process. Hope Ned's perspective helps.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Creative Organizations vs Creative Individuals

I love Mal's post below, but would like to respectfully disagree. Mal's question is a great one--"What can organizations do to encourage the individuals within them to be more creative?" However, I think we still get a lot of insight from thinking specifically about the original question: "How can we make organizations more creative."

What I am driving at is essentially a deeper look at Mal's point #1: "Encourage Diversity." No matter how diverse a group, its organizational structure will influence the creativity that emerges from it. That's why I want to keep the phrase "creative organization" in our vocabulary.

Taking a culinary tack, suppose our organization consists of vegetables and broth. At one extreme, we can structure this as one bowl of broth and another bowl of vegetables. That's OK but not as good as vegetable soup, which integrates the two together. But if we try too hard and integrate too much, things deteriorate into bland homogeneity and we get pureed vegetable soup. Gross, but perhaps necessary if you lose your dentures.

Organizational creativity follows the same recipe. See here for more.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

How can we make organizations more creative?

The real question is "What can organizations do to encourage the individuals within them to be more creative?" Here are a few modest suggestions:

1. Encourage diversity. Bringing in someone that the organization can actually learn from is challenging, but usually worth it.
2. Give people more responsibility than they are comfortable accepting, and then support them as they grow (by making non-fatal mistakes).
3. Develop a sense of humor, including laughing at oneself. But discourage humor that is sarcastic and critical. Consider whether everyone "in" on the joke thinks it's really funny or, conversely just feels funny.
4. Provide opportunity for anonymous input. The fear that "no good deed goes unpunished" is alive and well until people see that new ideas are really wanted.
5. Be honest about the idea, but respectful of the idea generator. If the idea sucks, say so. Honest feedback is rare, but needed. But the culture needs to celebrate the willingness to bring forth a bad idea . . . which may find life later anyway. Remember, the adhesive that eventually found its way onto Post-It notes was really not very good glue.

Enough for now. Let's see some of YOUR ideas.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Promoting Creativity and Organization

Our September 14 program meeting, presented by member Andy Porter and Kimberly Lewis, his partner at Creative Consulting Associates, was on Creativity. Our ending question was "How can we make organizations more creative.

Some other questions which were put forth in our follow-up segment were as follows:

  • What is the relationship between organizational culture and organization creativity?
  • How can we find "leverage points" of creativity in organizations?
  • What is the role of diversity in promoting organizational creativity?
  • Is creativity different from innovation?
Let's have some creative posts!