Academy blog

Creative problem-solving approach and Innovation in workplaces

Challenge: (noun) a task or situation that tests someone’s abilities.

Difficulty: (noun) 1. the state or condition of being difficult // 2. a thing that is hard to accomplish, deal with, or understand.

Creativity: (noun)  the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness.

Innovation: (noun) the action or process of innovating.

Jing Zhou, and Inga J. Hoever (2014) pointed out the following: “In the field of organizational behavior, creativity is usually defined as an outcome […] Whereas creativity focuses on idea production, innovation includes both idea production and implementation. As such, creativity is the first and crucial stage of innovation, but predictors of ideation and implementation are likely to differ.” (Research on Workplace Creativity: A Review and Redirection. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior.)

We can then state that there is no innovation without an established goal: something to be done, something to be improved, something to be achieved; nor is without an outcome that is novel, original and useful. Nowadays these are key aspects that drive growth and success for any business but, what makes organizations so innovative?

Apple, Netflix, Amazon, Spotify and SpaceX are some of the 2018 World’s Most Innovative companies listed by Fast Company in their annually well-known list. But also Novartis, Gucci, Sephora, The Washington Post, among others in food, gaming, consumer electronics, and many other industries. Technology, in most of the cases, facilitates or makes innovation possible, but sometimes we forget that it’s a tool, not a goal. These companies are fully aware of this. Amazon’s mission is  “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.”. Spotify’s is to “Give people access to all the music they want all the time – in a completely legal & accessible way.”

Nonetheless we see how sometimes others, instead of focusing on the challenge and the outcome, tend to focus on processes or tools (technologies, programming languages, frameworks, software…).

At NPAW we strongly believe that these are just resources, while it is certain that these can contribute to our purpose and facilitate the implementation of our ideas, they can still be a barrier to the development of more original ones.

Triggers for innovation and mediators have been widely analyzed on individuals and groups in both psychology and in business research. Some have pointed out personal characteristics such as Openness to experience (one of the domains used to human personality which includes fantasy, aesthetic sensitivity, attentiveness to inner feelings, preference for variety and intellectual curiosity.), others focus on the influence of a transformational leadership in creativity or the importance of the outbound ties in the communication network as well as the perceived organizational support to innovation. There is still a lot to discover in this interesting area where even job dissatisfaction can be a trigger for  creativity if specific context characteristics are met (When job dissatisfaction leads to creativity: encouraging the expression of voice (2001) Academy of management Journal).

What we have learned from our experience, from both existing research and the example of World Top Innovative companies is that doing what others do, focusing on tools -using the trendy, fashion methods and tech instead of focusing on outcomes, will only lead, if lucky, to where others have already been. Innovation starts with creativity and creativity is born when there is a purpose of creating, solving and/or improving something. At NPAW the outcome is our motive and making things different is in our DNA, driven by challenge and effort. This has been a decisive element in our solutions and we work hard to see in every problem a chance for differentiation from others. There are plenty of solutions to every challenge, it is by thinking differently and by striving towards improvement that we will find them!

Irene Camps on March 15th 2018

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