reativity’ means generating new ideas. In business, however, the novelty of ideas is not enough: they need to be practical. ‘Innovation’ is bringing ideas into practice. It emerges from technological and non-technological knowledge, and impacts on all realms of business. Innovation is ‘creativity in business’. There is no innovation without creativity.
Leveraging creativity and innovation is at the heart of a robust economic growth and competitiveness. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), ‘around 85 per cent of productivity gains are related to investments in innovation. Innovation is now as important as infrastructure, skills and markets’. In light of the current economic sluggishness, companies must resist the pressure to cut back on innovation spending, WEF warns, as it is critical to the future growth.
The surge of innovation coincides with the fundamental changes in traditional manufacturing and consumption models. These changes are fuelled by the economic factors such as:
•The rate of new technological inventions. In the 21st century, this will be 1,000 times more than in the 20th century, says inventor Ray Kurzweil;
•Demand for customised products and services. With the old manufacturing and trade models outmoded, companies continuously adapt to satisfy consumers with better products, quality and prices;
•And, globalisation, flat-world economy and sustainability of the environment.
Profits are the goal of innovation. New services, operation models, processes, markets and marketing methods, all impact on shareholder value.
The essence of creativity in business is to bring change, whether radical or gradual. Radical innovations, those that transform the way we live, lead to a long-term competitive edge; gradual modifications drive short-term sales. Companies should choose the innovation that suits them best. If a company is on a tight budget, gradual approach is more fitting, although radical change can be the way to go when resources are short. If a company needs to solve a recurring problem, a radical approach ought to be considered. If the problem surfaces late in a project, a smaller modification might be more productive. Not all change is innovation, though; change for the sake of change should be avoided.
Creativity in business always has consumers in mind. Successful companies understand their customers’ ‘unmet needs’, often better than customers themselves. As Steve Jobs noted, ‘customers can’t want what they can’t imagine’. Innovation, however, should not be confused with traditional market research, which is primarily concerned with improving products that are already established.
While creativity is a natural human activity, in the context of business, it needs to be planned and managed. Yet, companies are often at a loss about the innovation know-how. According to leading business surveys, more than 50 per cent of chief executives are only ‘moderately successful’ at planning and managing innovation, and 40 per cent ‘are not good’ at it. Most innovation efforts fail, disengaging employees and costing money. Learning the innovation management mechanisms is key to companies reconciling innovation with management and making the process more timely and dependable, less risky and unpredictable.
As well as managing mechanisms, creativity in business demands creative leaders, workforce and corporate culture and the right government policies. Creative workforce is the number one organisational practice of successful innovation. Companies need to learn how to recruit, train and retain creative employees. Creative corporate culture - the work environment that encourages employees’ new ideas - is the prerequisite for innovation. Government policies that strengthen education for creativity and institutional research ensure effective and sustainable innovation.
Alla Tkachuk is the Founder of MASK School for Creativity and Innovation, [email protected]
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