Individual versus organisational innovation

When attempting to improve creativity in business, there are two approaches which may be taken, either individually or together: INDIVIDUAL CREATIVITY and ORGANISATIONAL CREATIVITY.

Individual creativity is, of course, the creativity of the individual. Everyone has what I call a creative comfort level which is based on their natural creativity quotient, their willingness to risk new ideas and their personality. People can be trained to think more creatively and to apply creative thinking strategies to various activities. However, you cannot push someone far beyond her creative comfort level without causing stress. And stress is likely to lead to reduced creativity, unhappiness with the company and other problems.

Likewise, naturally creative people forced to work in an organisation that inhibits creativity will also become stressed. Naturally creative people have ideas all the time and like to share those ideas. Moreover, they appreciate the recognition that is showered upon a good idea. Having their ideas ignored, criticised and being told to focus on the tried and tested rather than finding new approaches will only disillusion the creative thinker and cause stress.

Organisational creativity, on the other hand, is the creative capability of an entire organisation.

One method of boosting an organisation's creativity, of course, is boosting the creativity of the individuals within the organisation. Unfortunately, this is inefficient and will not succeed at all unless aspects of the organisation's creative processes are also managed.

In order to boost organisational creativity, it is critical that the organisation create an environment that includes:

  • Trust. Employees must trust management before they will share ideas with management. Employees must not feel their jobs or their future prospects will be threatened should they propose a bad idea. Employees must feel they will be rewarded for sharing ideas with the company rather than have their ideas stolen by the company.

  • An environment that actively encourages the sharing of new ideas.

  • Good communications that ensure everyone's voice is heard, everyone can find out what is happening throughout the company and everyone can share ideas across the company.

  • An idea management structure that ensures good ideas are shared with the organisation, recognised and implemented for the organisation.

Likewise, it is important for companies to recognise who their creative thinkers are and to take advantage of them. Creative thinkers can lead – or at least participate in – creative teams that review problematic issues within the organisation and propose solutions. (I will look at creative teams in organisations in a future issue of Report 103)

Moreover, creative thinkers should participate in creative teams dealing with issues outside their divisions. Unprejudiced by the methodology of those divisions, creative thinkers will often bring very new ideas to and new approaches to the divisions.

It is also important for companies to hire management from other industries than their own. A car company hiring an executive with 20-30 years of experience in the car industry can be assured of hiring someone who knows the car industry. Unfortunately, such a manager will be bringing tried and tested car industry solutions to the company. There is nothing wrong with this. But it is not innovative.

Better to hire some managers from completely different industries. A car company hiring managers from a film production company, fashion company and service company can be assured of hiring managers with different ways of looking at issues; people who might be able to apply operational ideas from other industries to the car industry. People who will bring innovative approaches – at least from the perspective of the car industry.

And it is only by bringing such new approaches that companies can out-innovate the competition.


© 2004 Jeffrey Baumgartner



Recent Articles

Leading Diverse Teams
Filed under: Business Innovation
Diverse teams are more innovative and smarter than homogeneous ones. But, they are also harder to manager. Here are some tips. By Jeffrey Baumgartner -- Read the article...


Questions you should ask when an innovative project fails
Filed under: Business Innovation
You can learn a lot from the failure of an innovative project, but you need to ask the right questions. Here are those questions. By Jeffrey Baumgartner -- Read the article...


Unmarketing the Competition
Filed under: Business Innovation
A look at creative, but unethical dirty trick marketing campaigns designed to damage the competition By Jeffrey Baumgartner -- Read the article...


Imaginativefulness and the Fisherman
Filed under: Creativity
What does a fisherman wearing a cycling helmet have to do with imaginativefulness? Quite a lot, it seems. By Jeffrey Baumgartner -- Read the article...


Actually, Criticising Ideas Is Good for Creativity
Filed under: Creativity
People have long assumed criticising ideas in a brainstorm inhibits creativity. Research and experience shows that is wrong By Jeffrey Baumgartner -- Read the article...


Filed under: Creativity
Imaginativefulness is a state of heightened imagination in which your mind allows thoughts, memories and ideas to play with each other freely. By Jeffrey Baumgartner -- Read the article...


Why and How to Exploit Alternative Uses for Your Products
Filed under: Business Innovation
Discovering new ways customers use, misuse and could use your products can inspire innovation. Jeffrey Baumgartner explains. By Jeffrey Baumgartner -- Read the article...


The Cost of Not Innovating
Filed under: Business Innovation
If your company fails to innovate, you pay a steep price in terms of loss of leadershop, tight margins, missed opportunities and more. By Jeffrey Baumgartner -- Read the article...


Don't Trust the Status Quo
Filed under: Creativity
Jeffrey Baumgartner has never trusted the status quo. He explains why this is so and why you should also not trust the status quo By Jeffrey Baumgartner -- Read the article...


Index of all creative articles...


Return to top of page


Creative Jeffrey logo

Jeffrey Baumgartner
Bwiti bvba

Erps-Kwerps (near Leuven & Brussels) Belgium




My other web projects

My other web projects 100s of articles, videos and cartoons on creativity - possibly useful things I have learned over the years. reflections on international living and travel. - paintings, drawings, photographs and cartoons by Jeffrey