Report 103

Your newsletter on applied creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business.

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Tuesday, 4 October 2005
Issue 67

Hello and welcome to another issue of Report 103, your fortnightly newsletter on creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business.

As always, if you have news about creativity, imagination, ideas, or innovation please feel free to forward it to me for potential inclusion in Report103. Your comments and feedback are also always welcome.

Information on unsubscribing, archives, reprinting articles, etc can be found at the end of this newsletter.


I am delighted to bring you this month a couple of guest writers who have contributed articles to Report 103. This week, Wayne Morris gives us a summary of part of his masters degree thesis on Organisational Creativity. In the next issue – on 18 October, we'll have an article from another respected figure in academia.

By the way, if you would like to contribute an article to Report 103, I would like to hear from you. Please contact me with your ideas or a copy of the article if it is already written.


As part of a masters degree research project Wayne Morris surveyed a range of New Zealand organisations with the intention of identifying the factors that enable organisational creativity. These are his top ten.

More than just a buzzword, creativity is becoming acknowledged as a critical factor in organisational success. Creativity in organisations might be defined as the process by which new ideas that make innovation possible, are developed. Talk to any organisational leader and sooner or later the words ‘creativity’ and ‘innovation’ will come up. But for many, these terms are simply buzz words. Few truly know how to foster creativity and innovation in their workplace. And even fewer actually do it. My research identified the following as the top ten critical organisational creativity success factors. They are in priority order as identified by the survey respondents. The quotes are taken directly from the survey responses.

10. Appropriate reward.

“It’s money that brings me to work but it’s not money that gets the best work out of me.” Rewards do matter but they must be appropriate and that requires an understanding of what pushes each individual's buttons.

9. Clear organisational goals.

Agreed by the majority but with some interesting exceptions as expressed by this response. ““My department has done all the visioning stuff – and we have goals for everything – but the reality is that if I get excited about something I will do the work I have to do as quick as I can so I can get onto the exciting stuff. I still try to meet my goals but if I wasn’t able to do some of this other stuff it would probably drive me nuts. Isn’t most work boring?” There is a growing message that being able to act rapidly, to seize new opportunities as they emerge and to create new knowledge from previously unanticipated needs are becoming more important than staying focussed and marching in the same direction.

8. Positive staff motivation

Motivated staff are essential to having a creative organisation. Most took this as a given – no motivation – no creativity. Some described it as a cycle as expressed in the following: “If I am motivated I will be more creative but the reverse is also true. I have seen people get into upward and downward spirals and it can be catching.” Positive staff motivation enhances organisational creativity.

7. Committed leadership

“While the truly inspired and creative may break through the barriers to success, an environment that enhances organisational creativity may reap benefits from many surprising sources – the quiet, the reluctant, the plodders – not just the Einsteins. The leader's role is to remove the barriers.” Leadership that removes barriers enhances organisational creativity.

6. Personal authority to initiate change / individual empowerment

Respondents talked about how much freedom and authority they had to initiate change – some gave it to themselves, others waited for it to be given. Many spoke of the anxiety that at times accompanies empowerment. Ideally empowerment of people results in increased initiative, involvement, enthusiasm, innovation and speed but also has a cost in terms of increased anxiety and stress levels.

5. Supportive organisational structure

Described by one respondent as “an environment where problems are addressed without blaming or scapegoating” supportive organisational structure was described by others as having decentralised authority, flexibility and adaptability. The terms ‘organic versus mechanistic’ were used by some respondents with an organic structure being the preferred to enhance organisational creativity.

4. Open communication and information sharing

“For me, one of the barriers is an environment where people undermine each other, information is not shared and there is no credit given for creativity.” And from another respondent; “It’s essential to have access to information – creativity is often spurred on by hitch-hiking on new ideas that flow past the alert mind – often converting them to a new situation or application.”

Open communication of organisational changes, decisions and policies; opportunities to voice concerns, understandings and ideas; and the feeling of ‘being heard’ all enhance organisational creativity.

3. Space / resources to pursue ideas

This priority was closely linked to time but also included the physical space required to ‘trial’ new ideas and the finance to fund such a pursuit.

“I am at my creative best when I can balance the need for access to people and resources with time for me. I do my best thinking when I am jogging in the morning but then I need people to test my ideas against – and sometimes that is hard.”

An environment that was conducive to creativity was also mentioned by some with one commenting that “having appropriate music, art work and ‘creative stuff’ around gets my creative juices going but I don’t think my tastes would appeal to all. I’m not sure how you get agreement on that sort of thing.

Appropriate space and resources enhances organisational creativity.

2. Staff competence

Competence of staff was highlighted as the second most important factor in enhancing organisational creativity. When questioned further about this respondents talked about a range of issues perhaps best summarised by this comment: “If I know I can rely on my staff, that they are technically competent, then I am able to push the boundaries of their technical competence into areas of the unknown of the new – to come up with creative and innovative ideas.” A contrary view was offered by some. “Just because someone is technically competent doesn’t mean that they are capable of producing new and creative ideas. Some people are simply not competent or confident to do so”.

From the survey responses there appears to be agreement that competent staff are important to organisational creativity but disagreement over the types of competencies required.

. . . a drum roll please . . . !

The single biggest enabler to enhancing organisational creativity is . . . .

1. Time

More respondents raised the issue of time as the most important factor in enhancing organisational creativity than any other with comments such as, “Just having uninterrupted time would do it for me. It’s so rare that I make space and time in my day to just think. I know that when I do it works really well for me and I get a lot more satisfaction from my work. It remains a real challenge for me.”

This is supported by a study conducted by Teresa Amabile [1996] the results of which indicated that contrary to the belief that people often thought they were more creative under deadline pressure the opposite was, in fact, the case – people were the least creative when they were fighting the clock. It seems that time pressure stifles creativity because people can’t deeply engage with a problem. Creativity requires an incubation period; people need time to soak in a problem and let the ideas bubble up.

Organisational creativity requires time!!

The scary bit!

The people surveyed had little difficulty in identifying the factors they regarded as necessary to enhance organisational creativity but very few said that they worked in an organisation that actually implemented them.

“I personally feel ‘congested’ to the point where dreaming up something new and innovative is totally unappealing, because it will just add to an already overloaded schedule. I do recall feeling differently and have demonstrated an ability to make a silk purse out of a sows ear in the past. But I do seem to have passed over the creative climax and am trying not to slip down the other side. I suspect this sentiment is not uncommon.”

Sadly, I suspect you are right.

Let me finish this article with some quotes from my research – they are offered as thought starters.

“Uncreative people in the organisation need to be gently placed out of the way of the creatives – at all levels!”

“The environment has to be safe enough to make mistakes in – not repeatedly – but it is difficult to learn without making some mistakes.”

“Dead and boring leaders create dead and boring organisations.”

So, if creativity is important to you and your organisation take some of that precious time and get it on the agenda before you wonder why you used to be really good!!

A more detailed version of this article can be downloaded from (PDF file – 212KB)

Wayne lives in New Plymouth New Zealand and can be contacted through a web site he shares with a colleague:


Traditional knowledge management systems often use the model of Knowledgeable “Editors” who post articles to a Knowledge Base. Colleagues can then access these articles in order to benefit from the editors' knowledge. Good knowledge management systems provide tools for organising knowledge to make it readily accessible to users. The idea is that in this way, knowledge is not locked within the brains of the organisation's most knowledgeable people, rather it is available to everyone in the organisation via the Knowledge Management system.

In theory, this is great. In practice, there are two flaws with such systems:

  1. The knowledgeable editors publish the knowledge they assume will be most useful to their colleagues. However, editors sometimes assume incorrectly. For example, an editor might believe a detailed paper on project management theory would help project managers manage projects better. Project managers, on a tight schedule, might however want desperately to know how to use the company's project management software for collaborating on projects. In this scenario, an unwanted document is published to the knowledge base while desperately wanted knowledge is unavailable – until a new project manager e-mails the editor asking for it.

  2. There is often little motivation for editors - who usually have numerous other responsibilities in the firm - to take the time to post knowledge on the knowledge management system. As a result, they start putting off sharing knowledge until the system falls into disuse. This problem is very often exacerbated by lack of training and explanation of the system's use to employees in the firm.

At the same time the most effective “knowledge management” system on the Internet has long been professional discussion fora. Indeed, even before the World Wide Web came into existence, programmers, developers and scientists with access to the Internet were using the USENET (a public forum space on the Internet that has been in existence since 1979) to ask questions of their peers.

The way a discussion forum works is simple. If someone has a question, she posts it to the discussion forum. Other members can read her question and answer it. They can also build on each others' answers and even correct mistakes posted to the forum. In addition to asking questions, users can seek advice, get feedback on work and even solicit creative solutions to a problem.

Using a discussion forum in the above example, a new project manager could simply post the question: “How can I use our XYZ software to collaborate on my new engineering project?” Knowledgeable project managers can post answers. And, if the forum is well archived, those answers can easily be found in the future. As a result, knowledge is published on an as-needed bases. Moreover, recognition of one's knowledge, helping individuals and receiving thanks are all motivators for answering questions.

However, most Internet discussion fora are designed for the more anarchic world of the Internet, rather than the corporate environment. That's why we developed Xandra Q&A, a simple knowledge sharing tool based on the discussion forum model, but designed for the corporate environment.

Xandra Q&A allows users to post questions, read questions and answer questions. It allows users to add pictures to their questions as well as attach files and link to web pages.

Category management and a search engine allow users to readily find questions by category or key word. The administrator can create and edit categories and edit content on the home page.

Thanks to Xandra's simplicity, its cost is very low: just US$99/Euro79/UKP55/month for up to 500 users – and up to 1000MB of data. Moreover, you can test Xandra for the first month at no cost. If you feel that Xandra adds value to your organisation, you can continue to use Xandra at the low cost. If not, we'll close your implementation at the end of the month and you owe nothing.

For more information about Xandra, please visit

Happy thinking!

Jeffrey Baumgartner


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Report 103 is edited by Jeffrey Baumgartner and is published on the first and third Tuesday of every month.

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Jeffrey Baumgartner
Bwiti bvba

Erps-Kwerps (near Leuven & Brussels) Belgium




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