Creating the Innovative Business

Nov 11, 2003
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Jordan Ayan, futurist, consultant and author of Aha! 10 Ways to Free Your Creative Spirit and Find Your Great Ideas (Crown Publishing, 1997), once told us, “The average lifetime of a new idea is about 10-seconds before a killer phrase is used to throw a no at it.”

“No new idea comes into the world fully formed,” he said. “It needs time to be polished. But, ideas are routinely rejected because someone in a group finds a flaw and therefore the idea is not fully explored. After a while, this happens often enough and people stop bringing ideas to you.”

For the last 25-plus years, the role that managers have in fostering or negating creativity and innovation within business organizations has been the work of Teresa M. Amabile, the Edsel Bryant Ford professor of business administration and head of the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School and author of works including Creativity in Context: Update to the Social Psychology of Creativity (Westview Press, 1996).

In the late nineties, writing in the Harvard Business Review, Dr, Amabile offered companies looking to stimulate innovative thinking within their ranks six steps to achieve their goal.

  1. Match workers to assignments that will challenge them but not set them up for failure.
  2. Establish goals while allowing employees to determine how to achieve them.
  3. Provide adequate resources (time, money, manpower) to get the job done.
  4. Create teams made up of individuals with diverse perspectives and backgrounds.
  5. Praise creativity and attempts to innovate on the part of employees even if it doesn’t work.
  6. Be sure that top management is engaged; supporting and participating in the process the entire way.

Moderator’s Comment: Do most retail and CPG businesses have a culture that fosters creativity and innovation? What companies excel in this area?

Dr. Amibile’s Creativity in Context is considered a breakthrough in thinking in many circles. It is generally acknowledged for being one of the first
to take a systematic look at the role other people play on an individual’s creativity. It’s not easy beach reading, but it is a serious work about improving performance on the
individual and group level. We recently read the updated version and found it well worth the time and effort.
Anderson – Moderator

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