Thursday, July 4, 2013

How To Structure and Promote Innovation

Here's a thought provoking piece from the Journal about how companies develop innovation and creative thinking in their employees.  It runs counter to the traditional model of "thinking outside the box."  In fact, the authors note that people are at their best when their creativity is channeled into making the best of a situation with limited options and outcomes.  Then a group's natural familiarity with its resources, be it a product or process, can fully come into play to solve the problem.

Of course there are techniques to this type of problem solving.  The authors list five: subtraction (removing a heretofore essential element); task unification (consolidating or combining unrelated tasks or elements); multiplication (copying an item and then altering it); division (separating and rearranging elements of a product or process); attribute dependency (make the attributes of a product change in response to changes in the environment or other attributes).  Teaching employees to think like this when analyzing workplace issues can pay big benefits in creative responses to an intractable problem.

I used to think that you couldn't train for creativity.  This article causes me to reassess my position.

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