Building an innovative business culture – a fresh perspective
What is innovation? Ask people to define innovation and you’re likely to get a diverse range of responses, new ideas, creativity, pushing the envelope, breaking new ground, developing new markets, the fruits of research and many more. The theme for many is newness, something fresh and of course that is part of the equation but it misses an essential component – risk-taking. Even a casual study of great innovators quickly begins to illustrate some of the personal characteristics that drive innovation that is, turning ideas into reality. Take Edison and his light bulb for instance it took several thousand experiments before he developed his incandescent light bulb in 1879 or John Harrison the English horologist who rose to the challenge issued by the British government in 1713 to determine longitude accurately. It was 1761 before his compensating marine chronometer on trials to Jamaica determined longitude to within 18 geographical miles, and still he had to wait until 1773 before being awarded the first prize. More recent examples are James Dyson and his dual cyclone vacuum cleaner who describes his struggle to bring life to his inventions in the book Against the Odds (1998).
These personal characteristics are essential and are described in the book The Innovation Equation (2003) by Dr Jacqueline Byrd and Paul Lockwood Brown. The Oxford English dictionary defines innovation as:
“the action of introducing new methods, ideas or products”
it involves action (the act of introducing – risk taking) and something new (new methods, ideas, products – creativity). Their thesis is that the innovation equation is a function of both and can be expressed as:
Innovation = creativity x risk taking
The research has shown that underpinning each dimension are behavioural drivers for creativity these are: ambiguity, independence, inner directedness and uniqueness and for risk-taking are: authentic, resilient and self accepting. Understanding these drivers and leveraging the behaviours can increase the capacity to innovate at the personal, team/ group and organisational level. For example learning to manage a little more ambiguity rather than crave for predictability can open up a myriad of possibilities that have previously been submerged and not accessible increasing the capacity for new or creative connections.
The combinations of these Drivers lead to profiles that can characterise their innovative capacity and will describe typical approaches to innovation and problem solving. Each profile has strengths and limitations you may have someone with high risk taking and high creativity for example indicating a high capacity for innovation but this does not mean that they will necessarily deliver best value to the organisation neither does it mean that those will lower scores have less to offer. One of the unique contributions someone with high scores on both scales (Innovator) can contribute is a virtually limitless number of ideas but one of their limitations is that they do not necessarily realise what is needed to follow through on each of their ideas. At the opposite ends of the scale with lower scores in each dimension (Sustainer) is someone who is great at doing voluminous amounts of routine work – team them up and you could have a powerful combination.
Orientations of Innovation
The eight orientations are:
- Dreamer and
The value of course is in the combinations of each of these orientations within teams and the organisation.
The Creatrix Inventory is an on-line questionnaire that enables individuals to identify their own orientation and underlying drivers. When shared with others this becomes a powerful tool that helps understanding and appreciation of the strengths each brings to the community they are in.
Uses of the Creatrix methodology and approach:
- Gaining self insight
- Personal Development Planning
- Conflict resolution
- Identifying personal drivers
- Innovation Team development
- Role negotiation/clarification
- Recognising the resources each bring to the team
- Agreeing innovation and improvement tactics
- Understanding capacity for innovation
- Cross functional team building
- Understanding the organisational capacity for innovation
- Identifying elements of culture that support or hinder innovation
- Developing a strategic approach to innovation
- Identifying collaborative approaches with customers and suppliers
- Unleashing latent potential
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(c) This article is copyright RapidBI 2006 it may be copied providing the authors are credited. Written by V Whittle adapted by M Morrison 2006