This module is about creating a competitive advantage in the market place by utilizing the creativity of individuals and teams and by utilizing that creativity to innovate new products and services.
As a member of an organizations' management, you are part of a team that is entrusted with an organization's continuing success. In this competitive world, copying what others do is not enough. Organizations must innovate in order to create new processes and develop their own marketplace niches. Organizations must find new ways to utilize technology, to develop creativity, and to encourage full partnerships with their work force.
As a manager, you can add value to your organization by fostering innovation and creativity and by managing change.
There are three topics in this module:
The assignment for this module will comprise 10 per cent of your total course mark. By the end of this module, you will have completed the following activities.
Complete and check off the following Module 5 activities:
Activity 1: Enhancing Creativity in an Organization
Activity 2: Creative Planning
Activity 3: Managing Change
Module 5 Assignment: Creativity, Change and Innovation
At the end of this module, you will be able to:
Analyze the role of creativity in organizations.
Assess the importance of managing positively in a changing environment.
Explain the use of creative planning techniques for corporate innovation and growth.
Most people do not associate working within an organization with creativity. Yet, without creative thinkers, we would not enjoy such luxuries as light bulbs, laptops, and “sticky notes”. Creative inspiration is what provides corporations with a competitive edge in a global economy. In this topic we will look at developing and fostering creativeness within an organization. First we will examine the Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving Model. Then will we look at approaches to thinking (divergent and convergent) as a means to develop creativity and a competitive advantage.
Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving Model
In his article "Add Creativity to Your Decision Processes", G. D. Hughes (2003) argues that organizations must be innovative because: larger profit margins cannot be obtained through downsizing and re-engineering and competition in industry is greater than ever before. New products with short lifespans are introduced so rapidly that other organizations cannot copy them and remain competitive. His solution is for organizations to change their focus from imitating and controlling to innovating.
Hughes recommends that organizations move away from internal competition and constant measurement to fluid, changing, and growing environments. He proposes that organizations use the Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving Model to stimulate creativity that is both imaginative and practical (Hughes, 2003).
Divergent Approaches to Thinking
In Module 2, we looked at the process of decision making and at decision-making styles. Convergent thinking is often involved in problem solving. Convergent thinking involves narrowing down choices and bringing information together. It is the decision-making stage. Convergent thinking is especially useful for solving problems that have a single answer.
In your Module 2 reading, you looked at Mintzberg's three major approaches to decision making: thinking first, seeing first, and doing first. In the article, "Decision Making: It's Not What You Think", Mintzberg and Westley described various approaches to divergent thinking.
Divergent thinking opens up possibilities. It involves novel ideas and solutions. The goal is to generate as many different ideas about a topic as possible. Divergent thinking opens up creativity in individuals and in teams.
In their article "Improving the creativity of organizational work groups", Leigh Thompson and Leo Brajkovich (2003) look at divergent versus convergent thinking. The authors describe four key shortcomings of teamwork and ten techniques that have been proven to enhance creativity in teamwork.
Activity 1: Enhancing Creativity in an Organization
In this activity you will explore ideas about enhancing creativity in organizations in order to increase innovation and strengthen work practices.
Add Creativity to Your Decision Processes
Competition, accelerated technological development, diminishing returns from present methods, and a shift to creating wealth through knowledge require a new organization that is innovative. This article shows how the Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving (CPS) Model can be integrated into decision-making processes, encouraging value-added creativity.
Innovation is the spark that makes good companies great. It's not just invention but a style of corporate behavior comfortable with new ideas and risk…. Companies that know how to innovate don't necessarily throw money into R&D. Instead they cultivate a new style of corporate behavior that's comfortable with new ideas, change, risk, and even failure, according to "America's Most Admired Companies," Fortune, March 3, 1997.
Why is Innovation Needed in an Organization?
Joseph V. Anderson has defined creativity as "…nothing more than going beyond the current boundaries, whether those are boundaries of technology, knowledge, current practices, social norms, or beliefs. Creativity is nothing more than seeing and acting on new relationships, thereby bringing them to life."( n1) While there are many definitions of innovation, it is defined here very simply: using creativity to add value. Value can be economic, social, psychological, or aesthetic.
There are many economic and technical forces that are driving an organization to be innovative. First, margins can no longer he sustained by downsizing and reengineering. Either all of the excessive costs have been squeezed out or reengineering and downsizing have not worked. Second, competition is fierce, coming from global sources and companies outside the industry.
New products and processes are necessary to compete. Third, product life cycles can be shorter than the time required to develop a new product. If there is a competitive product on the market, speeding up the process to get a "me too" product to market is not a profitable strategy because the market window will close before the "me too" product is ready.
The solution is to innovate one or two life cycles ahead, creating a product that the market will be moving into, thereby beating competition and earning a substantial margin. Fourth, continuous improvement will reach a point of diminishing returns. At some point an entirely new platform or category is needed. Motorola seemed to have made this mistake by improving analog cellular phones after the market had shifted to digital technology.( n2)
After studying 17 companies that grew shareholder return by 35% or more per year, Gary Hamel concluded that their secret is strategic innovation that either defined new industries, such as the digital industry, or redefined existing industries, as Home Depot did to the home improvement industry. He suggests, "We have reached the end of incrementalism in the quest to create new wealth. Quality, cost, time-to-market, process improvement-these are important, but we are hitting the point of diminishing returns."( n3) He notes further that, "Opportunities for innovative strategy don't emerge from sterile analysis and number crunching--they emerge from novel experiences that can create opportunities for novel insights."( n4)
Finally, there is a paradigm shift in what adds value. Material is becoming less important in creating wealth. The high-growth electronics industry is based on silicon chips, which are sand with great quantities of knowledge added. Reengineering is the efficient use of existing knowledge, while innovation is the creation of new knowledge.
Can the results from using creativity processes be measured? Firestien, Sheppard, and Vehar reported the case of a Canadian chemical manufacturing facility with 120 employees. Facilitators were trained in a five-day program and everyone else received creative problem-solving (CPS) training in a two-day program. CPS methods were applied to the problem of a production line that was making only 28 tons of material per hour, instead of the rated 35 tons. In a few days production was increased to 35 tons per hour. Output finally moved to 40 tons per hour. Since the product sold for $300 per ton, this amounted to an increased revenue of $3,600 per hour.( n5)
A small hand tool manufacturer was facing competition from cheaper products. A CPS consultant trained the staff in innovative thinking. The CEO formed four competing teams. Two focused on product costs and two focused on innovative product ideas. The outcome was a 52% cut in product costs and new tools with a value of over a million dollars. Thus, creativity can produce measurable results.( n6)
Is creativity a personality trait that is available to only a few? No. Research has shown everyone has some creativity, but it has been stifled by Freud's thinking that artistry and creativity are associated with mental illness and the scientific emphasis on materialism and analytical thinking. Partridge notes that there are "…120 different, special, and measurable aspects of creative thinking which particularly distinguish humans from other species. These wide-ranging creative faculties have been, and continue to be, critical to mankind's ability to adapt to changing situations, environments, and systems… Extensive studies of creative thinking have firmly established that individuals exhibiting higher than average scores in creative thinking also exhibit higher than average scores in areas of mental/emotional health. Systematic courses of instruction in applied imagination produce significant gains in personality traits such as confidence, self-reliance, persuasiveness, initiative, and leadership."( n7) The challenge is to create an environment that will bring out the creativity of everyone and make those who have demonstrated creativity even more creative.
The 3M Corporation philosophy shows how creativity can be encouraged. David Windorski is a new product development specialist with the Stationery and Office Supplies Division of 3M. His management placed his idea for a Post-it™ Easel Roll on a very, low priority, so he used the "3M 15% Rule," which allows employees to spend 15% of their time on projects of their own choosing. He used the CPS process, plastic sewer pipes, and boards from the lumberyard to prototype his idea. The product is now on the market. It received an award from the Society of Plastics Engineers for innovative manufacturing and an award from the International Frankfurt Trade Fair for "exceptionally innovative, technological, functional qualities and superlative design."( n8)
Teresa Amabile's research has confirmed what Nobel scientists have observed: Highly innovative individuals are driven by an inner curiosity, a need to know. It is intrinsic motivation that drives them. It is not work because they love what they are doing. Extrinsic motivators must be chosen carefully to recognize creative ideas, clearly define goals, and provide constructive feedback. Extrinsic motivators to control behavior can be detrimental to creativity.( n9) Alfie Kohn has noted that rewards can be punishing, especially to those who did not get the prize. They feel like losers.( n10)
The social environment can affect intrinsic motivation. Amabile and colleagues developed a reliable and valid 78-item instrument to learn how the work environment of highly creative projects differed from those of less creative ones. Their research identified six factors of environmental stimulants to creativity, (freedom, positive challenge, supervisory encouragement, work group supports, organizational encouragement, and sufficient resources) and two environmental obstacles to creativity (organizational impediments and excessive workload pressure).( n11) To create an innovative environment, the executive will need to examine the employees' perception office state of these eight factors.
The Synectics Corporation, a consulting firm, had more than 700 responses to its survey of senior managers in more than 150 of the largest and best-known companies. The survey revealed that companies failed at innovation because the executives competed, rather than cooperated; cross-functional teams did not work; meetings did not produce innovative results; there were no formal innovation programs or techniques; and they were unwilling to consider fresh perspectives.( n12)
Much of the blame for a lack of creativity, and therefore innovation, can be traced to our traditional educational systems. Most of the practice of creative methods is done outside the traditional educational institutions by consulting firms and by persons in companies who have been trained in creative problem-solving methods.
In universities not much has changed since 1950, when the distinguished psychologist J. P. Guilford in his inaugural address as president of the American Psychological Association stated that education's neglect of the subject of creativity was appalling.( n13) Some business schools have introduced creativity into their curricula and research centers, but it has not been the widespread trend that is needed to supply companies with innovative leaders.
Scott G. Isaksen and Sidney J. Parnes summarized the literature on education and concluded that while creative learning has been supported by Plato, Montaigne, Milton, Franklin, Rousseau, Jefferson, Newman, Spencer, Dewey, and Whitehead, most of today's classroom activities are the result of curriculum developers preparing students for citizenship, which tends to mean employment that will make the economy efficient.( n14) Such training does not create independent learning free of a teacher or prepare the individual for solving problems that could not be expected while the student was in school. Adding to this sequence of events is the fact that textbooks are at least three years out of date when they are published and that Everett Roger's( n15) study of the adoption or innovation found that educational systems were the slowest adopters of innovation (25 years). Thus, we see that educational institutions need a strong dose of creative problem solving.
The childhood of Stanley Mason, an inventor and holder of many patents, demonstrates the negative impact of some educational systems. He was locked in the principal's office in the third grade because he would not color within the lines. But in an art class outside of school he learned the importance of visualizing and his work in a library exposed him to diverse ideas. Until the ninth grade he received poor grades because of his daydreaming and his lack of focus on assignments. After a ninth-grade math teacher recognized how he liked to think, he turned into an honor student.( n16) One can only wonder how many inventors have never discovered themselves because an educational system would not let them "color outside the lines."( n17)
The development of creative skills needs to be part of our educational processes, according to Alison G. Strickland and Louis T. Coulson, who argue that education today focuses on transferring knowledge that will soon be out of date, whereas creativity will never be out of date.
The Old Organizational Model Inhibits Creativity
A creative environment requires mote than providing intrinsic rewards. It requires rethinking organizational designs. Margaret J. Wheatley notes, "At the end of the 20th century, our 17th-century organizations are crumbling. We have prided ourselves, in all these centuries since Newton and Descartes, on the triumphs of reason, on the absence of magic. Yet we, like the best magicians of old, have been hooked on prediction. For three centuries, we've been planning, predicting, analyzing the world. We've held onto the intense belief in cause and effect. We've raised planning to the highest of priestcrafts and imbued numbers with absolute power. We look to numbers to describe our economic health, our productivity, our physical wellbeing. We've developed graphs and charts and maps to take us into the future, revering them as ancient mariners did their chart books. Without them, we'd be lost, adrift among the dragons. We have been, after all, no more than sorcerers, the master magicians of the late 20th century."( n18)
We have made organizations fit Newtonian mechanical models by putting responsibilities into functions and people into roles with boundaries and a secure sense of control.( n19) When we studied organizations, we thought we confirmed these models because we used research designs that assumed cause and effect relationships. We assumed also that these relationships move toward equilibrium, when, in fact, they move away from equilibrium as they learn and renew in response to an ever-changing environment, Explanations and predictions of organizational behavior were weak, but until recently the basic model was rarely questioned. We added more variables and more powerful analytical methods. We were making the same mistake as the astronomers who built more complex prediction models when their model with the Earth in the center could not predict the location of heavenly bodies. When they changed their model and put the sun in the center, the models became simpler and predicted better.
Ralph D. Stacey challenges the present organizational model when he notes that stability, harmony, predictability, discipline, and consensus, which are central to most Western management practices, are all wrong. Instead of equilibrium, he argues, we need bounded instability, which is the framework in which nature innovates.( n20)
The Newtonian model of the world is characterized by materialism, reductionism, determinism, predictability, equilibrium, and control. Moving away from this model to quantum theory radically changes our understanding of organizational behavior. The new model will be very discomforting because we must abandon most control systems and the predictability of deductive processes.
When we accept that organizations are fluid, chaotic, and subject to unseen fields of energy, present concepts of leadership must change. Gone is the hierarchical model with the person at the top controlling everyone by holding all information. No one person possesses all of the knowledge or skills to control a fluid, rapidly evolving system. Leading gives way to facilitating relationships in a system where knowledge and skills are networked.
Leadership in the new organization consists of facilitating shared values. This facilitatorship must take place in an environment that has relationships that freely share ownership, information, and ideas. Facilitation and sharing are basic to creative problem solving (CPS) processes, which is why CPS is needed to transform an organization into a continuously innovative one.
The Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving Process
In 1941, Alex Osborn wondered why some people in his advertising agency, Batten, Barton, Durston, and Osborn, were more creative than others.( n21) His study of the process used by creative people broke the 2,000-year-old assumption that only a unique few can produce creative ideas. He originated the widely used process of brainstorming. In 1954 he established the Creative Education Foundation.
Sidney J. Parnes, a professor at Buffalo State College, NY, collaborated with Alex Osborn to develop what is known today as the Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving Model. It consists of the following six steps: identify the goal, wish, or challenge; gather data; clarify the problem; generate ideas; select and strengthen solutions; and plan for action.( n22) These steps are shown in the center of the circle in Figure I. The activities in the first part of each step are designed to stimulate divergent thinking, hence the diverge symbol (<). The concluding part of each step converges (>) this thinking For transition to the next step. Some people may find it more comfortable to think of divergent and convergent thinking as imaginative and practical thinking.( n23)
The goal of the divergent phase is to make as many connections as possible, using methods that provide a stimulating environment to expand one's vision. The convergent phase distills and translates these connections into practical ideas that can be taken to the next step. The final convergence is a practical, actionable plan that will be accepted and implemented by stakeholders. Each step makes extensive use of the Socratic inquiry method by asking questions to facilitate idea generation.
Samples of questions that are used by facilitators appear outside the circle. This is the basic tool for transforming a team into an innovating one. We focus here on the Osborn-Parnes model for stimulating creativity because it is the oldest, the most widely used, in a continuous state of evolution, and the author's study of many subsequent models has yet to find one that does not have its roots in the Osborne-Parnes model.
Many executives are presently using pieces of this model, but they may be missing important steps. For example, many strategy sessions begin with a definition of the problem, without a clear statement of the goal, wish, or challenge. Or an alternative may be selected without considering an action plan that identifies those who will support or resist some of the actions. Furthermore, one pass through these steps is rarely enough. It will be necessary to iterate around the circle to refine the plan. The convergence of one step becomes the point for diverging at the next step. Strategists sometimes focus only on divergence or convergence. For example, brainstorming (an Osborn invention) is a popular means for generating ideas, which is divergence. But without a convergence process for reducing and refining ideas there can be a lot of fun but no plan for action. Conversely, it is easy to get stuck in a convergence mode. Excessive analysis of data is an example of this trap.
Integrate Creativity Into Current Decision Processes
The CPS model should be regarded as a generic model that can be integrated into any decision process. For example, in Figure 2 the CPS steps inside the circle are linked outside the circle to the following steps for a typical business decision process, the development of a new product:
Political, governmental, educational, health care, or any other organization can match the CPS steps to its decision process. It is critical to note, therefore, that introducing creativity does not require a drastic redesign of an organization's decision process. Using the present process will speed the acceptance of creativity.
Creativity can be introduced at any point in the circle, but it is critical to continue around the circle to determine if a decision at one stage will require a re-evaluation of a decision that was skipped. At times it will be necessary to check back to a previous step and at other times it will be necessary to anticipate a stage in the next iteration, thereby jumping across the circle. For example, it will be necessary to check with the client to make certain that the ideas generated are consistent with the objective, which is a step backward in the process.
It is necessary also to think ahead. Will the solution be consistent with the facts that exist in the future? This type of question must be asked in the next iteration around the circle. Perhaps the market, technology, regulation, and competition will change in predictable ways, and these changes should be considered now. In the micro fact finding stage, the evaluation of the organization's openness to change will have an important impact on which stakeholders will support or oppose the implementation of the plan. The circle provides a picture for facilitating the flow of the creative process and for allowing participants to see where they are in the process.
Four Ironclad Rules to Facilitate Creativity
The Osborn-Parnes model stresses four critical rules that must apply to each divergent stage: withholding judgment, freewheeling, generating a quantity of ideas, and hitchhiking on the ideas of others. The reasons for these rules are supported by psychological research.
Judging, more than any other event, will shut down idea generation. The physiological reasons for this shutting down require an understanding of the functions performed by the three sections of the brain known as the triune brain.( n24) In basic terms, they are the outer layer, the neo-cortex; the middle layer, the limbic system; and the innermost layer, the brain stem. Each performs a different function. The brain stem, known as the reptilian brain, focuses on food, fight, flight, and reproduction, i.e., survival of the species. It responds
immediately to physical and psychological threats.
Judging is a psychological threat. The limbic section governs emotions and feelings. The neo-cortex controls thinking, speaking, and problem solving. Creativity occurs at this outer level. Because judging is a threat, the brain shifts from the neo-cortex, through the limbic to the brain stem to assure social-psychological survival. This shift shuts down the creative process. Because the creative solving process requires lots of creative ideas, judging during divergent activities must be avoided at all costs. Conversely, research has shown that positive feedback increases the combination of divergent stimuli in new ways.( n25)
Unfortunately our culture has taught us that large doses of judgment are prerequisites for extrinsic rewards. Professor Melvin Tumin, a Princeton sociologist, concluded that "…nothing is quite so hostile to the maximization of creativity as the competitive grading system which prevails in our schools.( n26) Furthermore, he believed that intrinsic, not extrinsic, rewards should be used. Thus, the joy of creating and learning is a reward unto itself.
A study of students showed that it rook four praises to one criticism to keep them on track and a ratio of 8-to-1 to change behavior.( n27) This same study found that teachers' most common methods for changing student behavior were pain, fear and anxiety, frustration, humiliation and embarrassment, boredom, and physical discomfort with positive comments last. If this pattern is common in classrooms, we can see why conformity, not creativity, is the outcome of our educational systems.
The process should be freewheeling to take the participants past the mental conformity blocks that they have learned in school. Freewheeling means it's all right to be off the wall. Even your craziest idea cannot be criticized because of the no judgment rule.
Hitchhiking creates ideas that combine the best ideas of everyone on the team. It can also help during implementation if all members see a piece of their idea in the final solution.
Instead of criticizing people who come up with ideas that are outside the cultural box, they should be encouraged by giving praise for wild, crazy ideas that others may turn into something very practical. For example, a company's problem was that their repair crews had to be sent out to fix telephone wires broken by ice on the lines. The creative session was started with a random word, "bear." The first idea was very crazy: train bears to climb the poles and shake the wire. Tiffs required getting honey to the top of the poles. Using a helicopter was suggested. Then the group realized that the solution was that the helicopter propellers could shake off the ice.( n28) Here is an example of how a group turned a crazy idea into a practical one by building on the idea. Criticism at the outset would have turned off the group process that led to a practical solution.
The importance of a high quantity of ideas is like mining for gold: You need to dig a lot of dirt to find a nugget. Experiments have shown that the last ideas, the ones beyond the mental blocks and into the subconscious, are the highest quality ideas.
Forcing participants to create more and more ideas in less time is a stretching process that takes them outside their comfort zone. They complain about the magnitude of the task in the imposed time constraints, but this psychological stretching helps them to be more creative in the future. It is applying the "no pain no gain" principle. If you take the group "temperature" at this point in the session you will find a lot of hostility. When it all comes together at the end of the session, the evaluations become very positive.
Create an Environment That is Comfortable With Creativity
The quotation from Fortune at the opening of this article stressed the point that innovation requires a style of organizational behavior that is comfortable with new ideas, change, risk, and failure. Creating an environment that is tolerant of mistakes is difficult. It must be made clear that mistakes are acceptable if they are based on solid thinking, enhance learning of what will not work, and are caught early before the damage is severe. There must be support for the people who were on the team of the project that failed. One company has a "wake," complete with black candles on a black cake, to shorten the grieving time and move on. Another company calls a project an experiment, thereby recognizing that experiments fail, but they provide new knowledge.
As noted earlier, our educational systems have destroyed innovative thinking styles by requiring conformity and by giving rewards based on easy measures. Innovation is very difficult co measure. To encourage innovation, we must help individuals co understand each other's preferred problem-solving style. Creative problem-solving sessions require teamwork among individuals who have different thinking styles because of their training and experiences. Effective teaming requires that each member understand his or her style and the styles of others on the team.
There are many measures of individuals' decision styles. One of the most familiar tools is the Myers-Briggs, which places individuals along the following four dimensions: extroversion-introversion, sensing-intuition, thinking-feeling, and judging-perceptive.( n28) The individual can be classified by four letters, such as INTJ or ESTJ. The behavior of persons so classified is quite different. For example, the INTJ is an innovator, uses intuition, and has an inner vision. The ESTJ is practical, realistic, and has a natural head for business or mechanics. Both can be strong-willed persons who want to dominate a team. The facilitator must bring out the strengths of each type by demonstrating that the team needs both kinds of styles.
The Kirton Adaptor-Innovator (KAI) Inventory measures preferred styles for problem solving.( 30) The adaptor prefers to be creative within the present system. The innovator wants to create new definitions of the problem and new systems. Thus, both types are creative, but their styles are different. Adaptors include bank managers, accountants, production managers, and programmers. Innovators include persons in marketing, finance, fashion buyers, and R&D managers. The relative position of persons along the scale is more important than their absolute score. Thus, two adaptors with a 20-point difference in their KAI scores would view each other differently. The higher-scoring person would view the lower-scoring person ,as an adaptor and the lower-scoring person would think of the higher-scoring person as an innovator.
The Herrmann Brain Dominance model divides the brain into four components--holistic intuitive, interpersonal feeling, sequential organized, and logical analytical. Coulson and Strickland developed a card game to help team members understand and accept the need for a team to have diversity in decision styles.( n31)
Adaptors and innovators are perceived to behave differently, to take a different approach to problem definition, to generate solutions differently, to prefer different policies, and are vital at different times in the life cycle of an organization. Adaptors are seen by innovators as predictable, safe, inflexible, and intolerant of ambiguity. Innovators are seen by adaptors as glamorous, exciting, unsound, impractical, and threatening to the system. Adaptors rend to accept the given definition of the problem, while renovators redefine it. Adaptors tend to generate fewer novel ideas, preferring to do things better, innovators rend to generate many ideas that may not seem relevant, and are generally focused on doing things differently. Adaptors prefer structured situations, while innovators do not. Adaptors are essential for ongoing functions, but have difficulty operating outside their expected role. Innovators are essential for change, but dislike ongoing organizational activities.
When there are team members with a large gap between their scores, there will be problems with communication and collaboration. This range will stimulate creative problem solving, but tolerance will be required. The bridgers, persons between the extremes, could help in such situations. A person who is alone at one extreme will try to conform to the style of the rest of the team. This coping behavior can be very stressful.( n32) Without revealing individual scores, the facilitator can emphasize how the team needs both styles.
Thomas Edison embodied all of the characteristics and risks of an innovator. He generated 3,500 handwritten journals. He was a divergent thinker, musing about cosmology, making observations about the natural world, sketching, and writing poetry. He created a diverse environment by stocking samples of metal sheets, rods, pipes, 8,000 chemicals, axed every kind of screw, needle, cord, and wire made, along with natural products such as hair, silk, and sharks' teeth. He was not afraid of failure. Before settling on carbonized cotton for the light bulb filament, he had 3,000 failures with material from bamboo to platinum.
Lessons learned in one failure led to success in another project. In addition to the light bulb, his 1,093 patents included familial" ones such as the phonograph, microphone, mimeograph, batteries, and an unfamiliar one for poured concrete. The last invention was an attempt to build a middle-class house in six hours.
His most trailblazing contribution was the invention of a scientific laboratory. He directed a dozen colleagues in as many as 40 projects at one time. He set as his goal a minor invention every 10 days and a major one every, six months. Clearly he practiced the concept that quantity will produce quality. But Edison's divergent thinking ran into industry's need for convergence. Even though General Electric was founded in part by Edison and he had worked on x-ray tubes, the company gave its manufacturing to a competitor because corporate managers viewed him as unreliable and unpredictable.( n33) Here is another example of the need for a team of divergent and convergent thinkers.
Creative leadership must facilitate positive relationships in organizations to produce profitable growth through innovation. We now know that creativity is not a personality trait that is available to a few geniuses. Everyone has unique knowledge and experiences that can be tapped, given the proper environment. This environment must be free flowing and nonjudging to rake people through the mental blocks that they learned in early childhood. These mental blocks are associated with the risk of being wrong. Many educational processes give rewards only for getting the right answer, not for experimenting with new approaches or exploring the risky unknown.
The motivation for innovating comes largely from the joy of doing something that has never been done before. It is like going on an expedition and risking everything to be the first person to climb a mountain or sail alone around the world. It taps the same drive that exists within a composer or an artist who wishes to create something for immortality, it is rewarding to be part of the base camp that supports the climber who is the first to reach the top or the ground crew that supported the winning sailor. Creativity can transform a dream or wish into a new form of retailing, a fast-food concept, a new form of government, an airplane, a light bulb, a new way to grow rice to reduce hunger, a creative approach to world peace, or it may be a dream by an individual to lead a fuller life. The Osborn-Parnes model of the creative problem solving process is scientifically sound, very practical, continuously evolving, and can be readily adapted to present decision processes for rapid adoption by teams.
But the facilitator of sessions in these environments should remind the group that the facilitator is like an expedition's guide into the unknown: There is no trail. Making the trail can be the most exciting and risky part of the expedition. Each team member must contribute knowledge and skills to the expedition, expect risks, learn from mistakes, and share in the success of having been on the team that was the first to reach the dream.
Executives who want detailed cases that prove the effectiveness of CPS may be trapped in the Newtonian mechanistic model that stresses cause and effects. Creativity, it has been noted above, is outside this model. Thus, in waiting for such proof the executive will miss opportunities. The only real proof is to try the process by mapping the decision process into the CPS steps, as in Figure 2, and then asking the questions in Figure 1. A few short sessions on a small problem led by a trained facilitator should demonstrate that the process can move an organization toward a state of continuous innovation.
The executive who applies CPS to the organization's decision processes should remember the advice of Machiavelli as noted in The Prince, "There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or mote uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things, because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm. defenders in those who may do well under the new."
Editor's note: The author acknowledges the helpful comments of Sidney J. Parnes, Edward Pringle, Louis T. Coulson, and several reviewers.
DIAGRAM: Figure 1 THE CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING CYCLE
DIAGRAM: Figure 2 ADDING CPS TO THE NEW PRODUCT DECISION PROCESS
Improving the creativity of organizational work groups
In the rapidly changing, more competitive new economy, teams need to engage in divergent thinking in which they put aside typical assumptions. However, the deck seems to be stacked against teams as the agents of creativity. Indeed, teams excel at convergent thinking, but it is individuals who excel at divergent thinking. In this article, the four key obstacles to creative teamwork are identified and described. Then, ten techniques for enhancing creative teamwork are outlined that most teams or workgroups can put into place. These techniques have all been proven effective in enhancing creativity and are extremely cost-effective.
Creativity-- how to ignite it and how to regenerate it--is a key question that managers and executives pose to management educators and consultants. Several organizational changes and developments make creativity a valuable necessity for the new economy and the organizations that inhabit it. First, flatter organizational structures require companies, divisions, and managers to act in a more entrepreneurial and inventive fashion. The absence of hierarchy and bureaucracy creates fertile opportunity for creative knowledge and action. Second, by nearly all counts, businesses are growing more competitive. Strictly speaking, this means that companies continually need to reinvent themselves. Frank and Cook's book The Winner-Take-All Society provides compelling data on how companies are becoming more competitive, resulting in "winners" who gain more and more market share.[ 1] Third, blurred lines between traditional notions of who's "inside" and who's "outside" the company allow teams to form new relationships with suppliers, complementary businesses, and shadow industries. In Co-opetition, Brandenburger and Nalebuff argue that cooperation and competition can co-exist in business relationships.[ 2] Finally, the focus on customer service is more important than ever, and the quest to satisfy and delight the customer or client requires creativity.
Just because the challenges facing a team call for creativity, however, is no guarantee that the team members will be creative. In fact, several factors that seem to foster creativity might actually thwart it.
Most people think that creative ideas are wild ideas; on the contrary, creativity is the production of novel and useful ideas. Creativity is important for innovation. If creativity pertains to ideas, then innovation pertains to the services and products that result from creative ideas. According to the famous psychologist James Guilford, creative thinking occurs when a problem solver invents a novel solution to a problem.[ 3] Creative ideas and creative acts are original and valuable. Figure 1 shows a 2 X 2 grid defining, on the horizontal continuum, creative and conservative ideas.[ 4] According to the model, teams should strive to achieve creative ideas, which represent highly original and novel ideas, as opposed to conservative, traditional ideas.
The vertical continuum is the one that is too often overlooked. It distinguishes new ideas that are realistic (connected to current ideas and knowledge) from ideas that are idealistic (disconnected from current knowledge). If new ideas are not connected to current ideas and knowledge, they are often unimplementable.
The best of all possible worlds is to get ideas in the upper left quadrant. This domain is called Creative Realism because these ideas are highly imaginative and highly connected to current structures and ideas. Conservative Realism represents ideas that are highly traditional and highly connected to current knowledge and practices. This realm contains little ambiguity and little uncertainty. Conservative Idealism is perhaps the worst type of thinking for a company: an extension of a common idea that is unrealistic to begin with. Such ideas exhibit little or no imagination and are not connected to existing knowledge. Creative Idealism represents highly original, yet highly unrealistic, ideas.
The key question is how teams can maximize the probability of landing in the upper left (Creative Realism) quadrant. The ideas that flow from this type of thinking are highly original and very useful. An excellent example of Creative Realism was Edison's development of the electric light system.[ 5] After Edison invented the incandescent light, his next project was to develop an entire system whereby the invention could be made commercially successful. At the time, there were two in-place lighting systems (neither developed by Edison): gas lights and electrical arc lights. Gas lights could be directly controlled for brightness; gas fuel was produced off-site and sent through buried gas mains. Arc lighting was produced by an electrical spark between carbon rods, was very hot, and produced fumes. The generating plant was located at the user's site. Edison's electric lighting system was based on the principles of gas lighting. Edison wrote in his workbooks that he completely imitated the gas system, replacing the gas with electricity. In Edison's electric system, the source of power was remote from the user, and the wires that brought the power were underground. Further, the individual lights were turned on and off by the user. The light bulb in Edison's system was called a burner and was designed to produce the same amount of light as a gas burner.
As we shall see, the efforts that people make to generate ideas in the Creative Realism quadrant sometimes ensure that they won't end up there. As it turns out, the route to creative, useful ideas is often indirect and non-obvious.
In my MBA and executive education courses, I challenge participants to assess their own creativity using a standard creativity measure: Guilford's cardboard-box task.[ 6] The procedure is very simple: all participants spend ten minutes writing down all of the uses that they can think of for a cardboard box. (The same can be done for a brick, etc.). I am always surprised by the variation in the number, originality, and quality of ideas within the class.
The next step is to instruct participants in how to evaluate creativity, using this very simple task as a model. To do so, I introduce Guilford's three-factor model of creativity: fluency, flexibility, and originality.[ 7] Fluency is simply a measure of how many different ideas a person is able to generate. As we will see, Alex Osborn (the father of modern brainstorming) was right: quantity often does breed quality.[ 8] The typical range that I get in my MBA and executive classes is 5- 40.
Flexibility is a measure of how many different types of ideas a person generates. For example, suppose that one person who completes this exercise, Sandy, generates three ideas: using the box for a cage as a hamster, a container for a turtle, and a kennel for a dog. Sandy would receive three points for fluency, because there are three different ideas, but only one point for flexibility, because the ideas are of the same category (i.e., homes for animals). Conversely, Pat suggests using the cardboard box as a god, a telephone (via two boxes and some string), and trading it as currency.[ 9] Pat would receive a score of three points for fluency (same as Sandy), but score three points for flexibility, because there are three separate categories of ideas-- one involving religion, another communication, and the third economics. Clearly, some of Pat's ideas do not meet the requirements for structural connectedness, but as we will see, Pat and her team are in a much better position to set the stage for creative realism than Sandy. Think of flexibility as a kind of mental gymnastics--the ability to entertain different types of ideas, all in a short amount of time. Most people, and in particular most teams, tend to get stuck in one or two types of categories of thought, a kind of cognitive arthritis. The typical range that I get in my MBA and executive classes is 4 -17 categories.
Originality is a measure of the uniqueness or originality of the idea. (This is what is meant by creativity on the conservative-creative continuum in Figure 1.) Statistically, original ideas are ideas that are generated by less than 5 percent of a given sample. Thus, in my investigations, if there are 50 executives in a given class, an originality point is given to an idea only if two or fewer people come up with that particular idea. The typical range that I get for originality scores in my MBA and executive classes is 0 -14.
There is always a striking correlation among the three measures, such that the people who get the highest scores on originality also get high scores on flexibility and fluency. Thus, there is a strong association between quantity, diversity, and novelty of ideas. According to Guilford, flexibility is the driver. This runs counter to most business notions of creativity, in which diversity of ideas is often not rewarded, quantity is not valued, and quality is viewed as the single most important goal. If flexibility is indeed the driver, how do we set the stage for it?
Convergent versus Divergent Thinking
Convergent thinking is thinking that proceeds toward or converges on a single answer. For example, consider a gambling problem: The EV, or expected value, of a 70 percent chance of earning $1,000 is obtained through a simple algorithm, such that $1000 is multiplied by .7 to obtain $700. In contrast, divergent thinking moves outwards from a problem in many directions and involves thinking without boundaries. Divergent thinking is somewhat like Janusian thinking. Janus was the Roman deity who had two faces looking in opposite directions. In this context, Janusian thinking refers to the ability to cope with conflicting ideas, paradoxes, ambiguity, and doubt. To stimulate Janusian thinking, Tom Verberne suggests asking, "What if the world turned into your worst nightmare or your nicest dream?"[ 10] Open-ended questions stimulate divergent thinking. After participants answer such questions, have them identify factors that influence the opposing scenarios. This kind of thinking can prevent people from jumping to the most obvious (and often the most expensive) solution. Verberne gives the example of hotel guests complaining to a hotel manager that they have to wait too long for the elevators. The manager refers the problem to an engineer, who suggests installing another elevator. The manager is not convinced to adopt the costly solution, so she asks a psychologist for advice. The psychologist recommends giving people something to do while they wait-- e.g., putting mirrors and a magazine rack near the elevators. The manager chooses the low-cost option, and the complaints stop. Verberne also suggests role switching, where participants ask what important opportunity or problem faces their organization, take each other's roles within the organization, and ask what's important from the perspective of their new, assumed roles.
Impossibilities can also stimulate divergent thinking. Participants think of ideas that are at present impossible to execute (e.g., living on the moon, traveling by satellite, etc.) and then identify conditions that might lead to the idea's fruition.
Many of the factors that make up creative problem solving are related to divergent thinking. Most teams do require some convergent thinking. As we shall see, however, teams tend to focus on convergent thinking at the expense of divergent thinking. Thus, one paradox for teams, when it comes to creativity, is that teams excel at convergent thinking, but individuals excel at divergent thinking. This is paradoxical because intuitively, most people strongly believe that teams are more creative than individuals, when in fact they aren't.
A large body of research in social and organizational psychology reveals that when teams are pitted against individuals, it is teams who excel at tasks requiring convergent thinking. For example, in a classic decision-making game that has a proven best answer, groups of people generate superior decisions with greater frequency than do individuals. Moreover, business and social institutions seem to know this and capitalize on it. Presumably, one reason for having a jury of 12 peers is that the resulting judgment will be more balanced and accurate than if only one person weighs the evidence.
The most difficult task for most teams is divergent thinking, often referred to as "Thinking Outside the Box." As a general observation, the ideas that groups and teams come up with are more cliche ´ d and traditional than the ideas that individuals generate when working on their own. It is as if teams act as a norming device, thereby making group members more likely to conform to one another. In several organizational situations, this is highly desirable, such as when teams want to build cohesion and identity. However, by its very definition, creativity requires diversity of thought and ideas. Marshall Fisher, a co-founder of Century 21 Real Estate, realized that most people, left to their own devices, engage in conformist, convergent thinking. The idea behind his IdeaFisher program is that alternatives need to be freed up. The IdeaFisher program uses keywords and phrases and cross-references them with other like words and phrases to put together diverse and different ideas that normally don't come together in a highly organized fashion.[ 11] Diversity also means conflict, among other things; and most teams want to avoid conflict at any cost. Conflict avoidance can actually cost a lot.
Alex Osborn, an advertising executive in the 1950s, wanted to increase the creativity of teams in organizations. He believed that one of the main blocks to organizational creativity was the premature evaluation of ideas. He was convinced that two heads were better than one when it came to generating ideas, but only if people could be trained to defer judgment of their own and others' ideas during the idea generation process. Osborn then developed the most widespread business practice used by companies to encourage creative thinking: brainstorming.
In his influential book Applied Imagination, Osborn suggested that brainstorming could considerably increase the quality and quantity of ideas produced by group members.[ 12] Osborn therefore believed that the group product could be greater than the sum of the individual parts if certain conditions were met. Hence, he developed rules to govern the conduct of brainstorming. Contrary to popular corporate lore that brainstorming sessions are wild and crazy free-for-alls where anything goes, Osborn's rules were specific: ( 1) criticism is ruled out; ( 2) freewheeling is welcome; ( 3) quantity is desired; and ( 4) combination and improvement of ideas are encouraged (see Table 1).
Osborn aptly noted that quantity is a good catalyst for quality: A team is more likely to discover a really good idea if it has a lot of ideas to choose from. But there is even more to brainstorming than mere quantity. Osborn believed that the ideas generated by one person in a team could stimulate ideas in other people in a synergistic fashion.
Many companies still use the original brainstorming rules suggested by Osborn over 40 years ago. Silicon Valley's IDEO design firm lives by these rules. Douglas Dayton of IDEO says that five rules govern every brainstorming session at IDEO: "Have one conversation at a time. Build upon the ideas of others. Defer judgment. Encourage wild ideas (not wild behavior). Stay focused on the subject."[ 13]
Osborn claimed to have (but did not provide) research evidence that a team which adopted these rules could generate twice as many ideas as similar numbers of individuals working alone. Thus, the comparison Osborn had in mind was a real group working face-to-face and a control group of sorts, known in the literature as a nominal group.
Does It Work?
This is the question organizational theorists asked about the brainstorming technique. Nearly all laboratory studies have found that group brainstorming leads to the generation of fewer ideas than comparable numbers of solitary brainstormers in both laboratory and organizational settings (i.e., nominal groups).[ 14] Thus, 40 or so years of research on brainstorming has found that brainstorming is significantly worse in terms of fostering creativity than just having the same number of individuals work independently. In fact, virtually all of the empirical investigations of group brainstorming are strongly (not just mildly) negative about its effectiveness compared to solitary brainstorming.
As a typical example, look at the statistics in Table 2, which are actual performance data of brainstorming groups and solitary groups in terms of quantity and quality of ideas. On the basis of these results, which have been replicated several hundred times with a variety of teams brainstorming about all kinds of things, the same pattern emerges again and again. According to Mullen, et al., "It appears particularly difficult to justify brainstorming techniques in terms of any performance outcomes, and the long-lived popularity of brainstorming techniques is unequivocally and substantially misguided."[ 15]
However, companies who use brainstorming don't like to hear this. Despite the empirical evidence for its ineffectiveness, group brainstorming remains popular in business and industry.[ 16]
Major Threats to Team Creativity
Four major problems stifle the effectiveness of brainstorming in teams. The basic problem is not teamwork itself, but rather the social-cognitive processes that operate in teamwork and how teams are managed. I refer to these problems as social loafing, conformity, production blocking, and downward norm setting.
Social loafing is the tendency for people in a group to slack off--i.e., not work as hard either mentally or physically in a group as they would alone. Indeed, when organizational members perceive their own contributions to be unidentifiable and dispensable, they are likely to loaf.[ 17] If loafing is extreme disinterest in a task, then "flow" is extreme involvement and interest. According to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, people who really enjoy a task often experience a state of "flow." The idea of flow is that an activity is challenging enough to be interesting and rewarding, but not so challenging that the player is threatened or inhibited. Flow is the experience of enjoying an activity so much that it becomes worth doing even though it may have no consequences beyond its own context.[ 18] Thus, the process is more important than the outcome for people in a flow state.
A basic human principle is the desire to be liked and accepted by others, particularly others in one's groups. Several theories of social behavior (e.g., social identity theory) provide compelling evidence that people seek to identify with groups and sometimes will engage in bizarre behaviors to ensure their acceptance by a group.[ 19] In brainstorming teams this means, for example, that managers may be cautious about their presentation of ideas and suggestions because they fear that others may negatively evaluate the ideas.[ 20] This, of course, will lead members to respond with "appropriate," traditional, conservative, and highly similar ideas-- exactly the kind of behavior that most organizations would like to avoid. For example, word association studies reveal that people make more conventional and cliche ´ d responses when they are in a group than when they are alone. Some companies have liberated teams by using free-association exercises. For example, at Campbell's Soup Company, a group of product developers began brainstorming by randomly selecting the word "handle" from a dictionary. Through free association, someone suggested the word "utensil." This led to "fork." One participant joked about a soup that could be eaten with a fork. The group reasoned (in a convergent fashion) that soup could not be eaten with a fork unless it was thick with vegetables and meat--and Campbell's Chunky Soups, an extraordinarily successful product line, were born.[ 21]
Conformity can occur when group members are concerned that others in the group will be critical of their suggestions, despite instructions designed to minimize such concerns.[ 22] Many social conventions in companies suggest that people should stay "on topic" and not present ideas that diverge greatly from those being discussed. This type of conformity is usually not a good idea when it comes to creative thinking.
A person working alone on a problem can enjoy an uninterrupted flow of thought. In contrast, brainstorming group members cannot speak at the same time; they have to wait for their turns to speak. Consequently, people may forget their ideas or decide during the waiting period not to present them.[ 23] Their idea production is blocked. Waiting can certainly be frustrating, especially if the meeting is not managed well. Production blocking works both ways too: It is difficult for group members to listen to and process ideas generated by other group members while they are generating their own ideas.
Downward Norm Setting
It is commonly observed that the performance of people working within a group tends to converge over time. For example, at CDW (Computer Discount Warehouse), salespeople working in the same area in the building report monthly sales figures more similar to one another than to those working in other buildings and areas.[ 24] So far, no problem. However, there is a pervasive tendency for the lowest performers in a group to pull down the average. Indeed, individuals working in brainstorming groups tend to match their performance to that of the least productive member, also known as downward norm setting.[ 25] It is most likely to occur when there are no strong internal or external incentives for high performance in teams.[ 26] This low performance level may set the benchmark for the team, in that it is seen as an appropriate or typical level of performance. For example, participants in interactive dyads or groups of four tend to be more similar in their rate of idea generation than noninteracting groups.[ 27] Unfortunately, the least productive members of the team are often more influential in determining overall team performance than the high performers.
What Goes on During a Typical Brainstorming Session?
What exactly might we expect to observe in a typical company brainstorming session? Video- and tape-recorded interactions reveal an interesting set of events. The four problems noted above combine to cause people in most brainstorming groups to:
The Faulty-Performance Illusion
Most brainstorming teams have no idea that these behaviors are occurring; most interactive brainstorming teams feel quite confident about their productivity. Thus, though the group's esteem has been soothed via the social rituals, the esteem has a faulty basis. Brainstorming groups, and the companies who use them, are their own worst enemy: They fall prey to the illusion that they function very effectively. They suffer from illusions of invulnerability, collective rationalization, belief in the morality of the group, and stereotyping of outgroups. In fact, the illusion of performance is so self-serving that people often take credit for the ideas generated by others.[ 28]
Building Team Creativity
Fortunately, teams can take actions to ward off the typical problems that brainstorming produces. The ten strategies outlined below all have a strong scientific research basis, are practical, and are reasonable in cost:
Team members that have different backgrounds, training, and perspectives are naturally going to offer different categories of thought and ways of looking at a problem compared to homogenous teams. The more heterogeneous a team is, the more likely that the team will excel in all measures of creativity. Indeed, teams in which members are diverse with regard to background and perspective outperform teams with homogeneous members on tasks requiring creative problem solving and innovation.[ 29] Teams with heterogeneous members generate more arguments, apply a greater number of strategies, detect more novel solutions, and are better at integrating multiple perspectives than teams without conflicting perspectives. For example, IDEO design firm deliberately hires people with diverse backgrounds.
A wonderful working illustration of the diverse-team concept is in place at some microbiology labs. Dunbar undertook a massive and exhaustive study of microbiology laboratories over an extended period of time.[ 30] He attended all meetings and painstakingly recorded all interactions, both formal and informal, in his search for the conditions that might generate creativity. Over time, some labs distinguished themselves in terms of having more breakthrough discoveries, as evidenced by the number of patents. These successful laboratories did not have larger staff, nor were their scientists better paid or smarter. The key difference involved diversity in training within the lab groups. Lab teams that were more heterogeneous in composition were more likely to engage in divergent thinking, learned from their failures, and freely drew from other domains to address their problems.
Analogical reasoning is the act of applying a concept or idea from a particular domain to another domain. The simplest analogy might be something like this: Green is to go as red is to stop. A much more complex analogy is Kepler's application of concepts from light to develop a theory of orbital motion of planets.[ 31] Similarly, chemist Friedrich Kekulé discovered the closed hexagonal structure of the benzene ring by imagining a snake biting its own tail. To the extent that teams can recognize when a particular known concept might be useful for solving a new problem, creativity can be enhanced. The problem is that it is not easy to transfer relevant information from one domain to another; people almost always tend to solve problems based on their surface-level similarity to other situations, rather than on their deep, or structural, similarity.
This tendency points to a serious problem with creative teamwork: People usually have the knowledge they need to solve problems, but they fail to access it because it comes from a different context. For example, when people are given the "tumor problem" (concerning how to use a ray to destroy a patient's tumor, the problem being that a ray of sufficient strength will destroy healthy tissue enroute to the tumor), an elegant (but not obvious) solution involves using a series of low-intensity rays from different angles that all converge on the tumor spot as their destination.[ 32] Only about 10 percent of people solve this problem. Gick and Holyoak asked whether performance would improve if the participants were given an analogous problem beforehand involving a general who is trying to capture a fortress but is prevented from making a frontal attack with his entire army. An elegant (and analogous) solution is to divide the army into small groups of ground troops that each approach the fortress from a different road at the same time. Even when the tumor problem was presented immediately after the fortress problem, only 41 percent of people spontaneously transferred the "first divide and then converge" solution. In the research done in our laboratory, we have demonstrated similar lack of transfer with managers and executives.[ 33] Thus, applying previously learned knowledge to new situations is surprisingly difficult for most managers. This is known as the "inert knowledge" problem.
Many companies are recognizing the boxbreaking potential of analogical reasoning as a way of using ideas that people have about other, seemingly unrelated things to solve pressing business problems. Alan Heeks, a Harvard MBA who worked at Procter & Gamble, uses an organic farm as a model for business life. Heeks goes so far as to run workshops at a 132-acre farm where analogies run rampant--participants think about harvesting for their future development, recycling, fertility, and sustainability. Heeks helps participants draw analogies between soil and a company's staff.[ 34]
The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business in downtown Harrisburg is a broad-based business association representing more than 6,500 companies in Pennsylvania that make use of the private work force. The organization chose the novel River Horse by William Least Heat-Moon as an analogy for the changes and transformation their organization is going through.[ 35] Chamber president Floyd Warner selected the book for his group to read and discuss on a regular basis.
Another use of analogy: When NASA found it necessary to design a satellite that would be tethered to a space station by a thin wire 60 miles long, designers realized that the motion of reeling in the satellite would cause it to act like a pendulum with an ever-widening arc. Stanford scientist Thomas Kane, using the analogy of a yo-yo, determined that a small electric motor on the satellite would allow it to crawl back up the tether to the space station.[ 36] As another example, a manufacturer of potato chips faced a frequently encountered problem: Potato chips took up too much shelf space when they were packed loosely, but they crumbled when packed in smaller packages. The manufacturer found a solution by using a direct analogy: Dried leaves are highly similar to potato chips. They crumble very easily and they are bulky. Pressed leaves are flat. Could potato chips be shipped flat? As it turned out, they could not. However, the team realized that leaves are not pressed when they are dry but when they are moist. So, they packed potato chips in stacks, moist enough not to crumble, but dry enough to be nearly flat. The result was Pringles™.[ 37]
Prem Kamath, head of management resources for Hindustan Lever, described how his firm uses analogies from the movie Tora! Tora! Tora! to guard itself against complacency.[ 38] And Barry Schuler, Marriott International's senior vice president of strategy and planning for information resources, has helped to technically season Marriott's executives by speaking in analogies. Schuler, a former race car driver, sold a new network with the following analogy: "Bill Marriott, Jr. (CEO and chairman of the board) owns several exotic cars. He loves talking about cars. I tell him that the infrastructure--the hardware and system software connecting the network--[is] like the road. Then I ask him, 'Why would you want a thousand roads coming to the same place, when you can have one?' I compare our applications to trucks and cars driving on the road. And Information Resources people are the pit crew."[ 39] Analogical reasoning involves the application of diverse categories to a company's present problem or challenge. Another example: The D'Arcy advertising firm often holds "kidnappings" in which employees are suddenly whisked away to museums and then asked to think about a certain artist or exhibit as an analogy to their current product or service.[ 40]
Brainwriting works like this: At various key points in time during a brainstorming session, group members will cease all talking and write down their own ideas silently.[ 41] Writing ideas instead of speaking them eliminates the problem of production blocking, since group members don't have to wait their turn to generate ideas. It may also reduce conformity, since the written format eliminates the need for public speaking and is typically more anonymous than oral brainstorming. The written ideas can be subsequently shared by the group in a round-robin fashion and summarized on a blackboard or flipchart. For example, investigations of brainstorming groups of four people revealed that brainwriting, followed by a roundrobin exchange, eliminated production blocking and social loafing as compared to standard brainwriting.[ 42] I personally have employed this technique in the executive classroom and have gotten strange reactions: Managers feel uncomfortable sitting in silence; they claim that it breaks their rhythm. But the proof is in the pudding: Brainwriting groups consistently generate more and better ideas than groups who follow their natural instincts. It is worthwhile noting that even if the facilitator does not use brainwriting per se, merely taking breaks can be almost as effective. Even if group members don't write anything down, taking brief breaks can serve a function similar to brainwriting.[ 43] The more silences and pauses that occur, the more likely it is that a divergent cycle can be created.
The nominal group technique, or NGT, is a variation of the standard brainwriting technique.[ 44] It begins with a session of brainwriting (independent writing of ideas). These ideas are subsequently shared by the group in a round-robin fashion and summarized on a blackboard. Then the group discusses the ideas for clarification and evaluation. Finally, each person rank-orders the ideas. This technique was compared with an interactive brainstorming process, and the NGT technique overwhelmingly outperformed the standard brainstorming group.[ 45] Also, nominal groups that perform in the same room generate more ideas than those in separate rooms.[ 46] One variant of the NGT is the anonymous nominal group technique. Members first write down their ideas on individual sheets of paper or note cards. The meeting facilitator (or a group member) then collects the note cards, shuffles them, and redistributes them randomly to individuals, who read the cards aloud or discuss them in small groups. This variation creates greater acceptance of others' ideas because the ideas are semi-anonymous and prevents individual members from championing only their own ideas.
Another variant of the nominal group technique is the Delphi technique. In this technique, group members do not interact in a face-to-face fashion at any point. This technique is ideally suited for groups whose members are geographically dispersed, making meetings difficult to attend, and for teams whose members experience such great conflict that it is difficult to get through a meeting. This technique requires a leader or facilitator who is trusted by team members. The entire process proceeds through questionnaires followed by feedback, which can be computerized. The leader distributes a topic or question to members and asks for responses from each team member. The leader then aggregates the responses, sends them back out to the team, and solicits feedback. This process is repeated until the issue in question is resolved.
The Delphi technique provides maximum structure, ensures equal input, and avoids production blocking; it is pretty easy to avoid coordination loss when team members never interact directly! The technique is a good alternative for teams who are physically separated but nevertheless need to make decisions. Because members respond independently, conformity pressures and evaluation apprehension are limited. One problem associated with this technique but not associated with regular or nominal brainstorming is that it can be quite time-consuming. "Sessions" can last several days, even weeks.
Among the biggest drains on group performance are the repetition of ideas and the forgetting of ideas. Groups can create an organizational memory by recording ideas in full view. Group members more often waste time by repeating ideas when ideas are not physically indexed. Recording all ideas improves brainstorming sessions greatly. For example, Buckman Laboratories Inc., a manufacturer of specialty chemicals for aqueous industrial systems based in Memphis, Tennessee, connects all of its associates worldwide with a proprietary knowledge network, K'Netix.[ 47] Also, Sun Microsystems' Java migration team created a shared-code library, which serves as a central communication hub from which they can check out whole pieces of software codes rather than recreate them every time.[ 48]
A trained facilitator can better follow the rules of brainstorming, help to create an organizational memory, and keep teams on track, in terms of making sure that downward norming does not occur. Indeed, trained facilitators can bring the level of team performance up to that of nominal groups.[ 49] Furthermore, there can be long-term benefits to this investment: Teams guided by facilitators in several sessions of productive idea generation demonstrate high levels of productivity in subsequent sessions without facilitators.[ 50] Facilitators can teach teams to share ideas without extensive social interaction or "filler" talk. At IDEO design firm, group leaders are used to facilitate all brainstorming sessions. According to IDEO managers, the key qualification of the facilitators is that they are "good with groups," not that they are experts in the particular product area.
Brainstorming groups often underperform because they don't have relevant benchmarks. Information about other members' activity levels may increase performance as long as the benchmark is not too high.[ 51] Providing brainstormers with high performance standards greatly increases the number of ideas generated.[ 52] Even when members are working independently, announcing to others how many ideas they are generating every five minutes increases the number of ideas generated by the team.[ 53] Similarly, a facilitator can periodically call the attention of brainstormers to a graph on the computer screen indicating how the team's performance compares with that of other teams. This feedback significantly enhances the number of ideas generated by the group.[ 54] Simply forewarning teams that they will see a display of all ideas at the end of the session also increases the number of unique ideas generated.[ 55] It is also helpful for members to record their own ideas after the brainstorm.
Groups do not usually remain completely intact; rather, members enter and exit most groups.[ 56] My colleague, Hoon-Seok Choi, and I have extensively examined small groups that remain perfectly intact (no turnover) versus groups that experience at least one membership change (holding the total number of group members constant). We find dramatic evidence that groups who experience membership change (i.e., an exit of an old member and the entry of a new member) generate more ideas (higher fluency) and more different kinds of ideas (higher flexibility) than do groups who remain intact.
Here is what we think happens: Groups that stay together without any change in membership develop a sort of cognitive arthritis; they get stuck in their same old ruts when it comes to idea generation. In contrast, groups that experience a change in membership are naturally exposed to more ideas due to greater member diversity in taskrelevant skills and information. Moreover, when a group experiences a membership change, old members are in a unique position to look at themselves more thoughtfully. That is, the presence of a newcomer can motivate old-timers to revisit their task strategies and develop new and improved methods for performing group tasks.[ 57] At that point, we think the group is in a better position not only to think about their working style but also to learn from others. Finally, groups that experience membership change are more task-oriented than are groups that keep the same members, due to the transitory nature of interaction among members of groups whose membership changes.
The stepladder technique is a variant of the membership-change technique. In this technique, members are added one by one to a team.[ 59] Step 1 of the technique involves the creation of a two-person subgroup (the core) that begins preliminary discussion of the group task. After a fixed time interval, another member joins the core group and presents ideas concerning the task. The three-person group then discusses the task in a preliminary manner. The process continues in steps until all members have systematically joined the core group. The complete group then arrives at a final solution. Each group member must have sufficient time to think about the problem before entering into the core group. More important, the entering members must present their preliminary solutions before hearing the core group's preliminary solutions. Self-pacing stepladder groups (which proceed through group activities at a self-determined pace) produce significantly higher quality group decisions than conventional groups.[ 60] Members with the best individual decisions exert more influence in stepladder groups than in free interaction groups.
Also known as EBS, electronic brainstorming makes use of computers to interact and exchange ideas. In a typical EBS session, members are seated around a table that contains individual computer stations. A large screen projects all ideas generated by members. Because members don't have to compete for floor time, production blocking is virtually eliminated. And because ideas are anonymously posted, conformity is virtually eliminated.
Mattel Media uses an interesting variation of electronic brainstorming in their team meetings. A self-proclaimed "technographer" records team members' new-product ideas on a laptop, the entries appearing before the group either on a 35-inch color monitor or on the wall. Bernie DeKoven, whose title at Mattel was "Doctor Fun/Staff Design," did not allow anyone to write, in an attempt to minimize production blocking (based on the belief that if you are writing, you are not thinking). Thus, the note-taker recorded everyone's ideas in front of the group. These ideas could be rated, evaluated, and eventually accepted or dumped. Furthermore, everyone left the meeting with a hard copy of the notes in hand, thus providing the organizational memory.
In addition, DeKoven kept a "boneyard"--a file of ideas that were rejected in the meeting. Some of those dismissed notions became valuable later on in the context of other projects. For example, when Andy Rifkin, senior vice president of creative development for Mattel Media, was touring with toy buyers, he got repeated requests for activity-based toys for boys. Picking through the boneyard of a year-old meeting, he found a Hot Wheels CD-ROM concept for designing and decorating cars and printing licenses and tickets. The Hot Wheels Custom Car Designer became a best-selling item in stores.[ 61]
One of the most popular approaches for stimulating creativity in the short term as well as instilling long-term passion and motivation is the creation of the work playground. There is no single recipe for the playground. The basic idea is to break with old ideas about what it means to be at work. In the playground, beige walls turn into tent-shaped fabric sails; "chat-zapping" elevators are replaced with conversation-instigating escalators; and the brainstorming areas (called "chill-out zones" at one office) are painted in funky Technicolor hues.[ 62] Most importantly, functionality guides the fun playground.
Spaces that are designed to foster creativity involve a lot of fun elements. For example, Southern California's Foote, Cone & Belding advertising agency has reinvented the traditional workspace with 156 surfboards on the walls of its boardroom, removal of all doors from offices, and the use of basketball and Italian bocce ball courts for creative brainstorming.[ 63] In St. Louis, employees at the D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles advertising agency rock climb, visit art museums, and go to the movies on company time, and executives at Aurora Foods encourage employees to write on the walls with markers and experiment with Play-Doh and Slinkies.[ 64]
Whereas there is little or no research on whether bocce ball courts increase creativity, a powerful body of research suggests that positive affect-- whether it comes from reading a funny cartoon or seeing puppies play--increases creativity.[ 65] The business of space is serious enough that some companies, like Steelcase, have pioneered the workspaces of the future. "Innovation spaces," custom designed by Steelcase, have transformed the way that British Petroleum searches for oil and the way that ultra high-end fashion designer Prada sells clothes to its customers.[ 66]
Creativity As Part of the Culture
Teams can be much more creative than they often are. Traditional management practices-- such as asking for suggestions, only one person speaking at a time, and evaluating options before exhausting them-- hurt rather than facilitate creative teamwork. The ten strategies we have reviewed can be applied to a wide range of groups, from intact, long-term, intensive work teams to ad hoc groups and meetings. Table 3 summarizes the strategies and indicates the particular threat to creativity that each addresses.
Creative teamwork is not only good for the bottom line; it can also be an intensely rewarding experience. The paradox is that most of our instincts about creativity are wrong. Tapping into ideas that are creatively realistic requires that companies support teams that do seemingly purposeless and senseless things, such as striving for quantity rather than quality (at least initially), suggesting deliberately impossible-torealize ideas, and creating havens for individual thinking. Groups and teams can click creatively, but the four threats to creativity--social loafing, conformity, production blocking, and downward norm setting-- can kill a naive attempt at creativity. The ten strategies for enhancing creativity do not carry high price tags; the main challenge will be to make them part of the creative team's culture.
Leo F. Brajkovich
In a poignant scene from the film Apollo 13, a group of NASA engineers must find a way to reduce the CO2 levels in a damaged spacecraft or three astronauts will perish. The ad hoc leader says to his ad hoc team that they must find a way to get "this" (a square filter) to fit into "this" (a round filter case), using nothing but "this" (he proceeds to dump onto a table an unwieldy mass of miscellaneous equipment and materials available on board the spacecraft).
Although not often faced with a life or death situation like the one NASA faced in 1970, businesses today are confronted with ever more technical complexities and ever shorter timelines. I have run into many of the problems Professor Thompson identifies when facilitating or training client teams, or working in groups to write proposals or develop new products and services. I've often thought that we need a way to maximize divergence at the beginning and then throw a switch to reverse the team's polarity and maximize convergence. This is tough to do in reality.
I agree wholeheartedly with the definition of creativity as "the production of novel and useful ideas." Getting from the novel to the useful is the trick. Teams in organizations help to ensure discussion of the useful, but as Professor Thompson points out, those dynamics that support the useful often impede the creative.
Professor Thompson suggests several approaches to improve team creativity, including "brainwriting" and the nominal group technique (NGT). I have found that starting the process off electronically works well in practice. In this modification of the NGT, I send an email stating the central purpose of the team, along with any relevant material, to each team member ahead of time. Each member is instructed to prepare for an upcoming brainstorm session by sending me their initial ideas via email. I then summarize all the ideas back to the group in a face-to-face meeting, where we continue the process. This usually produces good quantity, diversity, and novelty of ideas. The group is then in place to move the ideas along, usually to a few useful options that can be considered for implementation.
Finding ways like this for groups to be more creative is increasingly important to managers at all levels in an organization, as they have to do more with less, and speed and agility become increasingly important to business success. It is not only important to increase creativity but to speed it up as well. Busy people have precious few moments to "think outside the box" and must make that time count. Increasing global competition in many industries means there is simply less time for a good idea to matter. Based on my experience, the real problem is that if good ideas don't surface in the time allotted, bad ones will get through. Companies and their creative teams must make more effective use of limited time.
One area that I would liked to have seen explored more thoroughly in the article was the collaboration process and its effect on creative output. Specifically, I am thinking of collaboration between two people. In my experience, this type of collaboration is different from that of larger groups, although Professor Thompson does refer to research on dyads as well as groups regarding downward norm setting. Along with Alex Osborn, I have found that two heads are often better than one for generating ideas. The right two heads can bring substantial divergence of thought into focus through the lens of their collaboration, thereby creating a clearly defined and actionable idea. We have seen so many famous dyads (e.g., Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lennon & McCartney, Black & Scholes, and Penzias & Wilson) in every field of endeavor that I cannot help but think that making use of carefully structured teams of two represents a swift and flexible method for channeling creative effort.
Having two collaborators might avoid the enemies of creativity outlined by Professor Thompson. Few of the group-level social dynamics that inhibit creativity are manifested in dyads, while some of the convergent aspects of larger teams are preserved. Social loafing, conformity, production blocking, and even downward norming, to some extent, are less likely in a brainstorming collaboration of two people.
Professor Thompson's discussion of play and her observation that positive affect potentially increases creativity are perhaps the most intriguing aspects of this article. One implication here could be that as a creative partnership evolves and develops (and this could perhaps apply to a team as well), a bond could develop and strengthen, increasing positive affect ties, thereby enhancing the duo's creativity. One can monitor a duo's performance and, if they lose productivity, work with them or break them up.
Professor Thompson's article reveals many of the causes of diminished creativity in groups and provides simple and solid advice for how to minimize them. In practice, deciding when to use one, two, or several people to come up with a creative idea may be equally important to the creative outcome.
This article's discussion of individuals and teams reminds me of the old coach's chant, with a new twist: There is no "I" in team, but there are two in creativity.
Table 1: Rules for Brainstorming
No Criticism:Do not criticize ideas. Group members should not evaluate ideasin any way during the generation phase; all ideas should beconsidered valuable. Freewheeling Welcome:Group members should express any idea that comes to mind, no matterhow strange, weird, or fanciful. Group members are encouraged notto be constrained nor timid. They should freewheel whenever possible. Quantity Desired:Group members should generate as many ideas as possible. Groups shouldstrive for quantity, as the more ideas, the better. A high quantity ofideas increases the probability of finding excellent solutions. Combining/Improving Ideas Encouraged:Because all of the ideas belong to the group, members should try tomodify and extend the ideas suggested by other members wheneverpossible.
Source: Adapted from A. F. Osborn. 1957. Applied imagination (revised edition). New York: Scribner.
Table 2: Performance Data of Group and Solitary Brainstorming
Legend for chart:A -B - Face-to-face brainstorming groupC - The same number of people working independently (solitary brainstorming) A B CQuantity: The number of ideas generated 28 74.5Quality: Percentage of "good ideas"(judged anonymously by independent experts) 8.9% 12.7%
Source: Adapted from Diehl, M., & Stroebe, W. 1987. Productivity loss in brainstorming groups: Toward a solution of a riddle. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53: 497-509.
Table 3: How the Key Strategies Deal with the Major Threats to Creative Teamwork
Legend for chart:A - StrategyB - Threats to Creativity Social loafingC - Threats to Creativity ConformityD - Threats to Creativity Production blockingE - Threats to Creativity Downward norm setting ABCDE Diversify the team--Diverse teams less likely to have common group norms---- Analogical reasoning--Can lead teams to think about different, nontraditional ideas---- BrainwritingEspecially helpful if the individual group members are accountableMembers are not influenced by othersEveryone can be productive at the same timeIndividuals are not aware of others' performance Nominal group techniqueIndividuals feel accountableMembers are not influenced by othersEveryone can be productive at the same timeMembers less inclined to adjust performance Creating organizational memory----Group members less likely to repeat ideas-- Trained facilitatorsTrained facilitator can keep motivation highTrained facilitator can use strategies to avoid conformityTrained facilitator can use strategies to avoid production blocking-- High benchmarksClear and high goals reduce loafing----Each member will be reminded of benchmark, which serves as key goal Membership changeIndividuals may be less likely to loaf when newcomers are presentGroup norms may be more scrutinized (less conformity)--Teams have exposure to different and potentially higher benchmarks Electronic brainstorming--Removal of group pressure because of greater (perceived) anonymityVirtually completed eliminated-- Create a playgroundIf people are motivated and intrigued, they are less likely to loafNon-conformist spaces lead to non-conformist behavior----
DIAGRAM: Figure 1: Four General, Conceptual Domains into Which New Ideas Can Be Classified
PHOTO (BLACK & WHITE)
Part B: Self-Assessment
There is an old saying, “ necessity is the mother of invention.” This is certainly applicable to the survival of businesses in our current competitive global-market economy. As global trade expands, it is the creative and innovative organizations that will survive and grow. Organizations that encourage their employees to be innovative and creative will maintain a competitive edge or advantage in all aspects of their business operations.
The textbook authors define creativity as “the ability to combine ideas in a unique way or to make unusual associations among ideas” (Robbins et al., p. 386). Innovation is defined as “the process of taking creative ideas and turning them into a useful product, service, or method of operation” (Robbins et al., p. 386). Innovation is therefore about planning and implementing the idea. Although an employee or a team may come up with many new ideas each day, innovation only takes place when that idea is successfully implemented.
Everyone has the potential and ability to open their mind to new ideas and develop their creative thinking skills and abilities. In his article "Be Your Own Seer "Gary Hamel (2000) believes it is important to learn to be different and see differently. Apart from individual creativity, group or team creativity is highly significant in the work environment.
Creativity and innovation are so important for organizations today that “creativity in business” has become its own industry. For example, Doug Hall's company “Eureka Hall” has developed a successful enterprise that guarantees clients will leave his two-day training session with at least forty fully formed ideas. His client base includes: Molson, Disney, Pepsi, and Universal.
To view Doug Hall in action, using the CD supplied with your textbook, go to CBC Videos & Cases and select CBC Video Segment, Doug Hall (Case 2).
One way to promote creativity in the planning stage is to use a process known as “mind mapping,” A mind map is a graphic representation of all of the components that will contribute to solving a problem or developing a project. It is a free form method of thinking versus making a list. Mind maps can be used as a process for stimulating creativity and as memory tools (useful for exam preparation and giving presentations).
Many people find it difficult to put their fear of being embarrassed aside while they are involved in free form or creative thinking. Edward De Bono (1985) in his book Six Thinking Hats proposes a solution to overcome this reluctance. The process is also a tool for examining ideas and proposals from several viewpoints.
De Bono (1985) suggests that thinking can be defined by six coloured thinking hats:
White is neutral and objective. The white hat is concerned with objective facts and figures
Red suggests anger (seeing red), rage and emotions. The red hat gives the emotional view.
Black is gloomy and negative. The black hat covers the negative aspects-why it cannot be done.
Yellow is sunny and positive. The yellow hat is optimistic and covers hope and positive thinking.
Green is grass, vegetation and abundant, fertile growth. The green hat indicates creativity and new ideas.
Blue is cool, and it is also the colour of the sky, which is above everything else. The blue hat is concerned with control, the organization of the thinking process, and also the use of the other hats. (De Bono, pp. 31-32)
These hats allow participants to participate and share without risk of personal offence. When participants put on a hat, they can think and share without embarrassment. If you ask someone to give their emotional response to an issue, they may be reluctant and unwilling to share. However, if you ask them to put on the red hat and react from that point of view, they may be more willing to express themselves. Here is how De Bono suggests a person use the six hats approach:
The hats are referred to directly:
You may wish to consider all of the options that this method of brainstorming may offer. For example, if a problem needs to be resolved, get each person in the group to take a different coloured hat and approach the problem from that point of view. Each person shares his or her ideas from a different perspective. When you are wearing a hat you are role-playing. This allows the role-players to exaggerate the potentials and the issues. It is as DeBono says, “role-playing-an ego holiday, attention directing, convenient, a way to re-pattern the way that we act by forcing us to try different approaches, and a game that anyone can play.” (De Bono, p. 30)
Activity 2: Creative Planning
In this activity you will look at various approaches to building creativity in the planning process.
Part A: Reading
CAN’T FIND THIS
In Module 1, we discussed how important it is for managers to add value to their organization. Encouraging innovation and managing change are both ways managers can add value to what they do and what they offer to their organizations.
A manager's job would be significantly different if he/she did not have to deal with change. You could plan things once, and then if it worked out, you would never have to deviate from the plan. Life at work would be predictable.
Welcome to the real world, where constant change is a fact of life.
A manager's leadership skills are put to the test whenever a change needs to be implemented. What types of change are we talking about? There could be changes in the external environment, including legislative and legal changes, new competitors, new technology, or world events. There could be changes in the internal environment such as two departments amalgamating, a new product launch, or the introduction of a union. Any of these changes will affect how a manager makes decisions in the workplace.
Not only do managers have to deal with change itself, but they also have to contend with resistance to change. People resist change for many reasons, but commonly they do this because change brings uncertainty. Change can be seen as a threat.
There are a number of methods managers can use to overcome or reduce our tendency to resist change; additional education, clear and open communication, participation, facilitation and support, negotiation, manipulation and co-optation, and coercion.
Change is closely related to innovation. We have already discussed how in today's competitive market, it is becoming more and more necessary for organizations to be creative and innovative. This is necessary in order to maintain a competitive advantage. Applying this to management, an effective manager must learn to foster creativity and welcome innovation and the resulting changes that it brings.
Activity 3: Managing Change
Managing change and innovation is a major part of a manager's role. It is important to understand why change occurs, what part managers play in change, how resistance to change can be overcome, and how innovation can be fostered. In this activity, you will be given an opportunity to assess your own personal feelings about change.
Part A: Reading
The Rhythm of Change
Obsession with the dramatically new can blind managers to the varied, integrated nature of change and the predominance of continuity that forms its backdrop.
We are all familiar with the modern-day manager's mantra that we live in times of great and constant change. Because the world is turbulent, it is said, and the competition is hyperturbulent, managers must take seriously the job of continually initiating and adjusting to change. Change, by definition, is good. Resistance to change is bad.
Might we suggest that you turn off the hype and look out the window? Do you notice anything out there resembling all that supposed change and turbulence? We perceive our environment to be in constant flux because we only notice the things that do change. We are not as keenly aware, however, of the vast majority of things that remain unchanged -- the engine of the automobile you drive (basically the same as that used in Ford Motor Co.'s Model T), even the buttons on the shirt you wear (the same technology used by your grandparents). This, indeed, is a good thing, because prolonged and pervasive change means anarchy -- and hardly anybody wants to live with that. Sure, important changes have been taking place recently, but the truth is that stability and continuity also form the basis of our experience. In fact, change has no meaning unless it is juxtaposed against continuity. Because many things remain stable, change has to be managed with a profound appreciation of stability. Accordingly, there are times when change is sensibly resisted; for example, when an organization should simply continue to pursue a perfectly good strategy. What's needed is a framework whereby pragmatic, coherent approaches to thinking about change can be explored.
Dramatic, Systematic and Organic Change
Today's obsession with change focuses on that which is imposed dramatically from the "top." This view should be tempered, however, by the realization that effective organizational change often emerges inadvertently (organic change) or develops in a more orderly fashion (systematic change). (See "The Change Triangle.")
Dramatic change is frequently initiated in times of crisis or of great opportunity when power is concentrated and there is great slack to be leveraged (for example, in the sale of assets). It can range from rationalizing costs, restructuring the organization and repositioning strategy to reframing the organization's mind-set and revitalizing its culture. Usually, a company's leadership commands this dramatic change in the expectation of compliance by everyone else. Although this kind of initiative can be effective, it can also be misguided and engender covert resistance. For example, consider the case of Vivendi Universal. In a five-year buying spree in the late 1990s, former CEO Jean-Marie Messier borrowed heavily against Vivendi's water-utility business, acquiring numerous telecommunications, media and entertainment firms, including Seagram Co.'s Universal Studios and the Universal Music Group, in an ill-fated attempt to build a vertically integrated media conglomerate. When the stock bubble burst, Vivendi's market value plummeted, and Messier was fired. Seeing no synergistic benefit in these disparate holdings, his successor, Jean-René Foutou, is now selling off most of them.
Systematic change is slower, less ambitious, more focused, and more carefully constructed and sequenced than dramatic change. In a word, it is more orderly. Often it is promoted by staff groups and consultants who handle planning and organizational development. Over the years, many approaches to systematic change have appeared, including quality improvement, work reprogramming, benchmarking, strategic planning and so on. As the nature of these approaches suggests, systematic change draws heavily on technique and, in that sense, is change imported to the organization. But it can also be overly formalized and so stifle initiative in the organization.
Whereas dramatic change is usually driven by the formal leadership and systematic change is usually promoted by specialists, organic change tends to arise from the ranks without being formally managed. It often involves messy processes with vague labels like venturing, learning and politicking and is nurtured behind the scenes in the skunk works of big companies such as 3M Co. or Intel Corp. and in those near-legendary garage startups that spawned industry giants like Apple Computer Inc. and Dell Computer Corp.
The trouble is that the organic approach can be splintered and is itself anarchical. Groups may begin to work at cross-purposes and fight each other over resources. When informal groups indulge in experiential learning, narrowed competences can result if each focuses on promoting only what it knows best to serve its own interests.
The important thing to understand about organic change is that it is not systematically organized when it begins or dramatically consequential in its intentions, and it does not depend on managerial authority or specialized change agents. Indeed, it often proceeds as a challenge to that authority and those agents, sometimes in rather quirky ways. Yet its results can be dramatic. Clever leadership can, however, stimulate organic change by socializing the organization to prize it. Companies, such as 3M, Honda, Sony and Intel, have recognized that managerial support and network building can be the key to generating change initiatives at the grass-roots level.
In our view, neither dramatic nor systematic nor organic change works well in isolation. Dramatic change has to be balanced by order and engagement throughout the organization. Systematic approaches require leadership and, again, depend on broad engagement. And organic change, though perhaps the most natural of the three approaches, eventually must be manifested in a systematic way, supported by the leadership.
The Rhythm of Change
Throughout the years, we have acquired in-depth familiarity with many organizational change situations -- some gleaned from our experiences as consultants or when working in managerial capacities ourselves, others as part of research projects to track the strategies actually realized by companies over many decades.( n1)
Because dramatic change alone can be just drama, systematic change by itself can be deadening, and organic change without the other two can be chaotic, they must be combined or, more often, sequenced and paced over time, creating a rhythm of change. When functioning in a kind of dynamic symbiosis, dramatic change can instead provide impetus, systematic change can instill order, and organic change can generate enthusiasm.
We have seen this symbiosis arising in three main modes. Revolution is dramatic, but often comes from organic origins and later requires systematic consolidation. Reform is largely systematic, but has to stimulate the organic and can sometimes be driven by the dramatic. And rejuvenation is fundamentally organic, but usually must make use of the systematic, and its consequences can be inadvertently dramatic.( n2) In illustrating this framework, we cite older examples alongside newer ones, which helps us to make another crucial point: The problem with change is the present. That is, an obsession with the new tends to blind managers to the fact that the basic processes of change and continuity do not change. So older examples, because their consequences have settled, can be more insightful than newer ones.
We associate revolution with dramatic acts that change a society. Yet many revolutions actually begin with small organic actions --a "tea party" in Boston or the storming of the Bastille in Paris (that released only a handful of prisoners!). These acts spark the drama; then leadership arises, but only if the conditions, organically, are right. Consider the following:
"The [American] Revolution was effected before the war commenced" John Adams wrote. "The Revolution was in the hearts and minds of the people. ... This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments and affections of the people was the real American Revolution." A revolution without a prior reformation would collapse or become a totalitarian tyranny.( n3)
Think of all the totalitarian tyrannies in today's corporations -- all the dramatic change devoid of organic underpinnings and lacking systematic support. The leader acts alone, heroically it seems, and everyone else is supposed to follow. Thus we get the great mergers (Daimler-Benz and Chrysler, AOL and Time Warner, Compaq and Hewlett-Packard), the grand strategies (Jean-Marie Messier at Vivendi, L. Dennis Kozlowski at Tyco) and the dramatic downsizings ("Chainsaw Al" Dunlap at Scott Paper Co. and Sunbeam Corp.). There are, however, two forms of revolution that can work.
Driven Revolution To appreciate when leader-initiated revolution can work, consider the case of Steinberg, Inc., a major Canadian grocery chain whose strategies we tracked over 60 years. Entrepreneur Sam Steinberg propelled two major changes in 1933 and 1968, which despite their 35-year separation, were remarkably similar.
In 1933, one of the company's eight stores "struck it bad," as Steinberg phrased it, incurring "unacceptable" losses of $125 a week. He closed the store one Friday evening, converted it to self-service (a new concept for Montreal), changed its name, slashed its prices by 15-20%, printed handbills, stuffed them into neighborhood mailboxes and reopened on Monday morning. That certainly seems dramatic, but he did this in just a single store. Only when the changes proved successful did he convert the other stores -- systematically. Then, in Steinberg's words, "We grew like Topsy," at least until the mid-1960s, when the company -- then much larger with almost 200 stores -- faced fierce competition. In 1968, the company initiated large, permanent, across-the-board price reductions, coupled with a complete shift in merchandising philosophy. It eliminated specials, games and gimmicks, and reduced service and advertising, returning to what it knew best. But these changes too began in one store before being allowed to spread to the rest of the operation, with enormous success.
Fomented Revolution In their organic origins, corporate revolutions can also resemble the political ones of 18th-century America and France. For instance, organic changes helped to undermine established behaviors and induce new learning at Volkswagen AG, a company whose strategic evolution we have studied by looking back to the inception of its first automobile in 1934. In the 1960s, many middle managers at the company believed it had to move away from its reliance on the Beetle, but their consistent lobbying was to no avail. With the arrival of a new, deeply knowledgeable chief executive, however, that pent-up organic foment was catalyzed into revolution, and Volkswagen quickly began to produce more stylish, front-wheel-drive, water-cooled cars.
Such stories are, in fact, common. Organic changes infiltrate and bypass skeptical areas of the organization and, through gradual experimentation and persistent small victories, open up the system to really dramatic change.
Consolidating the Revolution Revolutions must be consolidated: They have to get beyond the dramatic to the systematic and the organic. Companies are judged on the products and services they deliver, not on the changes they make. As the experiences of British Airways Plc show, there are better and worse ways to pace the consolidation of dramatic change.
In the late 1970s, British Airways was ranked among the worst air carriers for customer service and was losing money rapidly. By 1993, however, it had become Europe's most profitable carrier and was benchmarked as a provider of world-class customer service. How did this occur? Upon his arrival in 1983, Colin Marshall, the new CEO, wasted no time in commanding dramatic change. His first two years were characterized by ambitious and rapid change: The workforce was downsized and assets were sold because of poor performance; in one 24-hour period, Marshall terminated 161 managers and executives.
Two years later, sensing that a slower, more tolerable rhythm would be appreciated, Marshall launched systematic consolidation through training programs that encouraged managers to enhance customer service. By 1985, the company opted for organic change to complement the systematic initiatives: Employees with proven interpersonal skills were asked to develop a "family" climate for customer-facing employees. In 1987, systematic and faster-paced reengineering of work processes was introduced, as BA invested heavily in information technology to build a new reservation system. Thus, BA was transformed into a profitable carrier with an enviable reputation for customer service.
In 1996, as British Airways was at its peak in profitability and customer service, Marshall stepped down and a new CEO, Bob Ayling, was appointed. Ayling anticipated higher competitive pressures in the long term and thus wanted to streamline the airline cost structure immediately. The business logic seemed to make sense, but the way he went about it backfired. Ayling suddenly announced dramatic change through major cost cutting and staff reductions on the same day when the company announced record profits. Most employees were shocked because they had not been informed, and the announcement's timing and the magnitude of sacrifices demanded of them did little to win them over. Flight attendants went on strike. BA leadership fanned the fires of dissension by declaring the strike illegal and using intimidation tactics. In subsequent years, systematic efforts to boost low morale and declining customer service were treated with cynicism by employees. Eventually, Ayling resigned, as BA once again became an unprofitable airline with dismal customer service.
Clearly, corporate revolutions are not uniformly effective, and many times something else is called for.
Reform -- by which we mean "re-forming" a social system in an orderly way -- used to be favored in politics and in business. The carefully developed Marshall Plan, the subsequent growth of the European Community (now the European Union) and the successful redevelopment of postwar Japan are outstanding examples of change driven largely by systematic efforts. These are cases where the cumulative effects of the initiatives amounted to changes as massive as those of many full-fledged revolutions.
Planned Reform In practice, systematic change must be realized organically, not only around conference tables where plans are hatched, but also in operations, where real things happen. Even strategies are not created in a formal planning process; so-called "strategic planning" is, in fact, usually strategic programming,( n4) which takes place throughout an organization in the minds and actions of creative individuals. This is the essence of planned reform. However, like a revolution that never advances beyond its drama, reform that becomes mired in procedures is equally useless. In one study of an airline, we found that an obsession with planning impeded strategic thinking. When operational planning takes precedence, everything can become too systematic.
Two variants of reform, though, are especially effective in stimulating organic change.
Educated Reform Many organizations use systematic training and development programs to breed an atmosphere conducive to organic change, most notably General Electric Co.'s Work-Out process that had been launched to encourage frontline workers to improve workplace efficiency. Another interesting example described by Richard Pascale( n5) and his coauthors is that undertaken by the United States Army. Over a grueling 14-day period, an organizational unit of 3,000 to 4,000 people goes head to head with a competitor of like size in a highly realistic simulation, including desert tank battles and aircraft support. Six hundred instructors are involved, one for each person with managerial responsibility; they shadow their trainees through the 18-hour days. The debriefing event (or "After Action Review, where hardship and insight meet") can be harassing, with officers often cowering under the intense scrutiny. But according to the commander of the exercise, it "has changed the Army dramatically. ... It has instilled a discipline of relentlessly questioning everything we do."
Energized Reform Here the emphasis of the reform is to drive organic change directly. General Electric's Six-Sigma efforts come to mind, as does kaizen (total quality management), used so successfully by Japanese companies like Toyota Motor Co.
While initially showing shades of revolution and later rejuvenation, Louis Gerstner's changes at IBM Corp. might be best described as energized reform -- steady and consistent. No great new vision or revolution emerged. The company simply returned to listening to customers and managing relationships, focusing once again on key business results, devolving more authority and accountability from staff groups to line managers and carefully reengineering work processes to reduce long-term costs.
Often, significant corporate change comes about largely, although not exclusively, as the result of organic efforts embedded deep within an organization. This corporate rejuvenation can come about in a variety of ways.
Inadvertent Rejuvenation Organizations often learn by trying new things, by engaging in all kinds of messy little experiments. The best learners are those closest to the operations and the customers. Indeed, this is probably how most of the really interesting changes in business and even society happen. Sometimes a single, seemingly peripheral or even inadvertent initiative remakes an organization. This is not revolution, although the consequences may be revolutionary.
One of our favorite examples of this sort of inadvertent rejuvenation cum revolution is Pilkington Plc, a glass manufacturer based in St. Helens, England. Years ago, one of its engineers was doing the dishes at home, so the story goes, when he got an idea for a new way to make glass, by floating it on a bath of liquid tin. After seven years of experimentation (supported by the board) and 100,000 tons of wasted glass, he had yet to prove he could make soluble glass. As each problem was solved, a new one took its place. The engineer remained optimistic and persistent, the board remained remarkably patient, and both were rewarded with eventual success. Patents were granted, and the company licensed the process worldwide. A grass-roots, production-process redesign had transformed into a successful strategy, revolutionizing the company and its industry.
Imperative Rejuvenation In one of our most intensive studies of change, a large telecommunications company under fierce global competition was losing market share and money rapidly. Seeking new ways to address customer needs and reduce costs, new leadership brought a wave of dramatic changes: a new executive team, a 25% downsizing, a wide array of consultants and all manner of big-change projects, including three restructurings in three years. (One of us closely studied 117 of these projects.) Only about one in five of the large change initiatives launched by their senior managers met with demonstrable success. At the same time, a host of smaller initiatives launched by middle management fared much better, with about four out of five producing good results. Whereas the dramatic revolutionary actions largely failed, the more organic initiatives sustained and revitalized the company well after the new leadership was gone.( n6)
Steady Rejuvenation Companies such as HP or 3M have been able to sustain their innovative capacities over long periods of time by finding a workable combination of steady organic change supported by systematic change. As Shona Brown and Kathleen Eisenhardt put it, balancing tensions between the organic and the systematic tends to keep an organization "on the edge of order and chaos" and so helps to sustain its innovative capability.( n7) Such organizations systematically invest in a wide variety of low-cost experiments to continuously probe new markets and technologies; they pace the rhythm of change to balance chaos and inertia by applying steady pressure on product-development cycles and market launches; and they maintain speed and flexibility by calibrating the size of their business units to avoid the chaos that is characteristic of too many small units and the inertia associated with most large bureaucracies. This kind of continuous innovation can be found not only in high-tech firms, but also in so-called staid academic institutions.
When, for example, one of us studied the realized strategies of McGill University between 1829 and 1980, he found neither evidence of anything faintly resembling a revolution in that century and a half nor any stage when many strategies were changing simultaneously. Although there was little deliberate overall strategic change -- especially with regard to the essential missions of the university, namely, teaching and research -- McGill was, in fact, changing all the time. Programs, courses and research projects were under constant revision and updated by the faculty. Of course, the university administration systematically facilitated the organic changes through budget allocations, facilities construction, new procedures for hiring and tenure and so on.
Although universities are unusual in many respects, they are akin to manufacturing corporations in an important way. While both organizations may tolerate occasional bursts of dramatic change, mostly they hum along, experiencing less-pervasive streams of small changes( n8)--here and there, organic and systematic -- pursuing a process that Eric Abrahamson has labeled "dynamic stability."( n9)
Driven Rejuvenation Rather than foment revolution, a leader can induce change by personal example or by recalibrating an organization's culture to encourage its people to undertake organic initiatives. Perhaps the classic example of this is Mahatma Gandhi, the ultimate organic leader. Gandhi lived and functioned far from the centers of conventional power; he never sought election and never led by edict, but through example he inspired the Indian people to rise up and take control of their destiny. He did not drive dramatic change so much as foment popular rejuvenation.
Certainly few, if any, stories from business come close to matching that degree of poignancy, but there are many business leaders who do energize people with the palpable force of their authentic acts. Take Tsutomu Murai, who in 1982 became the new CEO of the then lackluster and beleaguered Japanese beer producer Asahi Breweries, Ltd. Murai spurred the development of the innovative Asahi Super Dry product that revolutionized Japanese drinking taste and Asahi's fortunes by gently pushing a basic theme: He simply got the production and marketing people to talk to each other. Or consider Christian Blanc, the CEO whose first step toward revitalizing the Air France Group was to disclose that his compensation was 255th within the company -- after which he took an additional 15% cut. Similarly, Roger Sant and Dennis Bakke of AES Corp., a global electricity company based in Arlington, Virginia, continually encourage frontline workers to expand their expertise and autonomy -- not just by providing them with training, but also with the kind of sensitive strategic and financial information usually reserved only for senior managers. Such basic acts of conviction and faith can inspire rejuvenations tantamount to organic revolutions.( n10)
DRAMATIC CHANGE MAKES for grand stories in the popular press, first about its promises and later about its often-dramatic collapses. Unlike the phoenix of mythology, which could rise from its own ashes but once every 500 years, companies cannot continue to rely solely upon the mythical promise of dramatic reemergence. This is not to argue that companies should abandon dramatic initiatives, but rather that lasting, effective change arises from the natural, rhythmic combination of organic and systematic change with the well-placed syncopation of dramatic transformation. The world continues to move ahead in small steps, punctuated by the occasional big one -- just as it always has. It is now time to manage change with an appreciation for continuity.
DIAGRAM: The Change Triangle: The dynamic rhythm of organizational change has always been a constant: Dramatic change descends from the top (from senior management), systematic change is generated laterally and organic change emerges from the grass roots. These three forces interact dynamically, each providing the primary, but not sole, thrust for a key transformation process: Dramatic change incites revolution, which provides impetus; systematic change orchestrates reform, which instills order; and organic change nurtures rejuvenation, which spurs initiative.
Now that you have worked your way through Module 5, it is time to demonstrate your knowledge of the concepts introduced in the module, including linking the concepts to your own personal experiences.
This assignment is out of 100 marks and will count for 10% of your total course mark. The breakdown of marks is as follows:
Part A: The Open Seas Case Application
Part B: Earthbuddies and Spinmaster
Part C: Self-Profile will be counted toward your major project grade. It will comprise 16 per cent of your major project mark.
Part A: The Open Seas Case Application (60 marks)
As you learned in this module, change is inevitable. In the following real-life case, you will see how the outside environment forces a change in the values and ethics of a organization and an industry.
Read "On the Open Seas" case application on pages 389-390 of your textbook. Then answer following three questions (these questions are on page 390 of the textbook):
Part B: Earthbuddies and Spinmaster (40 marks)
Read Video Case VII-"Earthbuddies and Spinmaster" on page 391 of your text.
Watch the CBC Video Case-VII "Earthbuddies and Spinmaster" on the CD that came with your text.
Answer the following three questions (these questions are on page 391 of the textbook):
Part C: Managing in Chaos (Major Project) (8% of your major project mark)
De Bono has said that the thinking required by managers is one of the most complex kinds of thinking there is. Margaret Wheatly has said that managers have to give up control and command and allow the energy of the team members to respond and create situational specific solutions in order to constantly adapt to change.
Write a two- to three-page report (approximately 500 to 750 words) describing how you as a manager or leader would respond to ever-present change within an organization or group (business or otherwise) with which you are familiar. What kinds of thinking would you use? How would you help your organization or group adapt? (100 marks)
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