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http://www.flickr.com/photos/indieman/50552010/by Charl Goussard, NAIP Legal Research

In our previous article, we discussed the effect of overabundance, automation and outsourcing on today's businesses and how these three factors can be regarded as both initiators and obstacles in the forthcoming era in business – the Conceptual Age.

For a business to succeed, much less survive, in the Conceptual Age, its products and services must rise above these hurdles (and furthermore provide customers with a sense of meaning)--clearly not an easy task.

In their search to differentiate their products and services and ensure a place in the marketplaces of the future, businesses have tried new approaches, fresh ideas, sparks, innovation—or in short, CREATIVITY!

Defining Creativity

Businesses large and small assign a high value on the importance of novel and constructive initiatives (most often seen in the form of patents), which ostensibly flow from the "creativity" of their employees.

Now, most people have a vague understanding of "creativity", and they're probably not completely wrong—

But what exactly is this thing called "creativity"?

Turning to the academics for some elucidation, Amabile, in the Harvard Business Review (1998:4) states that creativity in individuals "is a function of three components: expertise, originality and motivation."

"Expertise" is having knowledge, which can be drawn from technical skills, process skills, and intellectual skills. Take a pilot for instance: technically, this person needs to understand the plane and the art of getting the birdie in the air. Procedurally he/she needs to comprehend the sequencing and result of all the actions needed to fly – and of course the Aviation Regulations! Lastly, it is important that the pilot has some basic intellectual capacity, after all – some calculations as to weight, fuel and speed have to be made to ensure a happy landing.

"Originality", on the other hand, relates to the flexibility and the degree of imagination that people employ when dealing with problems. This might not necessarily be a skill highly rated for pilots, but indeed one you’d need if you aspire to be a renowned architect.

"Motivation" refers to internal and external factors which move people to act. Internal factors which motivate individuals, include things such as personal goals, spirituality etc. and are difficult to influence. On the other hand, external factors, such as corporate culture, team work and leadership can more easily be used to motivate individuals and groups.

Fostering Creativity

Building a "creative" business environment in which these three components may effectively function together is a common and easily mishandled challenge for businesses. One of the major issues they face is of the working "atmosphere", and studies have shown that a working atmosphere that contributes to the fostering of creativity, has "risk taking, experimentation, freedom, and originality", as core principles (Jaskyte and Kisieliene, 2006:135).

These principles, as illustrated in the graph below, are interrelated and since all groups function uniquely, different interactions between these principles will certainly be observed in different groups. Our example of the interaction between these principles, in a R&D group tasked with creating new inventions, can be explained as follows:

To start with, freedom to invent seems to be the driving force within the group, allowing members to take more risk, to do more experimentation without fear of failure, and to come up with original ideas regardless of subsequent constraints. Originality, on the other hand, booms once freedom, risk taking and experimentation increases. An increase in experimentation leads to higher risk taking and subsequently more originality.

These interactions however, depend essentially on environmental factors such as leaders' behavior, the appropriate organizational structure, climate, culture, and human resource practices--and that's why it's so difficult.

The Creative Environment

What we've mentioned so far is all of a theoretical nature: implementing these principles into a business environment, however, is far more difficult. Indeed, if it were so easy, every second R&D department should become the next Google, Apple or Sony.

Let's take a look at a simple scenario - your average R&D department in a high-tech business:

Freedom?? Not only is the freedom to innovate usually limited to specific projects, within specific technological fields, but in addition it is limited by time and available budget. As a result, experimentation is limited to a small selection of "viable" options within these constraints. No "wasting" of recourses!!

Furthermore, most companies spend fortunes these days to determine and limit any possible risk, employing highly qualified legal counsel, meticulous auditors and stringent accountants for the job! In addition, R&D is assigned to the exclusive domain of engineers – creating an environment of like-minded individuals--a disastrous recipe for groupthink and creative crunch! But in all of their well meant efforts, it is originality that suffers... which means less quality inventions and weaker patents!

Archetypes of Creativity

Having created the right structures, leadership models, motivational environments etc., we still need to find the right PEOPLE to innovate. Another challenge...

Janis (1972) warned against the danger of "groupthink", which is a phenomenon that stifles group conflict at any cost, and consequently leaves no room for consideration of different options. Kurtzberg and Amabile (2000-2001) in view of that suggest that protecting and ensuring diversity among group members secures fruitful conflict bearing creativity.

Carefully selecting a diversity of creative archetypes may be a step in the right direction.

In this regard, Pink (2005: 2) advises that "Design. Story. Symphony. Empathy. Play. Meaning." are the creative archetypes which will be the pillars on which tomorrow's fortunes will be build. It is also these skills that will play an increasingly dominant role in future innovation and hence the filing of patents to support such innovation.

It is believed that organizations who embrace the right mix of creative archetypes, coupled with organizational structure, leadership and team development, will be able to make quantum leaps as far as product and service development is concerned. For the R&D focused industries, this will inevitably lead to leading patents and market dominance.

Next Month...

A closer look at Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play and Meaning – the 6 creative archetypes mentioned by Daniel Pink


Amabile, T.M. (1998), How to kill creativity, Harvard Business Review on Breakthrough Thinking, pp.1- 28.

Janis, I.L. (1972), Victims of Groupthink: A psychological study of foreign policy decisions and fiascoes, Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Jaskyte, K. and Kisieliene, A. (2006), Determinants of Employee Creativity: A survey of Lithuanian Non-profit Organizations, Voluntas, Vol. 17, pp. 133-141.

Kurtzberg, T.R., and Amabile, T.M. (2000-2001), From Guilford to Creative Synergy: Opening the Black Box to Team-Level Creativity, Creativity Research Journal,Vol.13, Nos. 3&4, pp. 285-294.

Pink, D.H. (2005), A Whole New Mind, New York: Penguin.


    On June 2, 2009 at 9:59 PM Anonymous said...

    thanx for another interesting article. i always enjoy reading your articles...

    it is important, as you say, that you need right structures, leadership models and motivational environments to be created for a creative environment. And then to find the right people, the right people!

    It is the 1st time that i encounter the word 'groupthink' in this sense, the human sense (we know that groupthink exists in animals). What about a follow-up article on 'groupthink' in the workplace? And explore the dangers a little more? G


    Creativity is one of the key players in a successful business. I remember one time when my friend and I just started our business. We were pretty much ready for all of the responsibilities: the accounting using Peachtree Quantum 2011, the paperwork, the ads, and all that. We had to think of a lot of original stuff that we can sell. It was pretty risky if you ask me, but it paid off really well.


    Hello, This is a great article, and I can agree with what was written here. I will be back to check out new comments soon. Thanks


    I think what constitutes creativity in business environment is not to be afraid to express ideas, thoughts and feellings, because people is not able to know what you get in my mind if you never say what is inside it.


    I think what constitutes creativity in business environment is not to be afraid to express ideas, thoughts and feellings, because people is not able to know what you get in my mind if you never say what is inside it.

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