How to foster Creativity and Innovation in the Workplace

Creativity and Innovation in the Workplace

What is Creativity and Innovation? What is the difference between creativity and innovation? How it can be useful to an organization? And most importantly, which is more important for organization growth creativity or innovation? These are some question mostly come in the mind, whenever we think to implement Creativity and innovation in the workplace of an organization.

Earlier, the concept of creativity was only associated with the artists like painters, musicians, writers and similar people in artistic professions. But with the Globalization, Media, Competition in the Market and ever-increasing necessity of cultivating a unique brand personality, the need for creative thinking and innovation has been transitioned from the arts into business field. In addition, the act of producing a product and offering the services that distinguishes itself from competitors in a marketplace, a high degree of creativity and innovation is required.

What is Creativity and Innovation?

When it comes to creativity vs innovation, opinions diverge. If we relates creativity vs innovation definitions to the practically, creativity refers to the nature of creating something new, either a new concept, method of idea. In other words we can say that creativity refers to the ability to come up with new ideas or new methods, new ways to approach old problems and issues, whereas innovation Innovation is using creativity to enhance performance of a process, person, team or organization or we may define it innovation is the ability to confine these creative ideas and make them turn into reality. In other words, creative ideas are thought experiments within one person’s mind. Innovation, on the other hand, is concerned with the actual implementation of an idea. An organization can use innovation to convert its creative resources into appropriate solutions and reap a return on its investment. The figure below shows that creativity is also important alongwith other skills, which we can creative-thinking skills are one part of creativity but that expertise and motivation are also essential


Background of Innovation and Creativity in business

In today’s competitive world, few peoples can be innovative on their own and according to Chesbrough (2004) there is no sustainability in the use of merely closed in-house innovation. To keep industries growing and being productive, innovation is needed and open innovation is argued to have the ability to speed up and help the innovation process (West et al., 2006). Chesbrough (2003a) concluded that industrial development work is undergoing a paradigm shift, from a closed internal development to a more open and collaborative way of developing innovations.

In order to create an innovation, some element of creativity is involved. Creativity can be defined in various ways, and different authors have different views upon the subject. Some argue that certain individuals posses creative potential and the task is to manage their potential (Cummings and Oldham, 1997, Sternberg, 1999), while others argue that the circumstances determines who can be creative (Amabile, 1998). However, most seem to agree to that the environment is highly important for the creative process (Amabile et al., 1996, Andriopoulos, 2001, Cummings, 1965), and that many organizations have practices that do more harm than good when it comes to facilitating creativity (Amabile, 1998).

The subject of managing creativity is thus important for all organizations with the desire to stay competitive. In this reasoning, a creative organizational climate is a prerequisite for innovation. Supervisor or manger should keep promoting innovation in the workplace. Therefore, it is interesting to assess the creative climate of an innovative organization, especially in relation to the growing concept of open innovation (Gassmann et al., 2010)

Defining the Innovation & Creativity at Work

In this competitive era, Innovation and creative environment become a necessary for organization. To start innovation, we should keep in mind and that innovation is usually not a naturally-occurring phenomenon. Like a plant, it requires the proper nutrients to flourish, including effective strategies and frameworks that promote divergent levels of thinking. For example, by supporting an open exchange of ideas among employees at all levels, organizations are able to inspire personnel and maintain innovative workplaces.

Therefore supervisors must manage for the creative process and not attempt to manage the creativity itself, as creativity typically does not occur exclusively in an individual’s head but is the result of interaction with a social context where it’s codified, interpreted and assimilated into something new. A recent study shows that senior leaders see complexity as the biggest challenge they confront. Given that most enterprises are not currently equipped to cope with complexity, senior leaders see creativity as the single most important leadership competency for seeking a path through this complexity (IBM, 2010).

Set Up an Innovative and Creative at workspace 

In light of the above, organizations need innovation on all fronts, not just in new products, services, or technologies. To implement innovation, creativity is required.  As with any other system, the process of creativity requires the proper framework to operate effectively, which also enables management to evaluate the profitability of the results

As per Adam K 2006, creativity arises through the confluences of the following three components

  • Knowledge
  • Creating Thinking
  • Motivation

components-of-creativityFigure1.  Source:  Adams, K. 2006 “Sources of innovation and creativity: A summary of the research.”

To make a workplace conducive to innovation, management must consider the same components that are key to creativity in individuals i.e. knowledge, creative, motivation. Amabile 1998, explains that in an organization, it is easier to influence intrinsic motivation than to influence knowledge or creative thinking styles which are longer term pursuits. As per Amabile 1998, creativity and innovation can be implemented on the following six areas:-

  • Challenge: Match people to jobs where challenge/stretch is optimized; not os little that they feel bored but not so much they feel overwhelmed and threatened by a loss of control.
  • Freedom: Give people autonomy concerning the process, not necessarily the end. In fact, clearly specified strategic goals often enhance people’s creativity, but freedom in process enhances sense of ownership. At the same time, programs that do employees to choose their goals have also been known to enhance creativity.
  • Resources: Resources in both time and money are important. Under some circumstances time pressure can enhance creativity by increasing urgency and sense of challenge, but fake or impossibly tight deadlines create distrust and cause burnout.
  • Work-Group Features: when teams include people of varied perspectives, ideas combine and combust in interesting ways. Teams must share excitement, be team players, and recognize the value that each member brings to the table. Creating such teams requires managers to have excellent knowledge of their people.
  • Supervisory encouragement: Freely and generously recognize creative work even before the commercial impact of that work is known. In general, people react to new ideas with a criticism bias. They think about why not to use it instead of how to explore it further. This creates a climate of negativity and fear and should be consciously overcome. As highlighted by multiple researchers and theorists, an organization’s culture and attitude toward failure are key to promoting innovation. Organizations that tolerate failure and encourage risk-taking are more likely to see successful innovation.
  • Organizational support: Intrinsic motivation increases when people are aware that those around them are excited and where there’s information sharing and collaboration. Bad politics is to be avoided and gets in the way.

There are some more popular approaches to fostering innovation through creativity include:

  • Create a stimulating environment: structuring the work area by removing physical barriers between people will improve communication and promote creative interaction.
  • Reward efforts through positive psychological reinforcement. Encourage your employees to take risks, rewarding them for creative ideas and not penalizing them when they fail. In doing so, you’ll enable people to more readily take on assignments that stretch their potential (and that of your organization), discussing in advance any foreseeable risks and creating the necessary contingency plan. Encourage employees at all levels to contribute suggestions for improving current business operations.
  • Encourage change. Broadening people’s experiences can be a great way to spark ideas. Short-term job swaps can introduce a fresh perspective to job roles. Encourage people to look at how other businesses do things, even those in other sectors, and consider how they can be adapted or improved. According to the “Innovation in the MENA Workplace” poll, 69% state that their companies keep up-to-date with other organizations in their field and adopt best practices
  • Foster different points of view through outside perspectives. Innovation can often spring from a review of how your customers view and use your products and services. Soliciting their opinions can provide valuable insight into potential areas for improvement as well as areas where you’re succeeding (essential knowledge for positioning against competitors). Other perspectives might include: vendors, speakers from other industries or consumers using a competitor’s products or services.
Relationship of creativity and innovation with organizational culture

Organisational culture seems to be a critical factor in the success of any organization. Successful organizations have the capacity to absorb innovation into the organisational culture and management processes (Syrett and Lammiman, 1997; Tushman and O’Reilly, 1997). According to Tushman and O’Reilly (1997) organisational culture lies at the heart of organisation innovation.

The basic elements of organizational culture (shared values, beliefs and behaviour expected of members of an organization) influence creativity and innovation in two ways:

1. Through socialization processes in organizations, individuals learn what behaviour is acceptable and how activities should function. Norms develop and are accepted and shared by individuals. In accordance with shared norms, individuals will make assumptions about whether creative and innovative behaviour forms part of the way in which the organization operates (Chatman (1991) and Louis (1980) both cited in Tesluk et al., 1997).
2.The basic values, assumptions and beliefs become enacted in established forms of behaviours and activity and are reflected as structures, policy, practices, management practices and procedures. These structures and so on impact directly on creativity in the workplace, for example, by providing resource support to pursue the development of new ideas (Tesluk et al., 1997). In this way individuals in organizations come to perceive what is considered valuable and how they should act in the workplace.

The assumptions of personnel in the organisation on how to act and behave within the sub‐systems context, as explained above, will have an impact on the degree of creativity and innovation in the organisation (Martins, 2000).


The patterns of interaction between people, roles, technology and the external promoting creativity and innovation. environment represent a very complex environment. Under these circumstances creativity and innovation can be influenced by several variables. It appears that creativity and innovation will flourish only under the right circumstances in an organisation. The values, norms and beliefs that play a role in creativity and innovation in organisations can either support or inhibit creativity and innovation, depending on how they influence the behaviour of individuals and groups. The model designed by E.C. Martins 2003, highlights the points that play a role in promoting creativity and innovation.


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  10. MARTINS, E.C. 2000. The Influence of Organizational Culture on Creativity and Innovation in a University Library. MInf dissertation, University of South Africa, Pretoria.
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  14. WEST, J., VANHAVERBEKE, W. & CHESBROUGH, H. 2006. Open Innovation: A Research Agenda. Open Innovation: Researching a New Paradigm. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Author: Sapna, Ph.D. Scholar, Madras University, India

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