The Art of Innovation: Energy & Method

What drives innovation in organizations? Many things, including Energy and Method.

Energy denotes the personal resources we devote to our issue. Energy is a function of determination — the will to search for creative solutions — and time. Energy is highly personal. It depends upon individuals’ priorities in work and in life and varies greatly from person to person and from topic to topic. Energy is also highly social. It can be nurtured and nourished in good company and in a good climate.

Method denotes the way we creatively confront challenges. But, you may ask, is creativity not about spontaneity, intuition and flashes of genius? Can there be method in creativity? Yes, it is possible for creativity in an organization to be purposeful and systematic.

In the 1950s Alex Osborn and Sidney Parnes developed their creative problem-solving model. This involved the practice of three (sometimes more) logical, sequential stages

Problem definition— explore the issue and define it precisely

Solution finding— imagine ways of resolving the problem and evaluate them

Implementation— promote the solution and make it happen

The important insight of the Osborn-Parnes method is that each stage has two phases — divergence (creative thinking) and convergence (critical thinking), each with its own thinking norms.

Divergence calls for finding alternatives. It requires deferring judgment, ideas in quantity, power to the imagination and building on existing ideas

Convergence requires organization, judgment, evaluation and making choices.

Divergence and convergence are both crucial butcreative and critical thinking should not be practiced at the same time.

In practice most organizations are populated by people who spend significantly more time in critical thinking mode. After all our education system is heavily biased towards critical thinking and is only now beginning to value creativity.

The Osborn-Parnes method is not the only available creativity model and alternatives have been proposed by Altshuller, Hadamard, Aznar, de Bono and others. They all accept that most real-life problems do not have one solution but many possible outcomes and they all use different tools to explore possibilities and generate different points of view. And they all share the conviction that imagining new things and making them happen can confer real value to people, organizations and society.

Method makes creativity efficient. It can improve outcomes (quantity, originality and people alignment) by up to 50% over conventional discussion meeting. Method is the box that helps us get out of the box.

Based onThe Art of Innovation – Integrating Creativity in Organizations– a book by Dimis Michaelides with art by Umit Inatci and introduction by Constantinos Markides. It is available at www.theartofinnovation.net