Posted by: Katherine Raleigh
Programme Manager on Thu 28 Jul

Welcome to the first in a new series of brief interviews with expert guests from our Innovation Programmes. Summarising some of the key learning points for executives, we cover the central issues at stake, the advice emerging and insights from the latest research. This month, we discuss innovating from the bottom-up with Professor Helen Shipton, Nottingham Business School.

In July we invited Professor Helen Shipton to share her research on innovating from the bottom-up – and looked at whether we should treat ‘non-creatives’ differently from designated creative staff.

At July’s Innovation Day, we explored the importance of seeking creativity where it is not always expected. Can you summarise the key business issue leaders need to address?

My research suggests that employee creativity, especially when it is outside of formal requirements, represents an untapped resource.  Those who do not see themselves as ‘creatives’ are often hesitant to voice ideas or make suggestions for change. This represents a loss of valuable potential.

What advice would you give to executives, based on your research, on how to foster creativity from the non-creatives?

My experience is that HR practices targeting the needs and expectations of non-creatives (rather than designated creative staff) will draw out the creative potential of these employees.

This requires seven strategic steps:

  1. Have a clear vision statement (‘the organisation values creativity and innovation’)
  2. Develop HR policies – especially around recruitment, appraisal, training- to reinforce the vision
  3. Connect your line managers closely with your HR team to ensure alignment
  4. Train your employees in creative thinking
  5. Develop a culture that supports risk-taking and learning from failure
  6. Help first-line leaders to support non-creatives
  7. Design flexible jobs

How does your latest research approach this? What do the results indicate?

What I’ve found is rather compelling. The needs and expectations of creatives, versus non-creatives, are very different and need to be recognised as such.

  • Recruitment: For your creatives, you will recruit and select according to creative achievement, reward performance through financial as well as non-financial reward and encourage the development of external networks.  In selecting your non-creatives, you are looking for evidence of flexibility and adaptability and designing jobs that offer autonomy, meaning and scope for feedback.
  • Motivation: For non-creatives, creative activities are over and above operational goals; therefore, such employees require high levels of intrinsic motivation, fostered through support for risk-taking and failed efforts as well as successes.
  • Training: Coaching and knowledge exchange are powerful tools especially for your non-creatives.

What did you learn from meeting with the participants in the KnowledgeBrief Innovation Programmes?

The discussion and practical insights shared through the day led me to reflect on a number of themes:

  • How do you get your senior team on board by using language that fits the context (e.g. ‘continuous improvement’ rather than ‘creativity’)?
  • What is the optimal balance between delivering operational demands and exploring new territories?  How does this balance vary for creatives versus non-creatives?
  • Optimising creativity training requires a focus on creative strengths (problem definition, preparation, information gathering, idea generation and evaluation) – and also deep understanding of the particular problems and opportunities faced by your organisation.
  • How can we develop an HR system that recognizes individual creative achievement, and also picks up on the successful implementation of ideas at group level (i.e. achieve a balance between individual and collective achievement)?

With thanks to Helen Shipton, Professor of HR Management, Nottingham Business School.

Next month, we are inviting Professor Claudia Nagel, Hull Business School, to examine using ‘Behavioural Strategy’ to develop action points for both better decision making and better strategy implementation. For more information, please view the Innovation Day page.

First in a new series of brief interviews with expert guests from our Innovation Programmes, we cover insights from the latest research and key advice for executives to stay ahead in management and innovation.

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