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Creativity-Inducing Innovation Situation


Selecting people who have characteristics that seem to be related to creativity is not the only
option for organizations that seek to increase their innovativeness. Providing specific and
difficult goals and firm deadlines actually seems to stimulate creative achievement, as long as
the deadlines are far enough into the future. If the deadlines are set too short, this can create
time pressure that stifles creativity, as people begin to look for the simplest and quickest
solution rather than a more complex and creative solution.

Some firms even set goals for creativity. For instance, 3M has historically set a goal that 35
percent of its total revenues should come from new products developed in the past four years.
Of course, focusing people on coming up with innovative techniques, as opposed to cranking
out products with the existing technologies, sometimes comes at the expense of short-term
productivity. For example, one of 3M’s rules is that each employee should devote 15 percent
of his or her time to reading and learning about recent developments that have nothing to do
with the employee’s primary project.
Certain characteristics of organizational culture  may also be related to creativity.
First, the degree to which organizations recognize and reward creativity is of
paramount importance. Many organizations, either unwittingly or knowingly, place more
emphasis on following existing written rules and procedures than on experimenting with new
procedures. A culture that promotes creativity must ensure not only that innovativeness is
reinforced, but that experimentation leading to failure is not punished. Executives like James
Burke, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, attempt to create a climate where the risks of innovation
are minimal. Burke, in fact, has even told his employees, “We won’t grow unless you take
risks. Any successful company is riddled with failures. There’s just no other way to do it.”
Although they need not reward every failure, companies that seek to encourage innovation
must lower the cost of conducting a “failed experiment.” Employees need to know that risk
taking is perceived as being worth making a few mistakes—especially if the size of the mistake
is small and the damage can be contained. Indeed, although we will talk more about this in a
subsequent chapter, transformational leaders who employ emotional motivational appeals
seem to help promote innovation. This is especially the case when the leader is managing a
cross-functional team of narrow specialists who have a tendency to lose the “big picture”
perspective required for implementing new ideas.
Because much creativity comes out of collaborative efforts carried out by different indi-
viduals, organizations should promote internal diversity and work environments that enhance
the opportunity to exchange ideas. If all members of a group share the same interests,
experiences, strengths, and weaknesses, they will be less likely to generate new ideas than if
they have divergent backgrounds and capabilities. For example, Lockheed’s Skunk Works
R&D subsidiary, which is famous for making several aerospace technological breakthroughs
(such as the U-2 “Blackbird” spy planes and the F117A Stealth fighter plane), takes a team-
based approach to production. Each team is headed by a manager with wide latitude in
recruiting in-house specialists from an array of scientific and engineering backgrounds. The
teams are isolated from Lockheed’s sprawling bureaucracy but can have direct contact with
their “customer” (the U.S. Department of Defense). In a time of shrinking defense budgets,
the Skunk Works plant remains one of Lockheed’s most profitable units. It achieves this goal
only by continuously pushing the envelope of technological innovation.
Finally, because different organizations do different things in different places, exposing
people to varying kinds of experiences, such as foreign assignments, professional development
seminars, or extended leaves, may help shake up overly routine decision-making processes.
The notion that difference and variety encourage creative thinking receives some support
from the finding that organizations that emphasize external recruiting seem to be more
innovative than firms that promote from within. Mixing employees from different
geographical regions can also foster a climate of creativity.

behavior. The very existence of perceptual illusions proves that what we perceive is not always
a very close approximation of objective reality. At the attention stage of the perceptual pro-
cess, we select a small subset of all information available for subsequent processing. The
degree to which any stimulus attracts our attention is a complex function of characteristics of
the object and of ourselves. At the organization stage of the information-processing cycle,
information is simplified. We convert complex behavioral sequences into scripts and represent
people by prototypes. A number of biases, including stereotyping, can creep into this complex
In the decision-making process, we use the information from the perceptual process to
evaluate an object, person, or event. This evaluation, once made, affects our decisions,
behaviors, and subsequent perceptions. Many features of people and situations need to be
considered when trying to increase the accuracy and creativity of decision making.


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