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Knowledge Management, Creativity and Innovation

Techniques for management of innovation

 Online Course: Knowledge Management in Organizations


However we would like to define it, creativity symbolizes the production of something new, and this "something new", can be a new solution or "a solution" resulting from the reformulation of a problem.

Creativity and innovation are at the base of problem solving, and this includes strategic innovation.

Imagination, that comprises ideas that didn't exist before, or the generation of different modes to see a situation, is important to ensue creative actions. Normally, creativity is the recognition of relations between things (concepts), producing something new, giving a solution to an immediate or mediate, explicit or latent problem. Creativity is a characteristic of human intelligence and is a function of our most common abilities, like the association of ideas, memory (or remembrances), perception, analogical thinking, searching in a structured problem space and critical thinking. Or just case. Motivation and emotion are indispensable. The cultural context and come personality factors are also very important.

Creativity happens on concepts, on ideas. It can be combinatorial, integrating the attributes of known ideas; exploratory (investigative), generating new ideas from the exploration of structured concepts, or transformational, that implies the transformation of any dimension of the conceptual structure to create new structures.

Innovation

Creativity is at the base of innovation, both are complementary activities. There's no innovation without creative ideas. The organization of creative thinking (event though creativity is a personal gift), innovation, is the result of creativity in an appropriate organizational culture. And it is this business culture what stimulates and sustains, through creativity techniques, the possibility for the development of individual and group creative abilities. The techniques for the generation of creativity are implemented in the organization (business, government, college or elementary or technical school). In the modern organization, the organized practice of creativity becomes a standardized process.

If creativity must "innovate", creative thinking must take pace beyond the known limits (out-of-the-box). Curiosity must be developed, running away from conventional ideas (considered a priori as "rational") and from formal procedures, depending only of imagination, divergence, accepting the aleatory and analyzing multiple alternative solutions.

One of the fundamental points on which business intelligence relies, is precisely creative thinking. Business management, and its decisions and actions, while facing the rapidly changing and ambiguous business environment, needs to develop strategies and solutions to solve problems. It is creative thinking what permits the improvement of understanding or problematic situations, finding alternative and reserve solutions. In a "non uniformly" accelerated (inconstant acceleration) changing world, it's imperative to think in advance, because there are not many possibilities to extend the horizon of opportunities and competitive force of organizations (businesses or other).

There are methodologies to stimulate creative solutions

We are all creative even if our creativity was more evident in our childhood; the "mystery" of how and why our creativity stopped manifesting sometime in our infancy still remains.

Creativity can be learnt using tested and experimented techniques that, stimulating creative abilities, help people to leave their usual analysis style facilitating the consideration of a wider range of alternatives, improving work productivity and quality.

In the end, we can improve our creativity training ourselves in the construction of new relations between concepts or events that seemed unconnected before, and that result in new knowledge entities. Creativity is precisely about finding new relations between things. Everything is related to everything.

Knowledge and information are both at the base of creativity. Very frequently we're not aware of how much do we know or how much we can create, because of lack of motivation, time or tools to guide us in practicing creativity, every time more complex and challenging.

Scientific research has oriented towards the development of creativity as an educational process, even in business. Techniques to support creativity are software tools based on knowledge management: artificial intelligence models, idea processing, information systems, etc.) These tools are used with the aim creativity generation and promotion, breaking prefixed schemes, stimulating imagination and, depending on the method, improve the environment in which the creative idea is produced. In a company (or in any other organization) it is important to incorporate staff creativity in the organization of processes and strategies.

There are several techniques aimed at the stimulation of creativity and are applied to the most dissimilar areas: product development. strategic planning, quality control. But this comprises not only companies, but also educational organizations of every level, government agencies and structures, etc.

Analytical techniques follow a linear thinking format or step sequence, for instance W5+H2, when trying to precise a situation: { When; Where; Who; What; Why; How; How much; }; and these techniques are specially useful when a problem is very specific. The result is normally a very detailed organization of information and multiple perspectives of the same objective.

Intuitive techniques are less structured and tend to offer "the complete solution" (the ideal solution) at once, and are more useful for undefined or ill-defined problems or situations.

Some of these techniques can be more appropriate for the stimulation of creativity groups or in individuals. Individual techniques can stimulate abilities in the individual by avoiding the fear of mistake or some apprehension. At the group level, a certain discipline and organization are required. Some of these techniques can also be used either by groups or by the individual. It's true that creativity, just as learning, is an attribute (and a construction) of the individual, but it gives its best fruits when it is developed in a specific group.

Another way to categorize creativity techniques is by the orientation of thinking: divergent or convergent. Divergent thinking aims at the free flow of ideas and requires discipline. Convergent thinking has the the function of idea filtering, to identify which ideas really have an innovative value and can be integrated in a real solution. Both ways are complementary.

Generally, these activities are all considered under the brainstorming concept.

It's a must for all creativity techniques:

  • Avoid evaluations.

  • Use the impossible intermediate* (the conceptual challenge).

  • Create analogies and metaphors.

  • Invent the ideal solution, from imagination.

  • And how can we implement the ideal solution?

  • Relate things or concepts that were not related before.

  • Generate multiple solutions to a problem.

* The "impossible intermediate" is an extension of divergent thinking (De Bono) often used to prepare writing. Though an idea may seem absurd or impossible, it might show edges from which an idea with more chances of success can be constructed.

Some observations to stimulate creativity in an organization:

  • Trust the group, do it for pleasure, for amusement.

  • Maintain communication.

  • Use external sources of information.

  • Each member of the group is independent in the production of ideas.

  • Support the participation of staff in decision making, and their contributions at brainstorming.

  • Experiment with new ideas.

What can these creative efforts offer?

Creativity is (and has always been) the problem solving resource, to facilitate adaptation to change, to optimize the operation of organizations and to improve the attitude of staff.

Creativity techniques can be used in any functional area of a company: strategic planning, business strategy, product development, service optimization, functional strategy, finance, human resources, marketing, information management, quality management, that can be encompassed in four categories of creativity identified for organizations: 1) Client oriented; 2) Products; 3) Processes; 4) Strategic.

Every kind of innovation is important. Strategic innovation might not come necessarily from the the top management, but visionary managers are indispensable to implement strategic innovation across the company. Many top managers might discover that: 1) Many of their employees (at every level) have ideas about every aspect of the organization; that many of these ideas are well meditated; 3) that many of these ideas have an economic value for the organization.

The activity that expects from from creative processes is Research and Development. Some of the benefits that creative techniques offer to R&D are:

  • Innovation with new products a process ideas.

  • Continuous improvement of products and services.

  • Efficiency.

  • Rapidity.

  • Flexibility.

  • Quality.

  • High performance.

The organization of group creative efforts can benefit from the participation of an external consultant (though it is not a requirement). These experts in creative techniques can be useful for staff training in creativity techniques. Their work is presenting the different techniques, the way they must be used, their rules and perspectives of creativity work.

It may be useful to train the intermediate levels of the company to stimulate creativity in staff, to motivate them and to facilitate a working environment based on these techniques.

In other organizations, government or private, dedicated to process, product or service innovation. In personal creativity as a support for researchers, product or service developers and in very small companies.

The application of creativity techniques is continuous process. Some of these techniques:

  • Brainstorming.

  • Synectics.

  • Story board.

  • Lotus flower.

  • Check lists (Osborn; Product innovation, etc.).

  • Morphological analysis.

  • Maps.

  • Concept processing.

Knowledge Master, a concept processor, has a strong relationship with artificial intelligence and uses some of its techniques. KM can also be used as a decision support system and specially in the brainstorming phase:

  1. Evaluate similar situations.

  2. Examine metaphors.

  3. Analyze other perspective

  4. Focus attention on objectives.

  5. Get attention and engagement from interested people.

  6. Invert objectives.

  7. Analyze all ideas with maximum detail.

  8. Relate also internal with external factors.


Therefore, the role of a knowledge management system is not only to focus on some complementary resources of Human Resources, but also to contribute to the creation of the business context, that facilitates all business intelligence processes.

All of these techniques are based on the principle of concept (or idea) processing. Handling ideas in text or tables, or in exclusively graphical devices is very difficult and unproductive. KM semantic networks (or concept maps) are the natural environment for knowledge management, its methods and strategies are the essence of business intelligence. Most of these techniques are materialized in KM as templates or appear described in its check lists.

Part of the idea processing strategy (conceptual management) that stimulate innovation potential in companies or organizations of any kind is the utilization of knowledge management devices.

Consulting on Knowledge Management and Business Intelligence

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