Living in a world where technological progress happens within months instead of taking long years and decades, innovation is not only a buzzword but also a real pursuit for many businesses and individuals. In the perception of laypeople, the word “innovation” is often associated with revolutionary technological products and concepts that are unlike anything that ever existed. Clearly, this perception of innovation appears to be rather exclusive and limiting making innovating seem like almost an attainable task for everyone except a few exceptionally talented individuals. However, examining the materials within this course offers much more inclusive and practical concepts of innovation and creativity while also making one consider numerous opportunities these skills offer.
Namely, creativity and innovation do not revolve solely around creating revolutionary products but may also be employed in making small incremental changes to the existing product or in designing new, better flows of customer experience which may prove just a valuable and just as profitable as creating fundamentally novel products. This suggests that organizations across different industries should foster the culture of innovation and creativity to be able to continuously improve their product and to maintain their competitive edge during the time of rapid technological disruption.
One of the biggest takeaways from the materials covered within this unit is a realization that contrary to the common belief, creativity and innovation are not limited to coming up with revolutionary products. Instead, creativity and capacity of innovative thinking may reveal themselves in spotting opportunities for small changes and fixes in the already existing products and services that substantially improve people’s experience with this. Incremental innovation of existing products may prove just as valuable as creating something new as it seeks to make things that are already recognized as valuable even more valuable, convenient, and joyful to their users. Hence, innovation can take place in small steps through creative and curious observation of one’s environment and continues testing of the improvements one conceives as possible and needed. In other words, one can spot opportunities for innovation and act creatively even in the most mundane environment and not just on the team that purposefully creates innovative products.
The second major takeaway from this unit’s readings is the realization that innovation goes beyond the creating of things. This point is important to emphasize because in our society it is common to understand creativity as a capacity come up with paintings, novels, blueprints, etc. Yet, in reality, innovation may go far beyond the creating of particular pieces. Redesigning the ways people use the existing things, the way they go about accomplishing the mundane tasks, as well as redesigning experiences is just as viable and valuable as creating new things. In fact, finding opportunities for redesigning usual routines and practices in various spheres proves to be especially important during this time of constant change we live in (IDEO creators). For example, facing a huge competition from online retailers, many traditional stores need to redesign the services and experiences they offer their customers in order to stay in business. The same is true long-established organizations that need to redesign their work processes in order to attract younger workers. Thus, innovation is both possible and valuable in very different contexts and just on the product design teams.
While a little creativity can definitely benefit many business enterprises, in order to gain an advantage, organizations should foster the culture of innovation and creativity. Although there are many opportunities for innovation in almost every environment, seeing and seizing these opportunities may prove challenging without a favorable environment that tolerates ambiguity, encourages fresh ideas, and rewards creativity. Building such a culture is not easy as it involves a specific attitude that may seem to be rather different from common hierarchical structures of organizations. Namely, to establish a culture of creativity, organizations should abandon strict power hierarchies and concrete roles each employee plays within the organization to create room for people to find exciting innovation projects to embark on and to ensure that there is a possibility for people to form diverse multidisciplinary teams for working on projects.
Further, the culture of creativity relies on the ability of people within the organization to tolerate ambiguity, refrain from criticizing ideas of others, have the courage to express their own ideas, and most importantly be capable of effective teamwork (Brown). This stimulates everyone on the team to take responsibility for observing their environment, asking curious questions, and noticing opportunities for improvement. Cultivating such a culture encourages creativity and innovation on every step of the organizational process and is likely to lead to valuable insight that will help the company maintain a competitive edge in this rapidly transforming business environment.
Drawing conclusions, this unit has helped me realize that innovation is not some unattainable miracle but rather a specific creative and curious approach to one’s environment that enables one to spot opportunities for improvement and transformation which results in the creation of new value. In the world where everything moves and changes so fast, innovating is essential for maintaining a competitive edge. Luckily, innovation and creativity are no longer regarded as mysterious enlightenment or talent and are rather seen as skills and methodological approaches to the world around us. While practicing the principles that foster the culture of innovation is possible for every organization and for every individual on their own, the results of this practice may lead to extraordinary discoveries and transformations.
- “IDEO creators talk how to unleash your creativity.” YouTube, uploaded by CBS This Morning, 17 October 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJMeLbFLqW8&feature=youtu.be.
- Brown, Tim. “What are the Top 5 Behaviors of Design-Driven Organizations and Why Do They Matter?” IDEO, 2017 designthinking.ideo.com/?cat=173. Accessed 4 December 2018.