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Can you develop a creative and innovative culture without buying any bean bags or post it notes?

October 30, 2017

A guest blog from Danielle at Purple Monster, part one of a series, as we start to explore the difference between creativity and innovation and how businesses need both the right culture and a strong process to deliver....

 

 

You are invited to a meeting and you are told that the company you are visiting is ‘wonderfully creative and innovative’. What do you expect to see when you arrive?

 

An open plan office with a sea of iMacs? Maybe a dedicated ‘chill out’ zone with strategically-placed orange beanbags? Possibly table football or an air hockey next to a fridge full of free smoothies and a fruit bowl? People in jeans, yes, there will be lots of jeans and t-shirts with slogans on.  You can’t be creative in a suit? Can you?

 

This image is often associated with a ‘creative’ company, but what about cultures, organisations or industries where this isn’t appropriate or indeed, comfortable? Does this mean that these organisations can’t be creative? These organisations can’t innovate? Well, the myths surrounding creative thinking might lead you to think so, but here at Purple Monster, we’ve been working with Freestyle Innovation on debunking that myth. We’ve been exploring elements that might help increase creative and innovative thinking in organisations, and the aspects that are common in companies who are good at both. You might be surprised to know that having a beanbag budget isn’t one of them.

 

Firstly, creativity and innovation are often used interchangeably, so what do these terms mean…and what’s the difference?

 

The term ‘creativity’ can be used as a way of describing something rather than a way of being. Especially in the business world, this description can be more helpful. You can develop creative ideas or processes without being a ‘creative person’. Creativity in this context describes ideas, processes or products which are useful, new and understandable. They don’t need to be wacky, world-changing or involve interpretative dance, but by their nature they do need to be a change to existing ideas and ways of doing things. That alone is scary for some people and organisations, but is increasingly critical in this rapidly changing world.

 

Innovation, on the other hand, is turning those ideas, processes or products into reality. Ideas are worthless on their own, and innovation is a repeatable and scalable process that can turn great ideas into profit. Again, by its nature, innovation is more focused on resources, planning and implementation and requires a level of creative thinking (many challenges need creative solutions to solve) but is often more organised and structured. There are lots of great innovation processes already out there such as Design Thinking, Lean Start Up and Customer Development, which bring structure into this space.

 

There is little doubt of the importance both these concepts will play in the business and wider world in the future, but whilst the attention is often placed on innovation catalysts like ideation sessions and hackathons, for an organisation to truly be a ‘creative and innovative thinking organisation’, attention also needs to placed on the culture and climate as well as processes and soft furnishings.

 

The best representation we have seen recently of this phenomenon in action was a visit to the head office of an organisation who had been taking steps to improve their levels of innovation. We saw a group of people in suits sitting in silence rather awkwardly on beanbags, looking at each other and not quite sure how to act. The intent was there, but the execution had woefully missed the point!

 

If you are interested in finding out more about getting the culture and processes in place to promote creativity and innovation, then contact either Danielle from Purple Monster at danielle@purplemonster.co.uk or Kate from Freestyle Innovation at kate@freestyleinnovation.co.uk.

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