Creative thinking and the generation of ideas need to be stimulated at both the individual and company level.
Truly creative acts in science, as in life, are mostly unplanned but the provision of the "right" environment and climate are a great help in the process. The right environment does not necessarily involve a cosy and relaxed atmosphere. External forces posing a threat are often a stimulus to creative thinking, as has been experienced during the world wars of the twentieth century, when many of the great inventions influencing life in the latter half of the century were made or envisaged. It is also amazing how a group under threat of being disbanded suddenly start producing a raft of new ideas. The need for change to survive is expressed in the proverb, "necessity is the mother of invention". The arrival of a challenging technology that could threaten the survival of a whole industry is a great spur to creativity, as was experienced by the Swiss watch industry with the arrival of digital technology, and a similar effect was experienced by the photographic industry at the turn of the century.
Diffusion of Knowledge Contacts with Scientific Community Tolerance of Skunk Work Small Teams Personal Encouragment Open Minds Task Motivation
Networking (Personal Contacts) Training
Culture of Company/organisation Human Resources (mixing/rewarding) Commitment to Med/long Term Research
Support from Top Management Participative Management Contact with Market Competition/cooperation with other Companies Protection from Stop/Go Effective Communication
Clear Strategy Core Competence Proper Matrix Organisation of Work
Project Management Financing of Projects Facilitator Team Balance of External/internal Competition
Clear Evaluation Procedure
Whilst the external climate may be hostile, the internal one within the R&D group must always be supportive for the creative individual.
Some of the most significant inventions, which seem to have happened by chance or serendipity, on closer examination often prove to have been the results of many years of endeavour and the accumulation of large amounts of data. In other words without the researcher having a goal and a chance to experiment, little would have happened. Why some people can work for years, accumulate vast amounts of knowledge, and still not be creative is another matter. Even the creative individual will under use this talent if the climate and stimulus for it to flourish are wrong for that particular person. Never underestimate the importance of the individual in the process of creation and innovation.
How can the Manager stimulate creativity? As in other aspects of management, there are factors that the individual manager can personally change or implement. The negative factors operating at a company level are very difficult to change or even influence, but recognising that they exist is a good start. Those factors external to the company must be taken as given, and Managers must work with these in mind at all times. The management style, to be used by R&D Managers with creative groups, has already been covered in Section A, 3.2. The factors that can stimulate creative thinking and the generation of ideas are as follows.
• Freedom to think. Pressure must not be applied solely to achieve today's results. There should be sufficient time for the researcher to ask the questions "what if' or "why did that happen". Sitting down and thinking is a genuine research activity.
• Chance to experiment. The ability to carry out the unscheduled experiment is essential. Putting an idea to test is an important freedom in creative work. It is this type of experiment that often leads to serendipity, the genuinely unexpected result.
• Wide contacts. The putting together of unrelated facts to produce a new idea is aided greatly by discussions with other people. These can be other scientists, marketing colleagues and customers. Keeping creative scientists in an ivory tower is an intellectual imprisonment.
These three stimulating factors all require some "free time". The problem with most project management systems is that this is regarded as unproductive time and therefore something that can be sacrificed to meet other targets, for instance, be removed from the bar chart of a project plan. The Manager of a group, which is expected to be creative, will need to justify and fight for such "free time". This is not an easy task in an economic climate where companies are driven by cost/time considerations, but the arrival of the knowledge company, and the ideas behind it, is of great assistance.
Stimulation at the company level
• Culture. If the company's culture is one that has historically valued and rewarded the creative individual, this will clearly be beneficial.
• Strategy. The commitment to medium or longer-term research, leading to the exploitation of ideas as new businesses, products, processes and services, is integral to the company's R&D strategy. This implies management commitment and sup port at the highest level. It will instil confidence in the research establishment and gain support for its activities from elsewhere in the organisation.
These elements are seen as specific in helping to create the very special climate that allows creative work to flourish. However, there are several other factors which are common to both the creative and innovative climate, and these are described below.
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What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.