Elaborative Creativity

Elaborative creativity is the innovative amplification of a core idea or principle. The difference is between say, staff empowerment as a core belief and its amplification into personnel policies, participative management structures, training programs, and so forth. Elaboration can become innovative when it is creatively contextualized, that is, creatively fitted to the organization’s situation rather than simply borrowed from elsewhere. It can become innovative when it is done participatively, involving various viewpoints and much brainstorming, and the ideas are creatively synthesized. It can become innovative when not just one but several powerful, possibly partially conflicting ideas are fused together to form its basis, such as the ideas of centralization and decentralization, control and authority, or internal entrepreneurship and efficiency. Elaboration can also become innovative when it is periodically reviewed and creatively modified to suit changing circumstances. And it can become innovative when it is benchmarked, not with practices of the leading competitor, but the world’s best practitioners. And not necessarily in the organization’s industry, but in any sector of activity, for then it may reveal gaps that can be bridged only innovatively. When elaboration is made innovative in these ways, it is difficult for others to copy it, and therefore such elaboration confers a competitive advantage on the organization.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Fuse Knowledge to Power

Architects are concerned with flows. When designing a building, their paramount considerations are how occupants will move in it and how light and air will circulate around it. Equally important for organizational architects is how information, know-how, decisions, and careers will flow in the structure being shaped.

When the work of the corporation was primarily the organizing of manual labor, markets were local and slow to change, and the knowledge base upon which competitive success depended was stable, a unitary hierarchy of manager atop manager made a lot of sense. The information needed to run the business was limited and could be easily channeled in one upward or downward flow. Workers did the work, and managers did the thinking.

But this is a reality that has disappeared from most industries. Markets are dimensioned globally, rules change faster than some competitors can master them, and brainpower counts for much more than brawn. Most organizations, though, remain keyed to the old realities. Few hierarchies have even kept up with the need to build in change by linking each of their limited number of levels with the time horizons of greatest importance to the company.

A more serious problem, though, is the lack of rethinking about how a business needs to organize its intellectual capital, its knowledge workers. It is ironic, and wasteful, that while “knowledge workers” (technical professionals and other holders of graduate or postgraduate degrees) are making up an increasing proportion of the work force in many industries, the organization structures in which they work remain more the products of Industrial Revolution than of the information age.

Knowledge, especially which can affect the company’s future competitiveness, used to be confined to the research and development lab or to the strategic planning department. Now, as information systems-driven service industries assume a larger share of many economies, knowledge about the capabilities that provide competitive advantage is much more widely dispersed than was ever necessary in traditional manufacturing companies. No single information channel can contain it all. And even traditional product makers are changing. Fewer manufacturing jobs are directly involved in making something; more are concerned with planning what to make, how to make it, and how to keep customers happy after the product has been purchased. The intellectual demands on front-line workers have increased tremendously. The narrowly skilled assembly jobs have been replaced by the more knowledge-intensive positions of the factory automation technician.

Requirements for more intellectual value added have escalated up many organization hierarchies. Networked data bases, expert systems, and almost never-ending flow of new personal computer software have significantly expanded the scope and the nature of the contribution possible from many mid-level employees. This is not an unmitigated blessing, though. It has also seriously polluted the management role in many companies, making many into high-level doers instead of managers, increasing the role’s fragmentation, and making it brittle rather than strong and load-bearing.

This situation will only worsen as economic pressures lead to increased management delayering. Companies with eight to ten tiers of management will find it necessary to organize around four or five. The number of subordinates per manager will have to sharply increase. Middle managers will find themselves with less and less time to master these new white-collar productivity enhancers and to make the intellectual contribution their businesses increasingly need.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

The Management of Creativity

Creativity has been defined in dozens of ways, but essentially it means the process by which novel but situationally appropriate outcomes are brought about. The field of creativity is in full bloom. Thousands of pieces of research have probed creativity. These researches have x-rayed such opaque matters as what kind of people are creative individuals; what motivates them; how creative people go about identifying, defining, and solving problems; what efforts are creative; what constitutes creative thinking, what techniques aid creative problem solving; what sorts of environments foster creativity; the assessment of creativity and the level of creativity of human efforts; etc.

The management of creativity in organizational settings is relatively far less researched, but is of great importance in a world of huge collective challenges and fierce competition. It fuses two fields—management and creativity. Management can be defined in many different ways, but broadly it is an organized effort at improving the functioning of organizations through such processes as the fixing of goals, the development and implementation of a strategy for achieving goals, the control of operations to ensure that goals are being met, the coordination of interdependent activities, the creation of structures and systems, the management of human resources as well as of other stakeholders and so forth.

As a field, the management of creativity has some distinctive aspects that differentiates it from general creativity. The management of creativity involves various collectives: dyads, teams, departments and divisions, organizations, associations of organizations, even governance systems of communities and societies. Even when one is discussing managerial creativity (the creativity of individual managers), the focus is on creativity displayed in a collectivity and relating to the various tasks that need to be performed in that collectivity. The work-related context channels creativity in important ways—towards achieving the goals of the collectivity and in discharging various management functions. The focus is not ‘pure’ art or science, or individual self-actualization, but on creative behavior in an organizational setting in which the organization’s goals, policies, structures, systems and so forth call the shots. Although individuals working in organizations certainly attempt to pursue their own interests, they do so keeping in mind organizational requirements, and this feature strongly influences the form that creativity takes in organizational settings.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight