This quote by Hooker may be dated, but the meaning still applies today. People, more often than not, have difficulty accepting change. This tendency to conform and to become habitual is the very essence of what inhibits creativity and innovation. Innovation is a word that cannot be clearly defined; the concept is one that can be explained, but the application of the concept is the key to innovation itself.
The idea of ‘teaching innovation’ is somewhat of an oxymoron, for if something is being taught, it has already been established, and it is no longer an innovation. However, the importance of the concept of innovation is such that the idea is one that needs to be, and is, addressed in business schools. In this time of rapid change in the global economy, in order to be an attractive candidate for employment, an individual has to exhibit characteristics that they can adapt to an ever-changing environment. The concept of innovation, the importance of looking at things in new ways, and the significance of being perceptive, insightful and intuitive, are ideas that can be taught in a classroom, and are key to preparing individuals to be future innovative businesspeople.
Understanding if innovators are born or made is a question which traces back to the fundamental aspects of psychology. It is safe to conclude that some individuals are definitely predisposed to being nonconformist, and some people simply have the ability to think creatively more than others. However, were the great innovative thinkers of all time simply born that way, or was an initial spark nurtured which would not have otherwise been discovered if it had not been for some type of guidance? Simply the fact that his question exists proves the need for the concept of innovation to be taught in the classroom.
When considering innovation, the application can be viewed at many different levels. If an individual has the mind to be an innovative thinker, he or she can act on their instincts to create new and inventive ideas. Yet on the organizational level, a business cannot count on a single innovative thinker to stay ahead of the competition. Organizations can utilize innovative methods to gain a competitive edge, yet where do the new ideas come from? In many organizations the capacity for innovation is there, the question is how to advance and promote thinking in new ways. The businesses that discover how to operate while supporting the cultivation of new ideas, are the ones that stay ahead of the competition and excel as leaders.
While innovation can cause an organization to be superior, today it is necessary to a degree, simply to keep up with the ever-changing business world. Companies that fail to address this will more then likely find themselves inefficient, unproductive and eventually obsolete in comparison to their competitors. Organizations need to innovate not only to gain competitive edge, simply to maintain their existing business. Although the question still remains – what exactly can an organization do to be innovative?
The innovation process is not simply a policy that needs to be implemented or a memo that needs to be sent out. In order for business to promote innovation and for new ideas to emerge, there has to be an atmosphere which encourages creativity and promotes challenging traditional ways of thinking, while maintaining some standard of order. The suppression of creativity and the pressure to conform is a factor which has been present in the lives of employees and even employers constantly throughout life. This is a large obstacle that takes creative measures on the part of the management to recognize and overcome.
Rather than simply promoting innovation in an organization, a business can start the process by simply using information that is already available to it. New ideas and innovations can come from old solutions, the key is knowing how to save and reapply it. This introduces the concept of knowledge brokering. The Knowledge-Brokering Cycle is a process which any business can introduce throughout their company as a first step to becoming a more innovative organization. This process begins with gaining promising ideas that are more than likely already in existence within the organization; the key is finding them. Next is to store ideas, even those not currently in use, for possible application later. Devising new uses for old ideas, and generating uses for different applications is the third step in the process. Finally, the business should try out, experiment with and fine-tune the new application of the idea to measure its effectiveness and possible implementation.
All of the characteristics previously mentioned all contribute to the creation of an organization which advocates and supports innovation. In conducting my research, a particular company displayed many of these same attributes and openly states their complete support of maintaining an innovative organization. Innovative Emergency Management, Inc. is a leading risk management company in the United States, which prides itself on using innovative methods along with advanced technology to identify, communicate, and measure risk, along with identifying, developing and improving response plans.
“We are a research-based corporation helping emergency managers, business, and industry to develop and refine their organizational processes. Our strength is providing creative solutions to complex problems” – Madhu Beriwal, President
This is an organization which has been able to recognize that innovation is necessary and that has been able to successfully incorporate innovative methods into their problem solving processes. A specific example of how this company uses innovative methods in their business processes is their approach to solving risk management problems. Rather than reapplying solutions that have previously worked, Innovative Emergency Management uses previous solutions as building blocks and incorporates them into new and better solutions which are value-added and more efficient. Knowledge brokering has been synthesized into a methodical process in this organization, is a key factor to the continual innovation at IEM. This organization integrates ideas from solutions applied to similar problems in areas other than risk management to develop the most responsive and cost-effective solutions to their customer’s complex problems.
The innovation process is one that is ever-changing. Creative problem solving and ‘thinking outside the box’ is a concept which is important in education and on the organizational level. Generating new and reapplying old ideas is the key to increased efficiency and gaining the competitive edge. Within organizations, the recognition of the concept and the adoption of creative and resourceful processes is vital for survival in the market today.