Managing Creativity

By Martin Gilliard

Managing creativity is key to competitive advantage because the successful generation and exploitation of ideas is essential for sustained success in the marketplace.


It is probably best to start with an understanding of exactly what is innovation and a definition of creativity as the two are often used interchangeably, however there is a clear distinction.

Creativity is the thinking that puts forward different understandings of a situation whereas innovation is the actual implementation of creative ideas, which often results in a new product, service or process.

managing creativity

(Photo Credit h.koppdelaney)

Sources Of Creative Ideas

When managing creativity you need to be aware of where creative ideas can originate…

  1. Employees – Your employees work closely with your processes, day-to-day issues / problems and with your customers. They will no doubt have very detailed knowledge of such and be in a position to recognize threats, opportunities and suggest ways that things could be improved.
  2. Customers – Your customers are an important source of information. Customers usually purchase a product or service to assist then with some task, job or requirement. Understanding that requirement and in particular how well you are meeting that requirement can be key. Listen, understand and think about complaints, feedback and praise that you receive from your customers.
  3. Suppliers – Relationships with suppliers can be used to your advantage. Look out for ideas and processes used by your supplier that could be translated over to your organization.
  4. External environment – Ideas can come from many sources and therefore being aware of the environment beyond your organization is key. Read widely, newspapers, journal articles, trade / professional papers.
  5. Chance – Creativity can often stem simply from some unplanned circumstance. For example it is said that 3M’s scotchgard product was developed after an employee spilled some chemicals on her running shoes and noticed that the area affected by the spill kept cleaner longer than the rest of her shoe.
  6. Competitors – Actively seeking intelligence on your competitors can alert you to new developments, which in turn can lead to new ideas on how best to compete.

You Should Also Create An Environment Open For Creativity

When managing creativity you should also allow your team to set aside time for being creative – for example, at Google staff are encouraged to set aside 20% of their time to work on projects unrelated to their main job.


  • Have a staff room or cafeteria where employees can chat with each other.
  • Have reading areas where employees can have quiet thinking time or can research a particular topic of interest.
  • Put in place web based chat and knowledge management tools to enable employees to share ideas on projects or offer subject matter expert type information to other project teams.
  • Encourage a climate of creativity where people have respect for one another and where energy and enthusiasm rule the day. Limit rules and bureaucracy.
  • Set aside meeting times where ideas can be discussed in an open forum. Include all ideas not just the ones that you think are good.
  • Encourage people to put forward ideas. Provide incentives and an idea submission box or a web based tool for the submission of ideas.
  • Try and replace the tried and tested with the new and imaginative

Promoting Creativity and Innovation

Creative, value driven ideas can form the basis of a strong competitive advantage and is therefore advantageous to yourself and the organization that you work for. For this reason when managing creativity it is also important to promote creativity and innovation within your team.

Welcome all ideas however ridiculous they may seem at first and praise people for coming forward with ideas. Use tact to graciously put aside any ideas that are unworkable. Don’t judge too quickly though... many great ideas are rejected prematurely due to not enough time been taken to make an informed decision. Please see how to judge creativity for a full article on this interesting topic.

Also consider that ideas that at first seem unusable could become useful in a different context, time period or when combined with other ideas. For further details please visit promoting creativity.

Use Techniques For Creativity

Creativity techniques can greatly assist the idea generation process an essential element to managing creativity...

Consider using such techniques as:

  • Brainstorming where you usually meet as a group and have an open-ended discussion related to generating new ideas. Key to this process is the logging of ideas i.e. no idea should be dismissed regardless of how crazy it may sound. Evaluation is kept for a later meeting.
  • Lateral thinking – pioneered by Edward De Bono is a method that encourages different ways of thinking by changing concepts and pre-conceptions
  • Mind mapping – developed by Tony Buzan is a tool that mirrors the way we map, link together and retrieve facts in the brain. It uses pictures, images and colors to further emphasize ideas.

Creativity Profile

Visit the creativity profile page for information on undertaking a profile of your creative abilities.

Creativity Headline News

If you want creativity news, updated daily from worldwide news resources, click here for the latest headline creativity news direct from Google news. 

Further Reading

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