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Organization Design

Creative Organisations

1. Introduction
Creativity of an organisation is often being referred to the capability to introduce
products to the market that attracts the customers. However, every product that sells
well cannot be taken as a creative product; on the other hand every organisation that
has achieved significant success in market place cannot be simply called creative. In
general, the term creative product associates a certain degree of uniqueness to the
product. This, in turn, refers to the uniqueness of the design and the product features.
If, creativeness of an organisation solely depends on its ability to generate such
product specifications and features, the organisations that produce standard products
would invariably, fall into the non creative category.
Creativeness associated to the way of doing things rather than to the product that
they produce, offers the organisations the capability to successfully operate in
dynamic environments. This creativeness determines the adaptability of an
organisation, in dynamic environments.
2. Key factors required for a creative organisation
From the above discussion three factors can be identified as characteristics of a
creative organisation. The creativeness of the organisation depends on the combined
effect of these factors in generating the desired output for the organisation. These
factors are interrelated and therefore, the effects can not be distinguished. However,
the factors affecting the creativeness of an organisation can be listed under the
following three headings.
1. Creativeness of People
2. Creativeness of Processes
3. Creativeness of Products
In order to design a creative organisation, creative qualities should be imparted into
these three factors of the organisation. This requires proper understanding of the
requirements and opportunities for creativity within the organisations and how to
manage it.

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2.1 Designing a creative organisation
2.1.1 Understanding the requirement of creativity and the opportunities
Creative organisations should be capable of understanding the requirements and
opportunities for being creative. This creativity, changes the systems that operate in
cultural systems the frameworks where the organisations operate. According to
Robinson and Hackett, creativity changes the status of domains.
For being creative, an organisation should be capable of understanding and changing
the domains in which they operate. In order to impart this capability to the
organisations, three practices have been suggested by Robinson and Hackett, viz.
understanding the structure, making the structure real / measurable and controllable
and lastly, imparting the knowledge in to daily practice of the organisation. These,
when built into the foundations of organisations, result in higher levels of creativity
within the organisation.
Presenting a fresh perspective on organising for innovation, which extends to the level
of innovative organisations beyond the project level where most of the published
literature has dwelled on, Deborah Dougherty has identified four key areas to be
addressed in translating innovation in to organisational terms. Although, Dougherty
has mainly focussed on product innovation, the content presented can be taken to
supplement the conditions of creativity presented by Robinson and Hackett, in
discussing the key factors for a creative organisation.

1. Understand the structure


Creativeness requires proper understanding of cultural systems / frameworks in which
the organisation operates. This would necessarily include understanding the needs and
behaviour of the customers, and also how they change with the time or according to
other external factors, in a business context.
Creativity can influence the structure of domains by either changing the structure,
changing the boundaries of the domain or by creating a new domain. Better
understanding of the structure enables the organisations to define the rules for success
in respective domains. Organisations such as Wal-Mart and Dell computers have
changed their operations in this level and have succeeded as creative organisations.

2. Linking market and technology


Understanding the structure is extended by linking the market and technology. This
refers to aligning the organisational capabilities with the market needs, in
conceptualising the products. According to Dougherty market technology linking is
a multi functional task where knowledge is created through hands on learning.
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Competencies of the organisations are continuously compared against the product
requirements and the organisations should be capable of balancing the market
requirements with the capabilities of the organisation. This market technology
linking has to be an organisation wide effort in order to achieve the condition of
creativity / innovation.

3. Making it real
A thorough understanding of the structure of a domain would not be achieved unless
the component systems and their interrelationships are visualised and interpreted.
Representing the structure with the components and their interrelationships enables
systems modelling, and provides an effective tool that can be used in manipulating
them. Organisations should be capable of understanding their structures as well as
modelling / interpreting them in order to facilitate creativity.

4. Creative problem solving


Creative problem solving involves team effort. Capacities of different functional areas
and people should be concentrated upon the issues in seeking solutions. This
multifunctional activity would require the coordinated effort of individuals in parallel
or joint fashion depending on the situation. Therefore, creative problem solving
requires a cross functional approach, and essentially require the skills of coordination
the cross functional teams. To achieve higher efficiencies and grater effectiveness of
the creative team, it is important to have a thorough understanding of the individual
functional areas, their limitations and needs and the cumulative effects of the team
work. This refers to the capability to see the big picture, rather than being confined to
the functional areas.

5. Monitoring and evaluation


Innovation should be monitored and evaluated. Monitoring and evaluation of
innovation would provide the opportunity to control the effects of creativity within the
organisation in a more desirable manner. According to Dougherty, strategic
determination and strategic emergence of innovation should be balanced in creating
viable products in order to achieve success, for any given organisation. This refers
to the capacity to control the creativity and to use it in the proper direction, as
matching with the strategic goals of the organisation.

6. Capability to bake it into the organisation


The organisations should develop the capabilities to make creativity happen their
every activity. Only then, organisation can be recognised as being a creative

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organisation. This refers to the capacity of an organisation to have creativity
embedded in it.

7. Commitment to the innovation process


Because of its inherent ambiguity and changing boundaries, innovations and creativity
requires greater commitment from those who are involved. As Dougherty explains,
commitment requires achieving the proper balance between the responsibility and the
freedom at work. In other words, personnel involved with creative work need to
responsible for their professional work as well as, at the same time, should feel free to
operate in a multitude of work as the need arises. A creative organisation should be
capable of achieving the accountability of the individuals moving beyond the
legalistic job definitions and precise measures.

The seven factors discussed in the preceding section shows the requirements of, and
the areas where the consideration should be given, when designing and developing a
creative organisation. The capabilities that an organisation needs to develop in order
to engender creativity within the organisation are discussed in this section. On the
other hand these seven factors when taken in that sequence depict the how focal area
should vary from the products through to processes and the people, in creative
organisations.

2.1.2 Managing creativity within the organisations


Perhaps the most important factor in developing creative organisations is to develop
creativeness within the people. Creative people design the creative processes that are
capable of delivering competitive products to the markets. At every stage of the
evolution of an organisation people make things happen and people create systems
and processes, which can be termed as mechanisms that the people have created to
facilitate the operations. Therefore, people factor should be given proper
considerations in developing creative organisations. However, according to Amiable,
creativity is hindered more often in the organisations than being fostered.
Teresa Amabile, in her research, has found that it is possible to design organisations
where the creativity prevails whilst achieving the organisational contingencies such as
productivity and control. This requires the creative capabilities to be joined with the
organisational efforts to achieve the day to day targets. As it is obvious, this requires
understanding the managerial practices that would provide the right blend of
creativity and the day to day activities.
According to Amabile, within an individual, creativity is governed by three factors;
viz. expertise, creative thinking skills and motivation. Management practices that
exert positive influence on these factors would foster creativity within individuals and

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teams; that is within the organisation. Key factors highlighted in Amabile's research
are explained below.

Matching the people with right assignments


One of the most effective ways of intrinsic motivation is assigning the people with
tasks where they show some expertise. Often, people enjoy performing the tasks
where they have developed some specific know-how and where they get the
opportunity to experiment and built up on their expertise. Such assignments challenge
their expertise and allow them to use their creative thinking ability in finding
solutions for a particular task.
Often, in organisations, the most talented people are allocated the most important
roles and tasks without considering the match between those. In such situations, as
Amabile explains, positive results hardly achieved.

Empowering the people


Transferring the ownership of processes to the people, who work with those, is a
commonly known motivational factor. Apart from the motivation, granting freedom
and autonomy to the people, encourage them to experiment and learn more, thereby
adding to the organizations know-how. In this manner, empowerment results in
learning organisations, which is an essential requirement for building creativity in to
the organisations.
On the other hand empowerment means that the senior management respect
knowledge and the expertise of the people who work in the processes and improves
their status to the level of knowledge workers.

Careful resource allocation


Amabile identifies time and money as two resources that affect the creativity.
Unnecessarily tight dead lines and schedules and low fund allocation would result in
dampening the creative process and making the people use their creative talents to
find the way out with inadequate resources, rather than to use them in innovative
work. It is important that the managers are capable of identifying the right amounts of
resources that a project / team would normally require for their assignment.
Also, understanding the essentials and rational resource allocation is required to
prevent them damaging the creative efforts.

Getting the right chemistry in the teams


In forming teams, it is important to understand the significance of creative factors in
selecting the individuals as well as deciding the team members. To support the
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creative thinking skills of the team, the individuals within the team should be capable
of understanding and respecting the view points of each other. Amabile suggests that,
1. All members should have the urge and willingness to work towards the goal of
the team
2. All members should act as Samaritans and help each other as and when it is
required
3. All members should recognise the importance each others existence in the
team
This follows that, not only the essential skills, but also the possibility of coexistence
of the members should be taken into account, when forming the teams.

Encouraging the creative efforts


Whether they deliver the desired final result or not, it is important to acknowledge the
creative efforts of the teams and individuals. This recognition of effort is equally, or
even more important, in the times of failure and when the individuals are down
hearted. Creative activities involve higher degree of trial and error iterations, and the
managers should appreciate that the positive results are achieved and tested only
through a sequence of iterations. Teams should be encouraged to experiment more.
On the other hand, managers can act as mentors to the teams and work with them
though difficulties or important issues. In the modern transformed management
structures, managers lead the leaders through extended communication and
collaboration. Amabile suggests that the managers should act as role models for the
attitudes and behaviours, setting examples of encouraging creativity.
Perhaps the most important and effective way of encouraging creativity within the
organisations is setting up systems and procedures that fosters creative efforts. This
can be done by the organisations leaders by setting the creative efforts a top priority.
The leaders can develop the organisation cultures that emphasise on information
sharing and collaborations at every level and discourage organisational politics.

3. Barriers to implementing creativity factors in an organisation


Conventionally, creativeness has been thought of as some thing that an individual
possesses. On the other hand, the common practise in fostering creativity in
organisations has been granting freedom to the people. Robinson and Hackett have
rejected these attitudes towards creativity and presented their views on creativeness
and fostering creativity in organisations. Their views have been addressed in the
section above. In implementing those creativity factors in an organisation, the
conventional attitude towards creativity could be the first barrier that the
implementers would encounter as it would misguide the efforts made. Also, when the
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desired results are not delivered through the conventional practise, it may even deliver
negative results; the whole effort would be discouraged and would even lead to a
vicious circle.

Lack of expertise
Lack of expertise needed for understanding the structures and the interrelationships
between them can be identified as a major hindering factor in implementing the
creativity factors within an organisation. There can be a variety of reasons for this. In
most of the organisations the structure inhibits the opportunities for the employees to
fully understand the way the firm operates. Also, the prevailing culture in the
organisation may obstruct such learning objectives of the individuals. As a result, the
understanding of the entire organisation is limited to a handful of people. Within this
smaller team, opportunities for creativity will be largely restricted.

High procedure orientation


According to Dougherty, many large and complex organisations fail to achieve the
required balance between the market and their own competencies. As the
organisations grow bigger and bigger, they tend to rely more and more on procedures.
Procedures may deliver the results intended; however, opportunities for creativeness
would be severely restricted.

Conventional mind set that prevents out of the box thinking


On the other hand, the employees, especially the senior management, may encounter
situations where they tend to look in to the facts with their habitual mind-set,
although, the new products require the managers to re-conceptualise their views.

Segmentalism and power of resources


Dougherty has identified segmentalism and the power of resources as the key barriers
to the creative problem solving. Traditionally, in organisations, tasks are broken down
into smaller elements and each division or department deal with one or more of those
smaller elements. Within these departments, the work becomes more mechanistic and
interactions or communications with the other sections of, even the same organisation
becomes more restricted. In this context, the requirements of creative problem solving
are hardly fulfilled by the conventional style of arranging work though departments.
This can be taken as a major barrier in imparting creativity to the organisations. On
the other hand, creative processes or innovation becomes the responsibility of a
smaller group of people who are less resourceful than the sectional managers or the
line managers. Naturally, the conventional style of work organisation, does allow the

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power of resources in terms of funds, information, expertise etc. to ignore the
requirements of the creative teams.
Segmentalism and power of resources hinder the development of new supplier
relationships, part handling procedures and for creative conditions to prevail, these
conflicts between the established systems / products and the upcoming ones should be
properly balanced.

Tendency to over controlling the processes


According to Dougherty in large organisations, barriers exist against achieving the
proper balance between the strategic determination and strategic emergence. The
senior managers, who would be the decision makers, tend to force uniform
development times and may try to exert control over the innovations regardless of
them being totally new to the innovation process. Such interference would have
undesirable effects on the creativeness of the organisation. Dougherty has highlighted
the situations where the senior manages following the routine procedures, have
ignored the impact of transfers and goal settings on the innovative processes.

Difficulty in achieving the proper balance between responsibility and freedom


Dougherty explains the difficulty in achieving the proper balance between the
freedom and responsibility in creative processes. Often, to achieve the required level
of commitment, it is not easy to identify the individuals with desired personality
characteristics.
On the other hand, the employees from the middle levels are excluded from strategic
discussions. This inhibits the sense of inclusion and often results in discouraging the
people.
Also, as Dougherty mentions, innovation is not encouraged at every level within the
organisation. This again obstructs the gaining the commitment from the employees.

Power structure and the management styles


Teresa Amabile in her article How to kill creativity has explained how the
management practices become barriers to implementing creative factors within the
organisations.
Often the managers tend to use fake deadlines and impossible schedules. The reasons
for doing can vary, but the main theme is to get the job done on time. However, such
behaviour results in hindering the opportunities for creativity within the organisations.
The same is true with the cost cutting efforts made. Restricting the resources may
obstruct the creative efforts and the hidden cost in this would be more than the cost of
resources.

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Also, managers, when using the people resources available them, often make the
mistake of not matching the people with the tasks.
All these problems relate to the inability to judge and estimate the requirements
beforehand, and which can be taken as a barrier to implementing the creative factors
within an organisation.
On the other hand, the criticism culture that prevails within certain organisations
hinders the new ideas coming up and thereby inhibits the creativity at the very
beginning. Criticism is taken as a tool for achieving personal objectives in certain
cultures. Similarly, organisational politics crate great barriers to creativity in
organisations.

4. How to overcome these barriers


In order to understand the means of overcoming these barriers, it is important, at first,
to understand what creativeness is and to change the conventional perception of
creativeness.
According to Robinson and Hackett, creativity is a class of activity rather than a
characteristic of an individual. This class of activity requires deep understanding of
the facts and the ability build up on those. Robinson and Hackett discard the idea of
unintentional creativity. According to them, creativity should be based on information
and, then the systems should be changed through the creative process. Barriers to
implementing the creative factors in an organisation should be addressed in this
context, in order to remove them.
The barriers listed in the above section can be related to the structural and cultural
issues within the organisations. In that sense, implanting creativeness in an
organisation requires changes to be made in the structure and to change the prevailing
culture in the organisation. The creative factors can be successfully built into the new
structure and the culture, than attempting to fatten those into the old structures.

Dougherty, in her discussion on organising for innovation, has suggested that the
organisations should understand their deliverables to the customers in terms of the
value. Such an identity would help the organisation to overcome the barriers to market
technology linking and help in creating the necessary mind-set to bridge the
capabilities of the organisation and the customer needs.
In creating the capacity for organisation wide creative problem solving, Dougherty
has suggested replacing the hierarchy that exist within an organisation with teams and
viewing the organisations as process. In this process type organisation, the tasks
would be carried out by the multi disciplinary teams where the people are functional
specialists and the interactions are continuous and frequent among the members.
Information should flow freely along multiple channels. According to Stewart in these
teams the members should have good understanding with each other and these should
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be all star teams. That is, every member in the team is a start in his own area / field.
Those who manage such teams should be part of team and stay in touch with them.
Team interaction is important and creating the environment for facilitating effective
communication would be the role of the team leaders. The coordinating mechanisms
in these teams should be diffused among the team members rather than clearly
assigned less formalities in handoffs, transfer points or transfer of personal.
Amabile suggest that mutually supportive teams should be designed by putting
together the right chemistry into the team. That is, the team members should bring in
diversity of perspectives and backgrounds in to the teams.

5. Conclusion
Designing creative organisation should take in to considerations a variety of factors
including the scope of operations of the entity and the customers. The barriers to
implementing the creative factors in an organisation can be attributed to the structural
and cultural issues in broad terms. Thus, in order to remove these barriers that is, to
find a lasting solution to the problem focus has to be made upon the structural and
cultural factors.
Creativeness has to be embedded in the organisational structure and the culture in
order to achieve sustainability. Organisation theory is yet to formulate best practise
procedures for doing so.

References:
1. Amabile, Teresa M., How to kill creativity - Harvard Business Review,
Sep/Oct98, Vol. 76 Issue 5
2. Dougherty, D. Managing Organisations - Organising for innovation
3. Robinson, Rick E. and Hackett, James P., Creating the conditions of
creativity - Design Management Journal, fall 1997, Vol 8 No 4
4. Meyer , Sarah A., Managing within a creative environment
Management Journal Summer -2000

Design

5. Stewart J., Some things never change it takes a team


Management Journal Summer -1999

Design

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