Published on 03/01/2019 in Inspire
“Creative thinking means coming up with an idea that is new and feasible,” says Michaël Van Damme, experimental psychologist. “Innovation, in turn, is the implementation of these new ideas.”
Research shows a clear link between innovation and the financial results of a company. “So innovation is an attractive choice, because it helps the company stand out from the competition.” However, between innovation and return lies a vital third link: culture. “Innovation is more than just a process or a piece of technology,” says Michaël Van Damme. “Internal communication determines how a company innovates successfully.”
There is a need for vision and security. Everyone must feel at ease when putting an idea to the group.
Michaël Van Damme is experimental psychologist and managing partner of The Forge
The basis for all this is the need for innovative ideas. “People overestimate the creativity of a group. Working alone is usually more creative.” So is it more useful to ask five staff members to come up with five ideas each, rather than have them brainstorm together? “At first yes. The average person is cognitively lazy. It’s less fun when you have to think about something yourself, but it produces more: more ideas, more perspectives.” The best approach combines the two methods: first prepare individually, then brainstorm.
It’s important to then bring the innovative ideas together and make choices. “Innovation remains teamwork, above all,” says Van Damme. “So it’s not a good plan to reward ideas individually. That gives rise to competition within the group, which curbs the innovation process.” At group level, communication is once again the crucial factor. “You have to dare to put your idea to the group. Some colleagues won’t listen. Others will come back with counterarguments.” That leads to fragile communication moments.
“There is a need for vision and security. Everyone must feel at ease when putting an idea to the group.” Only then is there a basis on which to take the common vision forward; only then can creative thinking lead to successful innovation.
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Michaël Van Damme is experimental psychologist and managing partner of The Forge, a UGent spin-off that stimulates creativity and innovation in companies.