Creating Environments for Innovation

I attended my U of Toronto MBA alumnus life long learning day today.  Its free to alumni and they bring in speakers from Yale, Harvard Business Review, University of Sussex, etc.   All day was spent on fostering creativity.  Here's a recap of the best lecture – one by the Dean of the Rotman School at University of Toronto – Roger Martin:

  • Businesses are experiencing commoditization of goods, slowing d'd – and the need for innovation and creativity has increased.  So how to foster?
  • To create a conducive enviro – must recognize the fundamental tension between 'reliability' and 'validity'. 
  • Reliability is the mindset to produce consistent, replicable outcomes.  Substantiate based on past events, to minimize judgement, to avoid the possibility of bias.
  • Validity is the mindset/practice of producing outcomes that meet the objective, that substantiation is based on future events (an entrepreneur says I have an idea about a new widget for the future), it integrates judgement (I know it will work), and acknowledges bias.
  • Yet, common processes in an organization favour reliability.  e.g. "prove-it" response to an innovative idea – prevents validity from occuring.  Validity can only be proven based on future events.
  • need for both – though two forces tend to dislike each other.
  • Reliability processes are taking over accidentily and may be stifling creativity.  Examples given are CRM vs. customer intimacy, Incentive/Comp instead of job meaning, shareholder value max instead of corporate social responsibility.
  • So if you want creativity – recognize a need to balance both and create a context for validity to exist.
  • Finally – creative must feel like a valued member of the community.  Recognize that 'abductive' logic (the logic of what might be – future based) does exist., create a design shop environment but not overlay traditional infrastructure.
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