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How To Reduce Spoilers Of Your Company’s Innovative Problem-Solving Process

A person with creative ability needs room to act on his or her ideas and hunches, rather than tightly organized work, and should have new projects where flexibility abounds
A woman uses virtual reality to furnish the interior of a home at the DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festival. September 27, 2016. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)
A woman uses virtual reality to furnish the interior of a home at the DLD Tel Aviv Innovation Festival. September 27, 2016. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

Your company’s innovative problem-solving process has many steps.

 Step A. The problem emerges.

Step B. Creative problem-solving takes place.

Step C. New and useful ideas emerge and are identified.

Step D. The ideas or proposals get through to the important decision makers with resources for innovative implementation.

Step E. The ideas and proposals are verified, worked on, developed, and implemented.

Step F. There is an eventual payoff in new procedures, processes, patents, products, and profits.

This process is easily spoiled: Here’s how:

at Step C: Lack of experience, little reading, not attending meetings or trade fairs, little time to explore new ideas, etc. This hinders the storage of new concepts in peoples’ minds.

at Step B: Lack of appropriate elements in people’s minds; an unprepared mind; lack of external triggers; could be the same as C below.

at Step C: Constant critical judgment of ideas by most people; poor habits and environments.

at Step D: Constant critical judgment by other people; fear of failure.

at Steps E and F: Unskilled to sell new ideas without threat; lack of status; others don’t take the idea person seriously; work group doesn’t want new ideas; work group has low effectiveness in handling and selling new ideas; new ideas are threatening to other people.

What can you do to reduce the spoilers in your company? 

Simple. Ask people what they need to be more creative, innovative, and useful. Determine how flexible their work situation is. Encourage new projects, new areas, or an additional challenging project. Arrange it so coordination of work is not a detriment. Increase the opportunities for people to try out ideas on others, and above all, target appropriate rewards.

One way to maximize on-the-job creativity is to provide the idea person high independence, job security, and training in selling ideas in a non-threatening way. A person with creative ability needs room to act on his or her ideas and hunches, rather than tightly organized work. An idea person needs new projects where flexibility abounds. Older projects become productive rather than innovative, goals become inflexible, and creativity is spoiled.

The creative person will do poorly if his or her ideas are unappreciated, since resentment increases and creative thinking crashes. The creative person needs influence, or a champion, to get ideas accepted, and resources provided. Otherwise, intrinsic motivation is stifled.

Creative output is low when a potentially creative person lacks confidence, status, training, security, reputation, or rank; lacks communication with critical resource providers; and lacks flexibility in goals and approaches. Self-motivation for on-the-job creative output drops.

Enhance the creative payoff for potentially creative people. Keep the work coordination low, but not too loose. Enable the creative person to directly influence important decision makers to get approval for resources and encouragement. Provide on-going opportunities for discussing new ideas with others. Many people say the biggest help to their creativity at work is other people. Allow people to self-motivate for greater creativity. Provide a leaky reward system with many types of opportunities to obtain approval and resources to implement ideas and projects.

And for additional ways to solve problems creatively at work, check out my book: “CREATIVITY TRIGGERS ARE FOR EVERYONE: How To Use Your Inventiveness To Brighten Your Life.” 


©2017 by Ed Glassman


Ed Glassman, Professor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, founded the Program For Team Excellence And Creativity at the university. He was a ‘Guggenheim Foundation Fellow’ at Stanford University, a ‘Visiting Fellow’ at the ‘Center For Creative Leadership’ in Greensboro, NC, a Visiting Professor at the University Of California at Irvine, and a Visiting Scientist at SRI International in Palo Alto, California.

He was the President of the Creativity College®, a division of Leadership Consulting Services, Inc., and has led numerous Creativity & Innovation Meetings and workshops for many companies, including IBM, DuPont, Amoco Chemical, Ciba-Geigy, Hoechst-Celanese, Texaco, AT&T Bell Laboratories, Milliken, Federal-Mogul, Thetford, Standard Products, and others.

His book: “Team Creativity At Work I & II: Creative Problem Solving At Its Best,” is available: CLICK here OR HERE.

His other book: “R&D CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION HANDBOOK: A Practical Guide To Improve Creative Thinking and Innovation Success At Work is also available.   CLICK here OR HERE

About the Author
Ed Glassman, Ph.D., is professor emeritus and former head of the "Program for Team Effectiveness and Creativity," in the medical school of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was also a visiting fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina.
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