Creativity in organizations can be measured and acquired
Creativity plays an ever-increasing role in organizations as they strive for a continuous flow of innovations. After all, there is no innovation without creativity. A model consisting of five criteria for creativity in organizations was the foundation of the Creativity Awareness Programme (CAP), which is being applied successfully at Unilever Research Vlaardingen (URV, Vlaardingen, The Netherlands). Unilever (www.unilever.com) is a global corporation that manufactures food, home, and personal care products. At URV, 1600 employees support the Unilever companies worldwide by providing them with the latest technologies and insights to improve and develop these consumer products. Like many other companies, URV wants to stimulate creativity in its workers to reach big and bold innovations (see box, The making of . . . Creativity within URV).
The Creativity Awareness Programme
We developed CAP as a tool to place creativity in individual and organizational contexts. As such, the program can be used by individual staff members, teams, departments, or entire organizations.
The package comprises the Creativity Awareness Model, the Creativity Climate Questionnaire, and the Creativity Awareness Training Modules. Together, these form an all-in-one package suitable for individuals and organizations looking for ways to enhance the use of creativity. We foresee that the outcome of the program will be the implementation of Creative Problem Solving methods in the daily working environment and will result in new creative projects and patents, as well as new individual and organizational attitudes.
CAP aims to make creativity the subject of discussion within organizations. All too often, the concept of creativity is vague and hard to describe. This program focuses on making the concept tangible and concrete by measuring and learning to use creativity. Participants are offered a set of tools to tap and use their own creativity and that of the team, and to implement the results in the work and structures of the organization.
By following the program, participants are able to change their work processes and environment and to remove barriers to creativity once and for all. They do this by singling out the organizational aspects of creativity, such as required resources, time, rewards, idea management structures, and high-level support.
The Creativity Awareness Model
The Creativity Climate Questionnaire
The questionnaire can be used by individuals and within groups. When it is used as a self-assessment tool, the employee fills in the questionnaire, determines a score using the enclosed score sheet, and reads the provided tips and hints to improve on specific areas.
When the questionnaire is used as a tool for measuring creativity within a team or entire organization, each member completes the self-assessment. All of the score sheets are then sent to the facilitator, who works out the scores and analysis for the teams or organization. The anonymity of participants can be guaranteed. On the basis of the results, the facilitator recommends a training plan for the individual or the team by designing the Creativity Awareness Training Modules using all five modules, or just the ones needed.
If necessary, the Creativity Climate Questionnaire is repeated after a specific period of time to measure changes in the creative abilities of the employees and the creative climate of the organization.
The Creativity Awareness Training Modules
Supported by established management science and psychological theories, the modules relate to the five creative criteria defined earlier. Through the use of assignments, participants put the theories into practice for themselves. After the training, participants will be aware of the meaning of creativity and its influencing factors. An assessment of creativity skills and techniques that are used in practical assignments are offered to them as well. After the training, participants will be able to eliminate barriers to creativity within the structure of the organization and promote progress in the efforts of the organization.
So far, 300 URV staff members have followed the Creativity Awareness Training modules, and their responses have been very positive. The program has also elicited positive reactions from persons outside the company, because CAP has influenced the organization as a whole, in addition to increasing individual creativity.
The creativity awareness route
What are the results?
At URV, several projects have started from the ideas that were generated in the sessions. Some of the ideas arising from a CPS session have even produced patented inventions. Some project teams that have used the CPS sessions to advance their project have been nominated for the annual Unilever Research Vlaardingen Award, where creativity is a criterion.
Of course, the results are not apparent overnight. The Creativity Climate Questionnaire reveals any bottlenecks in the organization on an individual level, team level, or senior management level. A team may have high scores for own perception of creativity, while falling short in team behavior. Analysis of the results may lead to the conclusion that individual creativity does not surface in the team. Apparently, team behavior does not provide members sufficient stimulation to show any creativity they may have. Conclusions such as this may demonstrate the need to reopen the discussion on organizational changes needed to break down obstacles to creativity.
The discussion may give rise to a new outlook on the subject of creativity in which employees share their problems and accept different opinions and ideas. Funny ideas are considered a potential source of innovation and are taken very seriously. Consequently, people appreciate each other more, which, naturally, has a positive effect on the work climate.
Basadur, M. The Power of Innovation; Pitman Professional Publishing: London, 1995. Rickards, T. Creativity in Organisations; The Management Bibliotheek: Amsterdam, 1990.
Basadur, M. The Power of Innovation; Pitman Professional Publishing: London, 1995.
Rickards, T. Creativity in Organisations; The Management Bibliotheek: Amsterdam, 1990.
Nel M. Mostert is an innovation process facilitator for the Facilitation Unit at Unilever Research Vlaardingen (PO Box 114 NL, 3130 AC Vlaardingen, The Netherlands; +31-0-10-4606393; email@example.com).
Lot H. Frijling was a creativity facilitator in Unilever Research Vlaardingens Facilitation Unit. Currently, she is studying business administration at the Erasmus University, Rotterdam.