PhD. Eric Viardot, professor and researcher of Business Policy Department at EADA
In my new book “Evolution of Innovation Management: Trends in an International Context “, published by Palgrave MacMillan and co-edited with my colleague Alexander Brem, I am exploring how companies are trying to enlarge their sources of idea generation and creativity.
Recent findings have shown that creativity is not only limited to individuals, but that is also a social phenomenon. By interacting and communicating with others, individuals get access to novel perspectives and unique knowledge, and they can get support for their ideas. Hence, support from a network of social relationships can contribute to a person’s creativity and can facilitate the creation and implementation of creative ideas.
Recent studies in this area have focused on the effect of network structure for creativity and innovation. In our book, a fascinating chapter by Drexler and Jansen confirms that members of a firm are more likely to generate high-quality ideas if they are more closely networked with their colleagues (internal networking). As a consequence, managers should enable and encourage all participants in their network to establish and maintain informal communication to share information and ideas. Actually, there are many opportunities in the office that can stimulate informal communication, e.g. access to inter- and intranet, e-mails, coffee corners, and department printers. Conversely, managers should take care not to inadvertently restrict informal communication by policy changes or structural modifications; rather they should consider actively reviewing their physical and electronic assets to find ways to maximize informal communication.
But companies are also increasingly relying on external networks to get new ideas. Interaction with external partners stimulates a firm’s innovativeness, because it makes a far more diversified range of knowledge sources accessible than just those available as a result of intra-business interaction.
In addition to tacit knowledge – such as literature, patents and surveys-, informal contacts at meetings, trade fairs and congresses are also very important channels to access external knowledge and to stimulate ideas. Drexler and Janse have evaluated the creation of connections between attendees of a number of public workshops. They found that satisfaction with both knowledge and partner acquisition is significantly higher when participants attend more than four workshops.
The consequences are not trivial for managers in charge of fostering innovation. Organizations that focus on open innovation should motivate and enable their members to attend congresses, trade fairs and similar external events. Additionally, employees, and especially knowledge workers, should be trained in, and motivated to establish informal contacts with new people who could provide them with knowledge and ideas.
Another implication is for event organizers and hosts that deal with Innovation Management, like EADA. They should consider providing sufficient time and space for social activities and informal communication. No doubt we will consider that in the next event that EADA is hosting: the “Teaching and Coaching Innovation Workshop” in partnership with the International Society for Professional Innovation Management (ISPIM) on February 19th and 20th 2014.