Is ‘managing’ innovation counterintuitive to creativity?


In ‘Innovation and entrepreneurship in information organisations’, Rowley explicates the term ‘innovation’ in relation to the concepts of entrepreneurship and creativity. He argues that as organisations come under increasing external funding pressure that there is a growing need for greater innovation within the information sector. However, this innovation needs to be managed and processes need to be put in place in order to ensure innovative ideas are effectively utilised. I am not altogether convinced that Rowley’s ideas are adequately thorough in order to ensure a promotion of innovation rather than a suppressing of it.

Rowley describes innovation as ‘a multi-stage process whereby organisations transform ideas into new/improved products, services or processes.’ They can effectively do this by managing these ideas through a controlled process. This process is derived as a kind of entrepreneurship in Rowley’s essay. In order for innovation to be fully realised, he argues that we must recognise that innovation is inherently entrepreneurial. Definitions of entrepreneurship all revolve around taking ideas and turning them into success whether by being creative or utilising creative resources appropriately. Thus, the entrepreneurial process is one of interaction between individuals, their social networks, structures that objectify opportunities, and physical contexts. Entrepreneurship in this sense is explained as a systematic practice of innovation. This concept is then finally related back to creativity as Rowley accepts that all innovation comes from an initial creative design.

However, the one question that Rowley struggles to answer is how to put in place a framework that will allow employees to create the ideas in the first place. He accepts, for example, that innovators do not work well in bureaucracies and that Google’s ideas of allocating 20% of employee’s time to allowing them to be creative is unlikely to work within the public sector. Of course, Google can do this because they are generating their own profits, where most libraries are allocated budgets by their parent organisation who will demand that resources have a quantitative result. Rowley could perhaps have looked at the concept of ‘synergy’ as one way of promoting creativity within organisations in which employees are made feel ‘part’ of the organisation. However, cutting wages, reducing staff and demanding ‘more for less’ is not going to create synergy.

Finally, it is positive that Rowley is encouraging organisations to put in place a framework for managing innovation. On the one hand, the framework in itself may aid in increasing innovation in that it shows staff that new ideas will be developed in a serious and effective manner. Coupling this framework with some kind of rewards programme may well be a solid starting point for fostering an environment, even within a bureaucracy, for more creative ideas to emerge. However, and on the other hand, I am always skeptical of the ideas of controlling creativity because to me it seems counterintuitive. Rowley’s framework proposes to essentially institutionalise ideas so that they can be controlled and channelled towards results. This may well have the opposite effect of discouraging creative thinking in an organisation.

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