Published on 2012/10/30
There is no one thinking style, some individuals are more creative while others are more analytical. Employers must allow and encourage their employees to think in their own diverse styles to encourage innovation and advancement.

This is the second article in Dearing’s five-part series on learning organizations. Yesterday’s article discussed the importance of ensuring that ongoing learning is happening, and today’s will discuss strategies to ensure that innovation occurs.

An Enterprise Firing on All Cylinders

The competitive mantra for virtually all businesses today is, Innovate or Die. Responding to that imperative (Innovating), however, is difficult, because innovation takes place when different ideas, perceptions, and ways of processing and judging information collide. It often requires collaboration among players who see the world differently. As a result the conflict that should take place constructively among ideas all too often ends up unproductively among people; disputes become personal, and the creative process breaks down.

The manager successful at fostering innovation figures out how to get different approaches to grate against one another in a productive process called Creative Abrasion. Creative managers make creative abrasion work for them, as they understand that different people have different thinking styles:

  • Analytical or intuitive
  • Conceptual or experiential
  • Social or independent
  • Logical or values-driven

These managers deliberately design a full spectrum of approaches and perspectives into their organizations, understanding that cognitively diverse people must respect other thinking styles.

They set ground rules for working together to discipline the creative process.

Above all, managers who want to encourage innovation need to examine what they do to promote or inhibit creative abrasion.

Tomorrow’s article will focus on the value that experience can bring to a learning organization.

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References

Harvard Business School Press (1998), On Knowledge Management, Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation, Boston USA

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Readers Comments

Zandra Thomas 2012/10/30 at 9:02 am

“Creative abrasion” gets thrown around a lot lately. In my opinion, for the concept to be more than just a buzz word and to actually work, it has to be a formalized process of sorts, with some degree of discipline and thoughtfulness. You can’t just throw all your disagreeing employees in a boardroom and proclaim “creative abrasion!” Real creative abrasion would involve profiling your employees to determine their styles and, (and Mr. Dearing mentions this) managing that process yourself.

Greg Allan 2012/10/30 at 1:03 pm

One useful by-product of this neat concept that comes to mind is the extension of the technique to any problem in the office. If the “creative abrasion” philosophy is allowed to pervade the whole office environment and culture, any conflict (even personal ones between employees) can be depersonalized and diffused as just different ways of looking at things.

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