The topic of innovation is quite popular in the sphere of technology and production. A lot of research has been done to optimize the company’s processes and inspire innovative thinking. John Man has made one more attempt to elaborate on it trying to assess the connection between innovation and creativity researching the kind of mindset that brings forth the former. He has performed solid scrutiny of the two existing approaches and proposed a solution for companies, who want to advance in the field of technology, creating cost-effective and productive machinery. Man juxtaposes the “firefight” mindset to the “what is right” paradigm, arguing that the latter pushes the technology forward (232). However, there are some questions the author seems to leave behind, and some of the arguments he makes may be deemed questionable. Specifically: the value of the innovative idea on its own, lack of innovative thinking in the “firefight” approach, and the ways of creating an inventive mindset as he perceives it.
Innovation and Creativity as Drivers of Change
Firstly, John Man tries to explain the connection between innovation and creativity, as he suggests that some researchers outline the circular dependence of the terms and the confusion it creates (Man 229). Despite stating the problem of the terms’ ambiguity, he does not give his interpretation, focusing on the practical application instead. He brings out the key features of innovation and creativity as applied to the results of work, arguing that practical application of the creative or innovative idea is worth far more than the idea itself, quoting the Prime Minister of Singapore to support this claim (Man 231).
To some extent, the author’s opinion is justifiable as an implemented idea may have clear statistics of its benefits. However, the impact of creative thoughts and theories per se cannot be underestimated. Producing an idea is usually the first step towards change. If it has a solid ground beneath it and the potential to transform the way of operating or perception of particular objects in some sphere then, given it inspires several supporters, an appropriate implementation can be elaborated.
For instance, the works of Nicolaus Copernicus on his heliocentric theory inspired Giordano Bruno to go even further, proposing that the stars are distant suns of other systems and there are myriads of them in the cosmos. The fact that these ideas were not properly proven at the time due to the absence of suitable technologies did not diminish their importance. The same logic applies to Einstein’s relativity theory and Da Vinci’s tank blueprints. Thus, the practical, creative power of innovative ideas may not always be released instantaneously sometimes implying the need for time or collaborative efforts to implement them.
“Firefight” Approach and its Role in Creating Innovation
The author argues that being centered on the drawbacks of the existing technology cannot lead it forward (Man 231). He states that aiming the teams to find and correct the flaws in current mechanisms is effective but cannot lead to a major change in performance. This point of view is arguable because the accumulative effect of the ‘fixes’ may sometimes outweigh the cost of the search for groundbreaking solutions. Small adjustments may not yield significant results on their own, but when they are viewed on a larger time scale, a difference can become visible. For example, if a company gradually increases its performance growing by five percent each year, then in five years it will grow by more than twenty-five percent. If it spends five years on the development of the technology that will allow it to gain fifty percent at once, then the results will be the same, though the value-added in the first scenario will be lost. Above that, breakthrough performance is not guaranteed.
Additionally, the innovation may also have flaws and drawbacks in its design that will need to be thought over, which creates the same vicious circle. Besides, nothing is standing between adjusting the existing technology and developing new at the same time. The companies that successfully operate in the market for a long time often create Research and Development departments, whose agenda consists solely of working on experimental projects. Embracing gradual change can be no less vital than aspiring for great inventions because sustainability is usually one of the key elements of the company’s success.
The Ways of Triggering Innovation-centered Mindset
The author argues that the brain needs to be tuned to see the positive sides of the technology, focusing on “what is right” and the current knowledge of the best examples to motivate the team to think in the direction of a massive change (Man 231). Nonetheless, this approach appears to be less effective than an all-rounded evaluation of the previous and existing experience. The invention of the new often involves excellent knowledge of both negative and positive sides of the available and machinery or method. The “knowledge-based work” that the researcher speaks about in his paper needs to be based not only on successful design decisions but also the ideas, which were not realized, flaws, and underdevelopment to have a more realistic view on the subject.
Another possible issue that arises from the positive mindset, which the author proposes as the best solution to cultivate innovative thinking, maybe that it possesses purely motivational value. Orientation on the result is only one part of the innovation development process. In reality, creating something truly unique and game-changing takes years of hard work in a sphere, considerable investments in research and testing, and often genius minds.
The example cases the author uses to help the reader understand how innovative thinking works feature some controversy. Case number two, for example, is stated in the following way: “An education institution records an 89 percent pass rate in an examination of a trade subject” (Man 232). It is not clear why that is a problem and why innovation is needed in the first place. In this case, the author suggests that an innovative approach is to elaborate on another cost-effective way to achieve the same result. The pass rates have room for improvement; however, the urge for innovation and change of the teaching method in this particular case is questionable. Besides, the case does not suppose that the current procedure is costly.
The author’s attempt to convey an idea that an innovative approach, which is triggered by the positive mindset and result-orientation, can lead to the creation of groundbreaking technological advancements seems to be lacking evidence. The key interconnected terms “innovation” and “creativity” were not clearly defined despite being used extensively and spoken of as “ambivalent” (Man 229). The questionable conclusions on the value of ideas, critical thinking, and error correction as necessary steps toward innovation based on the author’s reflections and somewhat vague examples unsupported by expert opinion give little ground to deem this paper an example of proper research.
Man, John. Creating Innovation. Work Study, vol. 50, no. 6, 2001, pp. 229-234.