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The report below examines the current scenario of Match Box Architects that is a 9 years old small-scale architectural organisation operating with offices in Northampton and London. They undertake designing and architectural work and offers subsidiary services within the construction industry. As the company is looking towards growth, the organisation is facing internal issues affecting their work resulting in unhappy clients.
Therefore, this report assesses as to how creativity and innovation can be promoted at different level of work within MBA using established frameworks and techniques in the field of creativity and innovation and suitable conclusions and recommendations are based on how they can be applied to MBA and flourish creativity and innovation within individuals in MBA.
The aim of this report is to suggest a suitable strategy that could promote creativity and innovation in the organisation within individuals at various levels of work. We are looking to study Match Box Architects (MBA) which is an architectural company operating at a small-scale level and renowned for its services in the architectural designs in Northampton. The case put forward is to understand the problems faced by the individuals within MBA affecting their performance and ability to handle various task and how the morale within each individual can be raised going forward in order to equip them to face difficult situations and come up with creative and innovative solutions.
So, what is creative thinking? As per Rickards (1985: 5) creativity is defined as “personal discovery process, partially unconscious, which leads to new and relevant insights”. Another view from (Amabile et al., 1996: 1155) is creativity can be considered as “production of novel and useful ideas in any domain” (Proctor, 2014).
In management, problems occur when facing new or different situations and hence it requires unique ideas to tackle such a situation. Inadequacies of logical thinking led to the need for creative problem solving. It is a way though which imagination is used along with techniques that comprise of analogies, associations and other mechanisms to help build an understanding of the problems. Majaro (1991: 1) advocates, “It is universally assumed that enhanced creativity can provide a company with a competitive advantage” (Proctor, 2014).
Hence, we are further going to evaluate in the report the blocks to individual creativity and innovation. Discuss Creative Problem Solving (CPS) and Design Thinking techniques and apply the most suitable one to MBA to achieve the desired output of making individuals creative and in the process lead to the growth of themselves and MBA as an organisation.
MBA is an Architectural design company initiated by Niel Scroxton in 2009 with one-man operation with currently 20 employees working for the company. They specialise in designing buildings in residential, commercial and industrial sector. Their plan is to grow to from £750,000 turnover in 2018 to £4.2 million with 50 employees by 2022 (Higson, 2018). The above calls for having an effective team in the form of architectures, technicians, management group along with services team. Growth also needs to be the same of the individuals in the team as that leads to the overall growth of the organisation.
MBA’s vision statement states alignment of the design and construction processes whereby creativity being the main driver at every stage of the project. Build and develop an inspired team of individuals to change the built environment (Higson, 2018).
However, MBA needs to resolve some of the current issues in order to improve the working ability of the individuals by promoting creative and innovative attributes within each employee. Issues like that of projects going over the budget and under quality, tasks having to be re done, unproductive meetings, communication gap between the clients and the team, direction from the board or senior management are to be addressed (MBA, 2018). These core issues along with some others affect the performance of individuals and hence a suitable environment is required to find solutions for the same.
Hence, further study in the following chapters is to help MBA with a Consultant plan to overcome the challenges.
Problem solving and creativity is something that may not be common to everyone. Blocks are of two types: individual and organisational. The report focuses on the individual blocks faced by MBA employees and suggests relevant use of techniques that can promote creative thinking. Blocks often relate to mindset and forces to do with perception, emotion, expression and cultural influences (Proctor, 2014).
As per Arnold (1962), there are certain blocks to creativity within individuals because of the people themselves. Other blocks, emerge from the environment in which the individuals operate. Personal barriers- divided into physiological barriers, as the brains capacity to handle the data and the psychological barriers linked to the individual’s attitudes or behaviour (Proctor, 2014).
Perceptual: It states the prevention of receiving true information or appropriate information of the world outside. This block indicates the functioning and operation of MBA as an organisation and the flow of information (top to bottom). Hence, hinting the core structure of work dictated within MBA with less input opportunity for the employees.
Cultural: It results from the influence of the society. MBA’s culture is not been identified. Leadership is to question because of separation within the teams. There is no link between the management and the team of architects. This is vital for MBA’s employees, as architects need to understand the need for management and vice versa to avoid confusions and conflict, as they are both important aspects of their business.
Mindset: Dunker (1945) investigated how experience can affect and block creativity and problem solving. He refers ‘functional fixedness’ as a block. Ideas are critiqued in order to minimise risk. However, criticisms can create a negative mindset for the individuals and hamper creativity within them. Constructive criticism would be better for instance using the phrase Yes, And instead of Yes, But which is very much needed in MBA as the individuals are being critiqued at the designing stage and this can affect the architects in coming up with best designs if their ideas are being criticized (Proctor, 2014).
Emotional: It is to do with fear, anxiety and jealousy. Executives coming up with last minutes ideas causing chaos in the project, over working project assistants making them defensive in their approach along with fiction due to project leads (MBA,2018) showing an unhealthy working atmosphere and that can emotionally affect employee’s creativity within MBA.
Hence, after the identification of the blocks encountered by the employees in MBA it is necessary to undertake a strategy that can develop creativity within MBA. This perhaps is important to save the reputation of MBA as getting negative reviews from the clients can affect their future projects. In order, to ascertain a right kind of strategy two perspectives are considered for MBA and the most suitable one is to be chosen and applied.
The Osborn Parnes framework is one of the different types of creativity problem solving theory that are available to enhance creativity within individuals in an organisation. It is based on six steps “ that essentially encourages people to work within existing paradigms, though the introduction of wild ideas may on occasion lead to paradigm stretching by moving the thought processes of the participants away from the problem in hand” (Procter, 2014).
From the steps mentioned above, Problem and Idea finding are vital and therefore MBA needs to emphasise on them steps more, as these steps will lead to the motivation of the employees within MBA and hence redefine a creative and innovative culture within the organisation.
Various techniques and methods that can be used within Osborn Parnes framework include Classical Brainstorming, Force Fit Game, CPS, Lateral Thinking, Convergent and Divergent, etc. Thus, greater number of ideas can be generated using any of them models, influencing productive and innovative feeling within the employees of the organisation (Proctor, 2014).
For the purpose of generating ideas and solving problems in MBA, Convergent and Divergent method of idea finding can be applied.
Divergent thinking is a way through which creativity can be cultivated in individuals through generation of various ideas. Creative problem solving needs production of a variety of ideas and leads to the divergent of potential solutions (Ford, 1996). Divergence approach of thinking helps individuals identify interesting problems and coming up with new ways to solve them (Basadur, 1994). As per Simon (1976) according to the rational decision making process, steps included finding alternatives and examination of the results required divergent thinking. Hence, many approaches to creative decision-making problem adopt divergent thinking technique (e.g., Basadur et al., 1982; Gordon, 1961; Parnes, 1967). On the other hand, convergent thinking requires critical evaluation of ideas and forms an important element in creativity (William, 2004).
MBA therefore by adopting such technique can indulge their employees in finding alternative ideas and solutions to some of their major problems by using divergent thinking like that of projects going over budget, delay in timeframe and communication gap between the clients and through convergent method best possible solutions can be put into use. Each problem needs separate attention and could be resolved through meetings that are held regularly and through effective communication between the employees. This achievement is possible only when there are options available for the problems faced by the organisation and time allocated to reflect upon them. Using such technique will give a chance for the employees to reflect upon the requirements of each project and take suitable steps to apply to the problem by being creative in the solution finding.
A different approach to drive creativity and innovation in an organisation could be through Design Thinking (Johansson-Sköldberg, et al., 2013). This approach was established to use design practice and proficiency beyond design factors (like architecture or artist) for and with that of the people who are not design scholars particularly in the field of management. However, design-thinking theory can be applied in the most suitable way in MBA in order to promote and enhance creativity. Watson (2015) suggests that having an appropriate model leads to guidance and tools to surpass creative blocks and stimulates creative perception promoting better ideas.
Empathise: Experience & perspective of the user is identified.
Define: Problem statement gets articulated based on the understandings from empathising.
Ideate: Exploring range of ideas connected to the problems.
Prototype: Model of solutions is being created at this stage in order to make concrete ideas.
Test: At this stage, prototype created earlier is tested with the user.
Design thinking is iterative in nature and the user can go back to any stage depending upon his requirement (Henriksen, Richardson & Mehra, 2017).
In order to promote creativity and innovation Lateral Thinking technique can be applied at the idea generation step. It was developed by Edward de Bono in order to assist a method to move away from the traditional ways of pursuing a problem. A method cultivates new attitudes applied to the thinking process (Van Gundy, 1988).
This method can be classified into three categories:
Such a technique can help employees to change their mindset, enhances their skills by making them creative, and provides with alternatives to overcome difficult situations in a far productive and efficient way.
Having understood the importance of creativity and innovation in an organisation, MBA as an organisation needs to provide similar freedom to its employees. Their aim is to strengthen the number of employees they hold by 2022 to 50 that shows the scale of expansion they are looking at going forward. Hence, the growth of individuals at all levels (Management, Service or Design) within MBA would be beneficial as it allows top management to focus on bigger projects with effective involvement of the employees in decision making by providing them with the ability to have a say on the problems faced by the organisation.
Blocks affecting creativity within individuals were examined and it was facilitated that they were affected by Perceptual, Mindset, Cultural and Emotional factors. Furthermore, Osborn’s Framework model was considered through Divergent and Convergent Thinking approach along with Design Thinking Model taking Lateral Thinking approach as techniques to promote creative thinking within individuals. Hence, after assessing the given two methods, one of the above will be discussed in recommendations showing its suitability for MBA.
After evaluating all the possible options, I would recommend MBA adopt convergent and divergent technique through Osborn’s framework. This technique allows flow of idea and generates various alternatives to similar problems or issues that the organisation is going through. As this technique is a combination of two techniques it further strengthens, the decisions taken based on practising such technique. This will help in shaping a balance between the creative team of architects and also the management team gets an opportunity to be creative and ideas generated would be through thorough understanding of both the areas of business. Linking the two is important to avoid conflicts, confusions within the design team and management.
Leadership needs to change to incorporate trust amongst the employees. Directors, Executives and Project leads as individuals need to be creative to influence smooth workflow for the rest of the team. Meetings consisting of employees from all level are therefore necessary on a regular basis (every fortnight if possible) where every individual can voice their opinion about concerning issues and ideas can be generated which will lead into fostering creative and innovative habits among individual and further growth of MBA and its stakeholders. MBA should also periodically invest in their staff by having training sessions that makes their trust and bond with the company stronger and the drive the employees to work for the company.
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