A quarter of a century ago the USA marketed 82 percent of the world’s inventions but it now ranks behind several other countries in new-product introductions. In addition, the USA has experienced a 25 percent decline in patent applications (innovations) going back to the 1970’s. Almost half of the U.S. patents are now awarded to foreigners.
In short, the U.S. has experienced a decline in creativity and innovation.
Creative problem solving and effective management needs to be improved in American business.
One way that managers can be more effective is to foster innovation in their subordinates, peers and superiors.
What are your attitudes and behavior in relation to problem solving, creativity and innovation? Take this short quiz and see.
Innovative Attitude Scale
For each of the following statements, indicate the extent to which they are true of either your actual behavior or your intentions. That is, describe the way you are on the job. Use the following scale for your responses.
5 – Almost always true
4 – Often true
3 – Not applicable
2 – Seldom true
1 – Almost never true
Scoring key below.
(Note: You may want to make and distribute copies of this first before proceeding further.
___ 1. I openly discuss with my boss how to get ahead.
___ 2. I try new ideas and approaches to problems.
___ 3. I take things or situations apart to find out how they work.
___ 4. I welcome uncertainty and unusual circumstances related to my tasks.
___ 5. I negotiate my salary openly with my supervisor.
___ 6. I can be counted on to find a new use for existing methods or equipment.
___ 7. Among my colleagues and co-workers, I will be the first or nearly the first to try out a new idea or method.
___ 8. I take the opportunity to translate communications from other departments for my work group.
___ 9. I demonstrate originality.
___ 10. I will work on a problem that has caused others great difficulty.
___ 11. I provide critical input toward a new solution.
___ 12. I provide written evaluations of proposed ideas.
___ 13. I develop contacts with experts outside my firm.
___ 14. I use personal contacts to maneuver myself into choice work assignments.
___ 15. I make time to pursue my own pet ideas or projects.
___ 16. I set aside resources for the pursuit of a risky project.
___ 17. I tolerate people who depart from organizational routine.
___ 18. I speak out in staff meetings.
___ 19. I work in teams to try to solve complex problems.
___ 20. If my co-workers are asked, they will say I am a wit.
Source: Ettlie, John E., & O’Keefe, Robert D. Innovative attitudes, values and intentions in organizations. Journal of Management Studies, 1982.
Problem Solving, Generating Ideas and Leadership
One of the critical behaviors of success is Flexible Thinking–creative adaptability in different contexts. It is having new ideas and lots of them. It is applying them to solve complex problems with multiple solutions. Problem definition and innovative solutions get results.
Innovative people tend to be more ambidextrous in their thinking. That is, they use both the left and the right hemisphere of their brain. The left side deals with thought that is analytical, sequential, organized, planned, precise, based on reason and logic. The right hemisphere deals with thought that is imaginative, playful, emotional, pleasurable, qualitative judgment, based on sentiment or intuition.
Exercise to Test Ambidextrous Thinking
Look at the following two lists of words. Take a minute to memorize the first list. Then write down as many of the words as you can remember on a sheet of paper.
Now repeat the process with the second list.
Most people remember more words on the second list. That’s because the second list contains words that relate to visual perceptions. They connect with right brain activity as well as left brain activity. People can draw mental pictures or fantasize about them.
The same is true for innovation. The more both sides of the brain are used the more innovative the ideas.
“Things do not change, we do.” – Henry David Thoreau
To compute your score on the Innovative Attitude Scale, simply add up the numbers for your responses to the twenty questions. Then compare your total score to the following norm group. Note that the percentile indicates the percent of the people who are expected to score below you.
Source: Developing Management Skills, Second Edition by David A. Whetton and Kim S. Cameron. HarperCollins Publishers.
There is an old saying in business that states, “You manage from the left but lead from the right.”
Paradoxically, left hemisphere thinking is generally rewarded. However, right hemisphere thinking is often times considered tenuous, inferior, wasteful and sometimes even discouraged in business.
Yet as discussed here, ambidextrous thinking, that is switching and using both the left and right hemisphere of the brain, is needed for problem solving, creativity and innovation.
Ironically, by not fostering innovation firms may also indirectly be harming future leadership.
Therefore, the final point for discussion is the following:
What steps can you (and your organization) do to be more effective in this area, starting now?