Creativity and innovation
Creativity and innovation

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Creativity and innovation

1.2.2 Experience

Studies of creative people, whether they are chess players, musicians, business people or scientists, have emphasised the role of relevant experience and with it the idea that chance favours the prepared mind. Investigation suggests that creative people draw on their knowledge of an area to tackle problems differently from novices in their field. It seems that, as they build up their experience, they organise their knowledge in ever more sophisticated chunks, which means they can access key cues more quickly. Consequently they are better placed to recognise important problems (e.g. Simon, 1988). For example, Fleming may have stopped to question the unusual reaction in a Petri dish, that subsequently led to the discovery of penicillin, because years of work had alerted him to notice irregularities that were likely to be significant. In other words his experience had led to superior problem-finding skills.Many great industrial inventors, just like their counterparts in science and music, have worked in particular fields for many years before apparently stumbling upon their inventions, and have taken many years afterwards to develop their ideas. For example, Edward Land took three years to develop the Polaroid instant camera after his initial insight (Westley & Mintzberg, 1991, p.43). Dyson, an industrial design engineer, made over 5,000 modifications to his prototype before he was satisfied with his bagless cyclonic vacuum cleaner (Mayle, 2006; [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] ). It was a Cambridgeshire paramedic, Bob Brotchie, who suggested the idea of storing an In Case of Emergency (ICE) name and number on your mobile phone, so someone could be contacted if you were hurt. As a paramedic, he had experience of trying to identify people involved in traffic accidents and realised it would be easier if people used an ICE number as most had mobile phones.Weisburg (1986) has presented evidence to suggest that in a number of different fields individuals need to work in an area for many years before they are capable of exceptional creative achievement. Many business people who have successfully turned around their organisation have indeed been working in their industry for many years. For instance, Jan Carlzon, who rejuvenated Scandinavian Airlines, was a travel veteran. Likewise Lee Iacocca, who revitalised Chrysler, had worked in the car industry for decades. In this view, creativity is largely a matter of expert recognition. The implication is that creative competencies are domain dependent and not necessarily transferable skills. One consequence is that the wise manager is well advised to think twice before downsizing and letting experienced staff go – younger staff may be cheaper but they may not have the know-how of experienced staff.


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