4.2 Organisational capabilities for innovation
While a consideration of Amabile’s factors that help and hinder is an important starting point, it is also worth thinking about how people in organisations interact and work together – and what this might mean for innovation.
Harvard Professor Linda Hill argues that ‘innovative organizations are communities that have mastered three capabilities critical to innovation: creative abrasion, creative agility, and creative resolution’ (Cook, 2014):
Each of these aspects can be understood as follows:
- Creative abrasion refers to the ability to generate a marketplace of ideas through discourse and debate. Innovative organisations know how to amplify, rather than minimize differences. We’re not just talking about brainstorming, which asks people to suspend their judgment and share their ideas no matter how ‘off-the-wall’ or ‘halfbaked’. Creative abrasion is about having heated, yet healthy, arguments to generate a portfolio of alternatives. People in innovative organisations have learned how to inquire, actively listen, and advocate for their point of view. They understand that you rarely get innovation without diversity of thought and conflict.
- Creative agility is the ability to test and refine ideas through quick pursuit, reflection, and adjustment. This is about knowing how to do the kind of discovery-driven learning associated with design thinking – that interesting mix of the scientific method and the artistic process. Creative agility is about acting your way, as opposed to planning your way, to a solution. It is about running a series of experiments, not pilots. Pilots are often about being right – when they don’t work, something or someone is to blame. Experiments, by contrast, are about learning – and a negative outcome can provide important insights.
- Creative resolution is the ability to do integrative decision-making so that diverse ideas, even opposable ones, can be combined or reconfigured to create a new solution. In innovative organisations, people are not willing to go along to get along. They do not allow one individual or group to dominate – not the bosses, not the experts. They do not compromise or take the path of least resistance. Creative resolution requires a patient and inclusive decision-making approach that allows for ‘both-and’ versus ‘either-or’ solutions to be embraced.
(Adapted from Cook, 2014; emphasis added)