(Original Spanish version) Masscience, Feb 14, 2018
Businesses of the 21st century face more complex challenges than those of any past era. An extremely competitive market, a more demanding consumer, and an environment that changes at breakneck speeds force us to innovate and try to lead the innovation race constantly. Recognizing good ideas, those with great potential to become desirable products or services for a wide audience, is one of the most complex tasks entrepreneurs face.
A novel idea, original and useful is the basis of any entrepreneurial initiative. But after generating the idea, the innovative process continues, and creativity is still necessary to successfully bring it to market.
The entrepreneur or businessman not only has to be able to generate an idea, but he also has to find a way to develop it efficiently and convince the public of the value of his proposal. Creativity is present in all phases, which is why, for several decades, science has been interested in analyzing the possible relationship between creativity and entrepreneurship.
It is known that the great inventions of humanity have radically changed our living conditions. Underlying them, there is always the human capacity to create, devise, and invent new options. It is a capacity that distinguishes us from other living beings: we constantly create alternatives and innovate our ways of relating to the environment.
But not everything is light in our mental capacities. Parallel to creative capacity, our rigidity of thought walks. Our knowledge anchors us to the things we know and prevents us from discovering new options. It is what is known as the mental rigidity of the expert. The more you know about a topic, the more difficult it is to think outside the box.
An example of mental rigidity in the business world was played by Sony in 1970 when it was about to abandon the CD market after failing to disassociate itself from the “vinyl LP” concept. The directors of Sony could not imagine a CD of a different size from the LP record they had been handling for years.
A digital device with those dimensions would have contained more than 18 hours of music. What musician would want to release an album of that length? A 12-inch CD was an unworkable format. Fortunately, Sony rethought the question, concluding that the solution was to reduce the size to the CD format we know today. Sony’s extensive knowledge of music production came close to launching it outside its market (Barker, 1993).
Once any rigidity is overcome for creativity to flourish, the new product will succeed if it strikes a balance between novelty and familiarity. Any innovative product must be something different and original to get people’s attention but familiar enough to avoid being rejected or misunderstood by the public.
Creativity is a controversial concept. Cognitive psychologists state that creating something out of nothing is impossible. We need to rely on our knowledge of the world and the mental structures we have built to create. So why are they considered novel ideas if they have emerged from something already existing? And how is it possible to overcome the mental rigidity caused by prior knowledge? (Ward, 1995).
From the perspective of creating based on existing knowledge, it is understood that we can create when we associate or combine existing ideas in a new way, that is, through conceptual combination. According to this view, a series of mental mechanisms are set in motion to modify and transform stored knowledge into something completely new.
The process begins with the separation of the previous substratum: combinations, concepts, or existing knowledge to later generate new combinations that give rise to a creative product. Various explanatory models of creativity are based on this premise of combination. The combination is part of the associationist theories of creativity and the hypothesis that certain emergent characteristics manifest when associating ideas.
The combination contemplates any substrate: verbal concepts, images, sounds, artistic or musical styles, and even functions, as is the case of current mobile phones, capable of taking pictures or playing music with acceptable quality, combining the functions of several products in a single one.
The idea of combination is also related to business innovation. Various empirical works suggest that novel ideas for products and marketing campaigns are usually derived from the combination of mentally opposed concepts (Ward et al., 1995) or that the combination of concepts, not necessarily opposed, serves to specialize the initial concepts, endowing them with greater entity and meaning for a specific audience.
Concept blending isn’t the only way to generate new ideas; it’s just a very efficient way to do it. Another way is analogical reasoning, through which we can transfer knowledge from one domain to another (Gentner et al., 2001). The analogy seems useful in generating balanced ideas between the new and the familiar. Analogies are distinguished according to conceptual distance; two analogous concepts will be more or less close. For example, the analogy used to create Velcro is closer than the one used to understand the structure of the hydrogen atom.
The analogy is good support to explain a new idea. As a form of communication, the analogy acquires importance in business and marketing since, given its persuasive potential, it is used to sell new ideas and proposals.
It is often said that you have to ask good questions to get good answers. In creativity, it has been seen how the problem identification and formulation stage is essential to achieve innovative and original proposals. The formulation problem-solving process is usually called creative problem-solving (CPS) to distinguish it from classical problem-solving or problem-solving (PS), which is only concerned with solving an already identified problem (Basadur, 1994; Sternberg, 1988). CPS is very important in innovation, where problems are often ill-defined and wide-open, with many solutions and possible courses of action (Mumford et al., 1994).
During the formulation phase of the problem in CPS, it has been seen that the way in which the individual accesses the knowledge stored in his memory is very important, which will depend on the structure of conceptual categories that he has been building during the process. their intellectual development. In turn, this will influence how mental rigidity will manifest itself, which will limit or not the appearance of novel alternatives.
In the business world, it is said that an entrepreneur is someone who knows how to identify opportunities and puts in place the necessary mechanisms and resources to exploit those opportunities. Obviously, this goes beyond having a good idea. The mechanisms of creativity presented here help us learn a little more about how this human phenomenon works, but creative production is much more complex. Many variables make something creative or not, from variables related to the person himself to the environment that supports creative behavior and values the creativity of a product. Still, there are many more variables when putting a new product or service on the market. In this case, factors such as profitability or operational capacity are added, aspects that are not so relevant in artistic production, for example. For this reason, it is said that creativity at a business level is systemic and that it must be approached from all fronts so that a truly innovative proposal is produced that can captivate the public.
- Barker, J. (1993). Paradigms: The Business of Discovering the Future. Harper Business, New York.
- Basadur, M. (1994). Managing the creative process in organizations. In: Runco, M.A. (Ed.), Problem Finding, Problem Solving, and Creativity, pp. 237–268.
- Gentner, D., Holyoak, K.J., Kokinov, B.N. (2001). The Analogical Mind: Perspectives From Cognitive Science. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
- Mumford, M.D., Reiter-Palmon, R., Redmond, M.R. (1994). Problem construction and cognition: applying problem representations in ill-defined problems. In: Runco, MA (Ed.), Problem Finding, Problem Solving, and Creativity. Ablex Publishing Company, Norwood, NJ, pp. 3–39.
- Sternberg, R.J. (1988). A three-facet model of creativity. In: Sternberg, R.J. (Ed.), The Nature of Creativity: Contemporary Psychological Perspectives. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 125–147.
- Ward, T.B. (1995). What’s old about new ideas? In: Smith, S.M., Ward, T.B., Finke, R.A. (Eds.), The Creative Cognition Approach. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp. 157–178.
- Ward, T.B., Finke, R.A., Smith, S.M. (1995). Creativity and the Mind: Discovering the Genius Within. Pleno, Nueva York.