Organizational Structure, Creativity, Innovation

Organizational structure can inhibit or foster creativity and innovation. The problem with organizational structure though, is that it is resultant of many factors, including history, organic growth, strategy, operational design, product diversity, logistics, marketing, client base, supplier base and so forth. Therefore, what managers need, are not recipes for complete structural change, but insights into the properties of fostering structures that can be adapted into the existing structure.

To start, it is useful to analyse the preferred structures against the not so preferred. There are many definitions of types of organizational structure, but one example is:

a) Mechanistic structures (generally not preferred) – includes centralised control and authority, clearly defined tasks, vertical communication links, obedience to supervisors, rigidity and inflexibility.

b) Organic structures (generally preferred) – decentralisation of authority, tasks loosely defined, horizontal communications, greater individual authority, flexible, adaptable.

Experience shows that the above can be misleading. For example, flat organisations are generally preferred and hierarchical ones not preferred, however, even flat organisations are in reality hierarchical.

Importantly, if we have a mechanistic structure, what factors allow us to move in the right direction without wholesale change?

Some answers include:

a) Direct communication links to decision makers.

b) Communication and information flow between departments.

c) Tangible progression of ideas from problem to solution, product development to commercialisation.

d) Creative teams working outside but linked into the organization, whose culture, processes etc diffuse into the existing structure.

These and other topics are covered in depth in the MBA dissertation on Managing Creativity & Innovation, which can be purchased (along with a Creativity and Innovation DIY Audit, Good Idea Generator Software and Power Point Presentation) from

Kal Bishop, MBA


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Creativity and Innovation As a Sense of Nationalism

There seems to be an attempt in the United States and other first world nations to create a resurgence of innovation and creativity. This is interesting because for so long we had worked on standardization in our education system, getting everyone on the same page, and marching in step. Now we see we are being beaten in the global marketplace, and we realize our greatest strength was our entrepreneurs, creativity, and innovation. Since we all agree on that, we are looking for more of it now.

Today, creativity and innovation has been rebranded almost as a sense of nationalism in the United States. We also see something similar had happened in Canada as they worked very hard to create a knowledge worker society, get everyone educated, and lead the world in scientific discovery. Much of Europe also attempted the same. As the Olympic Games of 2012 show a sense of pride and nationalism for sports, agility, and athletic ability we see how this can be such a strong bond.

When we compete as Americans for creativity and innovation in the marketplace of ideas, we see we have a stellar advantage due to our free-market system. You see, the free-market and capitalism rewards people with great ideas, who can solve problems and innovate, and sell their inventions and methods in our economy. All we have to do we show them the way, and let them compete in that same marketplace of ideas. That makes sense right?

It’s almost as if creativity and innovation is an extra lever to reignite a sense of nationalism and pride. The United States has always been on the leading-edge of invention, problem solving, and having a can-do attitude. It is practically the spirit of America, and it still shines. Some might say that too much nationalistic pride is not a good thing, but maybe it is when it comes to an underlining theme of problem solving, innovating, and creating new products and services. Not to mention the fact that it will provide more jobs as well, something that our economy needs right now.

Education is also a nice arena to uplift a nation for nationalistic pride, and it doesn’t hurt anyone else to compete for the most educated society. Luckily, America is quite good at all of these things, despite the detractors who might say that our society isn’t as educated is theirs, the reality is; “sure it is, look everywhere, America is winning.”

Promoting creativity and innovation as a sense of nationalism I believe is a smart play for a great team – Team USA. It doesn’t hurt anyone else anywhere else in the world for us to do that. In fact, it might help them by setting the bar very high, and challenging them to do the same.

Let’s Make This the Era of Innovation for America!

Creativity and Innovation As a Competency

The S.C.R.E.A.M technique can assist you to direct your organization to come up with innovative solutions that will work effectively and productively. As long as you are in a leadership position you will need S.C.R.E.A.M to get to the root of the problem fast and find any ways and means to resolve that problem.

To be innovative and creative the first thing to do is to find areas in your work environment that provides opportunities to innovate. This can be anything ranging from your customer relationship management, new processes, and new services, improving your workflow, developing new products or improving the quality of your current product. The list is not exhaustive.

Once you find an area to innovate the next step is for you to identify and frame the opportunity. In doing this you have to come up with an action plan on how you are going to go about innovating. You will have to study your existing situation and do some forward thinking to see in what direction that you want to go. You will have to gather relevant data that will eventually allow you to come up with a workable solution. Once you have done this you need to implement the solution to see whether it works and if necessary rework the concept.

To assist you in this process S.C.R.E.A.M is an ideal tool. This is what you can do:

Substitute your current situation with something else

Through substitution you can find opportunities to come up with new ideas and to see what works and whether there is a more efficient system. In the past there were some babies who are born with a rare condition of lactose intolerance. This means that they are unable to drink milk as these babies do not produce the enzyme lactase that helps break down the protein in milk which is their only source of nutrient in their formative year. Through medical breakthrough nutritionist were able to develop a substitute soymilk for babies with fortified vitamin and other ingredients that give these babies a fighting chance at survival.

Combine your ideas with other ideas

On paper it may look perfect but when put to the test in might prove infeasible and unreliable. This is where you need to see the need to combine your idea with someone else’s to see whether you can come up with something unique and workable. Think about shampoo and conditioner. Two separate products and through combination there is now conditioning shampoo. Further combination of adding certain type of essential oil to these shampoos and now there are shampoos for various kinds of hair type.

Reverse the situation and rearrange the facts

Innovative solutions sometimes can come about through reversing the existing situation and rearranging the facts. Henry Ford asked a simple question of what if instead of the worker having to go to his work, the work comes to him instead. With a little bit of strategic thinking Ford came up with the concept of production line where each worker stand by the conveyor belt and the work comes to him instead.

Eliminate the unnecessary and elaborate on the features

Ermal Fraze wondered whether there is a better method to open the can instead of using the can opener. What will happen if the can opener was eliminated? With a bit of creative insight the pop-up can was born. Ask yourself whether there are protocols, features and other unnecessary things that you are doing that if these were to be eliminated will make you more productive, efficient and effective without compromising the quality, safety, health, legal and ethical issues.

Adapt and Modify

The art of innovation is the ability to adapt to existing situation and coming up with an effective and workable solution. By modifying key components to a product it becomes possible to come up with new ideas in different industry. Guglielmo Marconi intention was to promote the usage of the radio for ship to ship and ship to shore communication. Reginald Fessenden in 1906 unwittingly gave the idea that a radio does not necessarily be used for communication with ships only but it could be used for broadcasting music. This was the beginning of radio broadcast that still is very much a part of our lives.

So go ahead SCREAM and innovate.