The word “creativity” is used widely in business and academia, but its meaning may differ greatly depending on context. This may cause confusion in the minds of people who have to determine which kinds of creativity are relevant to their project and which creativity tools to use. So we tried to understand why and how the meaning of the word “creativity” varies, and study the impacts of these variations on how complex socio-technical systems are designed. As a result we derived a framework for understanding the precise local meaning of creativity used in a specific context, before deciding on the adequate support for it.
Consider, for example, that at the kick-off meeting of a new development project, the sponsor emphasised the importance of creativity. Now, as the manager on this project, you feel in trouble: are you supposed to get together in a funny workshop using sticky notes? Or are you supposed to use new technology? Do you have to make a revolution in your product line? Or do you have to find new ways of collaborating? Are you supposed to take risks? Should you challenge the very problems you are asked to solve?
As this story indicates, there are many ways one could be creative during the development of a socio-technical system, and many ways one could support creativity during the project. In its early phases, one must manage an important part of the creativity on the project. So one has to choose a certain creativity, and find ways to support it. The question is then:
How can we help the manager to find the adequate creativity for a project ?
As an answer, we came up with an actionable framework that one can use to guide interviews with projects sponsors, and to structure the results in a way that a specific creativity is determined. This framework identifies 3 contextual factors that explain why the creativity meaning changes, and 5 dimensions that explain how it changes. You can read the full story in the full paper I published at REFSQ 2012, in collaboration with Alistair Mavin (Rolls Royce) and Patrick Heymans (FUNDP).