State of the art: Creativity and innovation at work

Michael A. West looks at how to turn creative thinking into innovative practice. Do you recognise yourself or your work environment in his account?
In the bath. Walking the dog. On holiday. Looking at the fire. Walking in the mountains. While meditating. Swimming. Sailing. Fishing. In fact anywhere but work. This is what people say when asked about where they do their creative thinking. But they also report that implementing change in the form of innovation is primarily done at work and in work groups. Major changes, which involve changing attitudes and behaviour and learning new skills, are the stuff of their work experiences. Creativity can be seen as the development of new ideas, while innovation implementation is the application of those new ideas in practice (West & Altink, 1996; West & Farr, 1990). Workplaces are too busy, hectic, pressurised, social and urgent for creative thinking; but they may be precisely the kind of environments that encourage and demand innovation.

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