Innovation is a State of Mind #6 #cong17

By Dr. Sue Redmond

Sue Redmond #6 Innovation Is A State of Mind

Innovation is a state of mind. It can be a catalyst for the growth and success of your business, and help you to adapt and grow in the marketplace. Being innovative does not only mean inventing. Innovation can mean changing your business model and adapting to changes in your environment to deliver better products or services.

A substantial challenge that faces society today is our ability to maintain positive wellbeing and mental health in the face of increasing demands of a globalised society and digital workplace. Additionally, as more people explore their wellbeing their desire to be connected to a company that shares their values will increase. 

Work by Graziotin et al., (2014) with 42 participants investigated the relationship between the affective states, creativity, and analytical problem-solving skills of software developers. The results reveal that happy developers do in fact problem solver better in terms of their analytical abilities. However, the same was not necessarily true for their creativity. 

Among the many skills required for software development, developers must possess high analytical problem-solving skills and creativity for the software construction process. According to psychology research, affective states—emotions and moods—deeply influence the cognitive processing abilities and performance of workers, including creativity and analytical problem solving.  They argue that for over 30 years now a goal by many companies has been to make software developers happy so that it supports creativity and productivity (Drell, 2011; Google Inc., 2014; Stangel, 2013). 

If the people on the project are good enough, they can use almost any process and accomplish their assignment. If they are not good enough, no process will repair their inadequacy—‘people trump process’ is one way to say this.

Cockburn & Highsmith (2001, p.131)

Indeed, moods and emotions play a role in nearly all human interactions and workplaces. They influence how people collaborate and how these collaborations spark creative conversations and ideas. We are far more emotional than logical in our decision-making despite sometimes feeling otherwise. Therefore, knowing how to tap into those emotions and harness them for creativity and innovation is useful. 

Most workplaces require the interweaving of many skills, in particular analytical problem-solving skills and creativity. Both of these are cognitive processing abilities. Some cognitive processes have been shown to be deeply linked to the affective states of individuals (Ilies & Judge, 2002). Referring to “any type of emotional state . . . often used in situations where emotions dominate the person’s awareness” (VandenBos, 2013). 

Distinguishing between two modes of creative and analytic problem solving: convergent and divergent thinking (Cropley, 2006; Csikszentmihalyi, 1997), which map roughly onto analytic problem solving and creativity studies. Divergent thinking leads to no agreed-upon solutions and involves the ability to generate a large quantity of ideas that are not necessarily correlated (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997). Convergent thinking involves solving well-defined, rational problems that often have a unique, correct answer and emphasizes speed and working from what is already known, which leaves little room for creativity because the answers are either right or wrong. 

According to a meta-analysis on the impact of affective states on creativity (in terms of creative outcomes), positive affective states lead to a higher quality of generated ideas than do neutral affective states, but there are no significant differences between negative and neutral affective states or between positive and negative affective states (Baas, De Dreu & Nijstad, 2008). Similarly, Lewis, Dontcheva & Gerber (2011) provided evidence for higher creativity under induced positive and negative affective states, in comparison to non-induced affective states. While Forgeard (2011) showed that participants who were low in depression possessed higher creativity when negative affective states were induced, and no benefits were found in the participants when positive affective states were induced. Finally, research by Sowden & Dawson (2011) found that the quantity of generated creative ideas is boosted under positive affective states, but no difference in terms of quality was found in their study. 

This suggests at least the potential for either positive or negative states of mind to be creative and innovative. It is true to say that when we as a human species face great challenges and hardship we also face a great opportunity to disrupt and change. Additionally, when we experience positive states of joy and happiness we are creative. The research points to us having more ideas than when in negative states of mind. It would appear that the only state of mind that lacks creativity is one where apathy exists. Practical advice around innovation is, either be fired up about a negative situation to drive change or happy enough to have the curiosity to see opportunities. 

CongRegation © Eoin Kennedy 2017 eoin at congregation dot ie