Use cases

Integrating Creativity and Innovation into Strategy

As the start-up world becomes increasingly competitive, businesses must react very quickly, with new ideas and answers. Many companies struggle with the challenge of being more creative and competing in this disruptive world. Adam Brandenburg, J.P. Valles professor at NYU Stern School of Business, writes, “game-changing strategies, [businesses] know, are born of creative thinking: a spark of intuition, a connection between different ways of thinking, a leap into the unexpected.” The ties with thinking outside the box, and making leaps and bounds in business are undeniable, however, many times, it can be difficult to create a structure to use these creative tools and processes.

In a survey by IBM conducted with 1,500 chief executive officials, although creativity was ranked the number one factor for future business success, only 49% said they felt confident they were prepared to handle the transformations occurring in the business world. Companies are hesitant to branch out and use new ways to produce innovative ideas, which causes them to abandon more creative methods and revert back to known analytical processes, like the five forces, drawing a value net or plotting competitive positions. Lack of support and incentive to be innovative and insightful in the workplace causes 75% of employees to feel that they are not living up to their creative capabilities. So the question is, how do we remain creative, and ensure that creativity scales for our business strategy?

We will explore five best practices you should consider when you think of integrating the worlds of creativity and business strategy.

5 Best Practices to integrate creativity into your strategy


  1. Make innovation the core of your strategy

Companies have strong expertise in promoting incremental innovation, but struggle to systematically push for disruptive innovation. Bradenburger suggests four different ways to put forth the creativity in strategy.

a. Contrast

Overturning assumptions, or in other words, challenging the way people thought business could be done before. Paypal for example, disproved that monetary transactions couldn’t occur between ordinary people and had to only be done through institutions. By going against the grain, they became the first company to create this system, which is now used worldwide today. Contrast can also look as simple as flipping the order in which it performs activities, like opening a pop-up before a flagship store.

b. Combination

By connecting products and services that may not have been previously linked, you can create new value for customers. For example, Nike and Apple came together to create Nike + Run Club, creating an Apple watch with the app fully integrated. One of the most common combinations today, is combining humans and machines: One of our customers is planning to integrate Virtual Reality technologies into his power plant. By combining the force of human intelligence and technology they are not only able to work more efficiently, but with significantly decreased failure rate as well.

c. Constraint

By turning liabilities and limitations into opportunities, you can make an action that was impossible, seem more possible. For example, most of our customers take benefit of this principle when optimizing maintenance of machines and inventory. Whether it be the chemical industry, the energy sector or manufacturing, each sector is aware of the potential cost savings that can be made by implementing predictive maintenance processes. By using and analyzing data in real time, they are preventing breakdowns from occurring in the future.

d. Context

When searching for a solution to a problem, it may be closer than one may think. Often times, an analogous problem has already found a solution, which can be implemented to resolve your problems. This is why lots of methods rely on patterns. Invention is not always happening from scratch. By transferring existing solutions from other industries, new groundbreaking ideas can be identified.

2. Systematically apply innovation methods

   In order to successfully implement new ideas, it is important to develop methods for the creativity process and the way of thinking.

It is hard for people to overturn what they learned and experienced as a working system. That is why people need methods that help to overcome their habits. Especially SIT (Systematic Inventive Thinking) is a great tool here. It is based on five innovation patterns and helps people in a structured, and systematic way to break fixations to find a new way of thinking by finding common patterns in innovation. SIT is a method that helps people to come up with innovative ideas on demand and translate them into actions.”

Design Thinking is another well known tool used to develop new ideas and optimize processes along customer needs. These are only two examples of many methods to challenge existing business models, products, processes or services, but they are highly powerful when used in the right way and the right context.

When employees feel supported and empowered, with the right tools and the right set up, there is an undeniable amount of creativity and innovation power that can be collected. Even more far reaching topics such as building a new service business in a traditional process manufacturing company where service businesses haven’t existed before, were welcomed and the project begun.

3. Define a process to foster creativity

   Step three is to define a standardized and sustainable process to foster disruptive innovation. Processes are essential to ensure continuity and realization of disruptive ideas. To bring them to life, an innovation process management solution helps. It is important that this solution is fully customizable, so it supports your innovation process. One solution for this is IdeaFox, a cloud based innovation and process management software that merges creativity and innovation. Its collaborative platform funnels the collection of ideas from employees, customers and other external partners, enabling their creativity to roam free. The fully flexible and customizable process and task management features ensure that ideas can be co-created jointly.  This is where our customers became not only opportunistic innovators but are also able to link creativity to a systematic process.

4. Ensure Implementation

 After forming a process for creativity, you must create a way to implement the new ideas. The question is, how do you make sure that the outcome of your innovation process leads to scalable businesses? Again, a tool like IdeaFox can help. It allows you to define your workflow up to implementation, which includes systematic evaluation, task management across the organization, milestone management and success tracking. We have seen many customers that anchor on an implementation process in a flexible software, which allows companies to systematically implement the best ideas and get 20% faster in realization.

5. Create a culture of growth

To ensure that disruptive innovation becomes core skill of the organization, the culture needs to support employees to ask questions and challenge the status quo. Mistakes and failures must be allowed during the innovation process and managers should foster a creative mindset. Small regular interventions and reminders to foster this culture are essential. The right creativity methods and innovation tools can again help here to create this culture.  

To conclude, these five best practices will propel your business towards merging innovation and creativity, implementing new ideas and creating a growth culture to form a long lasting impact.

Only companies that set a clear innovation strategy, combine the usage of innovation methods like SIT with stringent processes for both creativity and implementation - ideally supported by an innovation process management solution, and find ways to create creative habits, will make a true difference and will be able to generate new disruptive businesses repetitively.

About the Co-Author:

Carolin Rohrbach is an experienced coach and consultant for innovation management and creativity methods in the era of digitalization. Having worked as a product and business development manager at Microsoft for more than a decade she knows exactly where the challenges with digital transformation for customers are located. Currently, she is helping her students to understand how digital leadership and innovation in an ever evolving world might look like. Additionally, she is also helping companies implement a culture of innovation and creativity with Ideafox, using the right tools for a sustainable solution.