How good ideas survive

Coming up with creative, fresh ideas does not necessarily imply that they
will ultimately be put into practice.

“Having a creative idea is simply not enough. Unless people are driven to
push their ideas through the organization and can rely on a couple of key
supporters along the way, creative ideas are doomed to remain just
that — ideas,” says Markus Baer, PhD, associate professor of organizational behavior.

To understand what happens to people and their
breakthrough ideas, Baer conducted a research study titled, “Putting
Creativity to Work: The
Implementation of Creative Ideas in Organizations,” published in the Academy of Management Journal, 2012.

Few scholars have looked directly at what it takes to convert breakthrough ideas into real-world application.

“People often simply focus on quantity — the more ideas we have, the more likely it is that something will come out of it — but this tells us very little about the survival chances of really good ideas,” says Baer.

Baer’s research shows that breakthrough ideas often face an uphill battle in organizations. He defined creativity as the extent to which people develop ideas that are both radically different and useful, whereas idea implementation described the process of converting these ideas into new and improved products, services or ways of doing things.

Baer’s most recent study examined the possibility that the odds of one’s ideas making it into practice are better when people are driven to push their ideas through the organization and are savvy networkers.

The goal of his research was to uncover the bridge between ideas and actual innovations by examining the process in-between more directly.

In conducting the research, Baer used 216 web-based surveys completed by employees from different divisions of a large, global agricultural
processing firm.

The surveys were used to assess information on individuals’ creativity, their networking skills, and their drive to implement their ideas.

“Believing that taking the risk of pursuing one’s idea is worth
it — that the organization will recognize and reward it — is the lubricant that drives innovation,” says Baer.

Results indicated that individuals were able to decrease the otherwise
negative odds of their creative ideas coming to fruition when they could
visualize positive outcomes attached to bringing their ideas to life, in
addition to being skilled at developing a set of strong “buy-in”
relationships with other individuals.

“To put creativity to work you really only need a couple of key supporters in the organization,” says Baer. “It is not the number of supporters nor their status that matters. Simply having a handful of trusted allies all across the organization is what counts.”

Baer believes that understanding the value of motivation and the usefulness of nurturing relationships to key allies in the organization is an important first step toward identifying the conditions that determine whether creative ideas are ultimately converted into cutting-edge innovations.

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