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A typology of creative tools and techniques for operations managers

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The importance for organisations to innovate and use creative thinking as part of being competitive, is a well known and strong research area within the UK. A recent DTI Think Piece (Whyte et al, 2005) has provided key issues for policy makers in this area. The recent EPSRC grant award EP/C534239/1 to Professor Ganns’ ‘Innovation and Productivity Grand Challenge’ shows the area is significant to the survival and competitiveness of UK Industry. Many research outcomes have focused on innovation and creativity of the design of products and services (Cooper, 2005), however very little research has been carried out into the creative tools used at the operational level of an organisation within the ‘order fulfilment’ and ‘support product/service’ business processes. Innovation and creativity at the business process level has not been a key focus. Studies of the output of creativity have been carried out at this level concentrating on quality circles, problem solving groups and other means of involving employees (Bessant, 2003), and has highlighted that creative tools are used at different levels with an organisation. The issue of radical or incremental innovation is also well documented (Francis and Bessant, 2005) and (Tidd et al, 2005). The above research has highlighted various issues which include the ‘inability to manage innovation as an integrated business process’ and to make it repeatable (Whyte et al, 2005) and an ‘inability to understand, access and use emerging innovation toolkits to its full potential’. Studies of innovation and creativity within SMEs have also focused, in the main on design. In this paper, I present a typology of creative thinking tools at three levels within an organisation: namely day to day action, process improvement and strategic change within business operations. Soft systems methods are used to identify define and clarify the purpose of creativity tools at these three levels.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-60
Number of pages17
JournalThe Systemist
Volume29
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2007

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