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Interview: Bernard Nijstad on the relation between creativity and innovation

Date:28 July 2017
Author:Neeltje Miedema
Bernard Nijstad
Bernard Nijstad

Prof Bernard Nijstad studies the relation between creativity and innovation within organisations. He offers companies in the Northern Netherlands the unique opportunity to participate in his ground-breaking research project. Nijstad: ‘This research project provides companies practical recommendations to promote creativity and innovation for being more competitive.’

July 2017, more than 15 companies in the north of the Netherlands have already committed themselves to Nijstad’s research challenge. To find out how companies can better use the creativity of their employees , the University of Groningen (UG) professor of Decision-Making and Organizational Behaviour has been awarded a prestigious Vici grant of 1,5 million euros by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

The use of creativity can be decisive in being competitive?

Bernard Nijstad: ‘Take the company Apple as example. Apple successfully brought their iMac, iPod, iPad and other consumer products to the market without doing any market research. Apple’s founder Steve Jobs strongly believed that consumers never know in advance what they really want to have or to buy to fulfil their needs. So, he created his own market and had a strong vision about what customers would like.’

‘However, to create these products and to solve problems that arise when creating new products, creativity of employees is essential. Without substantial amounts of employee creativity, highly innovative products cannot be developed. Although it is possible to obtain knowledge and ideas from outside the firm, it is a strong competitive advantage to have high levels of creativity in your own organization. Creativity may lead to new ideas about products or services, but is also needed to solve problems when implementing these ideas.’

What is creativity in your opinion?

‘Creativity is a characteristic of a product, a service, a theory. The product must be new, original, distinctive and specifically usable for the company or organisation. Creative people are particularly good at generating creative ideas and solutions.’

What does the implementation of your research look like?

‘After an introductory meeting with the company board, we collect data at different levels of the organization; from work floor to board room. At various levels, questionnaires are distributed to gather information on the company structure and experiences of their employees. For example: What is the market position of the company in the Northern Netherlands? Does the company have a vision or strategy how to transfer new ideas into innovation or how to anticipate on market developments? Is the company management open to new ideas from employees? Or is there a management tendency to maintain the status quo? What are the opportunities to change the company strategy or status quo to become more competitive through innovation?’

‘Additionally, we will examine the relation between innovation and creativity. In the literature, these two lines of research have largely developed independently. We will be researching an integrated theory how those two lines can be linked to make companies more competitive.’

How are the results being processed?

‘The results will be stored in a database. This comprehensive data collection for and from companies in Northern Netherlands can be used for data-driven decision-making. It may help companies to make strategic decisions on how to make their organization more innovative.’

What kind of companies are invited to participate in your research project?

‘The Vici research project focuses on medium-sized enterprises with about 50 to 500 employees from all market sectors. In a possible follow-up study, we may invite the small sized companies sector.’

From inspiration to value creation

‘Exploration and better use of the creative potential of employees will lead to a more dynamic organisation and from there to new products or services. This research provides a tailor-made insight scan for specific companies into the relationship between creativity and innovation of the company, and gives insight into what moves are vital for your organisation’s future.’

More information

Employers who are eager to participate in the ‘Creativity in Organizations’ research project, are invited to fill in the digital form. The research team will contact you as soon as possible. (The survey has been closed.)