INSIDE BUSINESS : How to cultivate a crop of ideas

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The Independent Online
When the Department of Trade and Industry, aiming to stimulate innovation, asked 100 bosses if their companies were creative, most said yes. A closer look revealed that only 15 actually were.

Although 90 per cent of the world's best innovations start in Britain, nearly all are first implemented abroad. Innovative employees grow frustrated by management's negative response to ideas. What should companies do? What can individuals do?

Never take no for an answer, two businessmen advised a workshop on managing creativity in organisations. Each has wide experience: David Gluckman is a brand development consultant who has worked for 20 years with companies such as Birds Eye, Kraft, and International Distillers & Vintners; and Steve Wilson is IDV's brand development director.

Jo Ouston, former head of the Institute of Management's Advisory Services, arranged the workshop for clients of her career management consultancy at Dolphin Square, London, who want to develop their ideas.

To make things happen, Mr Wilson said, there had to be "a match" between company and individual. In the right environment, people can take their ideas forward.

Creativity is not a process or system you introduce, nor is it enough for the chief executive to decide the organisation is going to be creative. It must form the culture of the company. If it does not start at the top, it won't happen. Innovative ideas delegated to middle or lower management will get no further. Do it through senior management and things will move forward.

Creativity involves trusting employees, accepting risk, rewarding innovative ideas, not penalising failure. "The real failure is not to have tried," Mr Wilson said. "If a product or an idea is not right, forget it. It won't work. The challenge is knowingwhen it's time to pull out."