Creativity and rationality: the two main levers of an innovative company

7 min

Innovations are the result of a creative process. Whether induced or generated by a spontaneous idea, the new is always something born of cognitive intelligence, currently produced only by the human mind. However, the lighting of the light bulb will necessarily have to be followed by a rational path that assesses the feasibility of the idea. That is why an innovative company will necessarily have to stimulate both the creative and rational areas to achieve success. But what are the strengths of the two sides of the same coin? Let’s compare them together.

Innovation and established processes: how to make them coexist

Bringing the balance and potential of the human mind back into business and machines is a challenge that has experts and scientists around the world engaged. Artificial Intelligence was born precisely to simulate human abilities but its path is still far from the perfection of cognitive thinking.

The business context is one of human resources and technology, and this combo can recreate the potential of the two mental hemispheres: the left hemisphere, which is rational and the seat of logical-mathematical thinking and speech; and the right hemisphere, the seat of imagination, anagogic language, and creativity.

This is a distinction that serves to appease our desire for clarity but it is obvious that the two hemispheres of the human brain are interconnected and act by relating. Here, in the same way, an innovative company will have to create an interconnection between the creative potential stored in the minds of human resources and the analytical-rational potential programmed into the software of technological devices.

In addition, it is good to remember that the innovative process always starts from pre-existing elements and requires skills such as competence, perseverance, intuition, and experience. This is the only way to achieve meaningful results.

Creativity is as important as rationality and must be trained in business contexts, where stagnation is the greatest obstacle to growth. Leaders and managers have the task of stimulating creative processes on par with rational ones. Resources, on the other hand, must automate rational processes by welcoming the support of technologies and spending time discovering new ways of doing things by imagining alternative solutions.

The rules: how to follow them without getting stuck

Whether they are defined as rules or protocols we can rest assured that every company has mandatory steps for carrying out certain activities. These are procedures that have been established over time, the result of experience, and which, over the years, become increasingly fossilized.

For example, role rules. A manager, whose job is to manage, monitor, control, and administer, often performs these activities aseptically, as if to put in a series of checks by the end of the day, valuing the relational aspects little. A daily routine is the grave of any creative and innovative process. Instead, such an important role should be dynamic to entice change in operational resources and leave room for experimentation. If rules are not broken, new paths that could lead to innovation are not pursued.

Rules in business, are they, therefore, short-lived? Not at all, creativity breaks some rules but establishes others that are equally valid. Having reference procedures, and rules to pass on is a vital step in the dissemination of activities to operational resources.

When we talk about automation, and we want a definite process to execute by software, rules are fundamental to programming an algorithm. In this case, instructions are required to replicate a routine activity exactly and at the same time assure us of reliable and certain answers. Machines are extremely rational and although this leaves no room for change at the same time it assures us of consistent and standard repeatability. We know that if we want to change automation we just have to reprogram the software.

Innovations: creativity must be useful and functional

Innovate [from lat. innovare, der. of novus “new”] means; “to renew, regain strength, vigor, efficiency.” Such words are the keys that enable a company to differentiate itself by gaining a competitive advantage and product improvement. To innovate requires not only skills and experience but ideas and creative minds are key. It is from powerful brainstorming that new projects come forth and the seeds of change germinate. However, it is good not to confuse creativity with innovation.

To create something new, it is essential to start with an idea, but it is equally necessary that it also be useful. What is not useful is not innovative but remains only an exercise in creativity. Illuminating is the definition of innovation given by Jules Henri Poincaré, French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher, in the text “Science and Method.”

“It is through science that we prove, but through intuition we discover. […] Inventing consists precisely of not building the useless combinations and building only the useful ones, which are a small minority. To invent is to discern, it is to choose […] of all the combinations that may be chosen, the most fruitful will be those formed by elements drawn from very distant fields. ”

The speed at which we work today is eroding the time we should be devoted to the creative process. Operations are made up of processes and routine procedures that prevent us from opening the window to look outside the productive reality in which we are immersed. Yet the context in which we act is constantly evolving and confrontation remains the only card that allows us to compete in the marketplace.


The stages of a creative process

What can I do to trigger an innovative process? Not necessarily create a new product or service. Innovation is often about a new way of doing things, a new process, or a business model. We can distinguish innovations that improve processes and technologies from disruptive innovations that involve a challenge and transformation to enter a new market.

But how is a creative process developed? What Harvard University identifies as “design thinking” is an innovation framework that consists of 4 stages :

  • clarify: identify a problem, understand what consumers’ needs are and what they are looking for in the market.
  • ideate: this is where creativity comes in. One must produce ideas that involve solving the problem identified during the research phase with innovative proposals
  • develop: one seeks to understand how useful and effective the solution chosen from those proposed is
  • implement: you communicate the idea to generate interest and encourage its adoption.

Being an innovative company means leveraging the balance of two fundamental elements: creativity and rationality Share on X

Data analysis: new interpretations for updating datasets

Analyzing data aseptically, sorting them into spreadsheets or software that offer us variations or percentages is not a useful process, however, looking back. When we look at the data, activating the creative part of our brain, the same numbers that a week ago showed us an increase or decrease now become the input of the innovative process aimed at improving a business.

Of course, perhaps this creative flicker is an activity more suited to a manager than a data scientist, but it is important to have a figure on the team who has the time and aptitude to extrapolate from the data not only predictive or historical patterns but also insights to renew acquisition and classification flow.

So while the mechanical and automatic rationality of artificial intelligence software allows me to analyze huge amounts of Big Data very quickly, I also need intuition and creativity. It is the latter that will guide me through the data in exploring new markets or experimenting with new flows or, more simply, creating new datasets that feed the automation.

Empathy: emotions and objectivity in business

Today it is difficult to create new products or services that meet the obvious needs of consumers because the global world has already generated solutions to address the entire scale of Maslow. What then should be targeted? To the unexpressed needs, those that the consumer does not even know they wants. The way to unearth them brings emotions into play. We must put ourselves in our customers’ shoes, listen to what they say about our product or service, and figure out how to improve their satisfaction.

If our product or service not only satisfies a need but also generates an emotion, we have won. Data show how a strong emotion is finalized with the purchase even if the technical features or price of a particular product, for example, are not beneficial.

A good salesperson can connect with the potential customer empathically. The product that sells the most is the one that has a story to tell because in a world of numbers, deadlines, and increasingly digital relationships, people need to get excited. Not to mention jobs, such as that of the physician, where the empathic relationship with the patient is part of the success of a therapeutic journey.

Rationality comes in where empathy takes over, where emotions, whether positive or negative, do not allow a manager to properly analyze a given context or the functionality of a product/service. This is when objective consideration is needed. Objective evaluation of a phenomenon must be done by reasoning in the concrete, through data, statistics, and feasibility percentages. These are processes in which emotions have no place.

Constancy: creative peaks and rational continuity

Leaving aside artists or those who work with intellectual creativity daily, in business the creative act is an event related to a particular moment. Certainly, we must distinguish between the brilliant idea, which is already the result of a creative process, and which generates innovation, from simple everyday creativity: that is, that which is linked to new ways of carrying out even a mundane activity. However, this is a seesaw process.

On the other hand, we have the rational approach that focuses precisely on consistency. Especially if we think about the reasoning carried out by automated software. Triggered a tried and tested logical flow you repeat it generating the same level of performance every time. This ensures consistent results.

The connection between the creative and rational hemispheres serves to move the bar and raise the level of business productivity. Where creativity changes the way of doing things, rationality makes it functional and applies it consistently over time.
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