Wednesday, March 6, 2013

IT Paradox: Should Creativity and Process go Hand in Hand?

Creativity is the core of what makes IT strategic in any company.

Today, organizations have to compete on a global scale and creativity is not only valuable from a product/service standpoint, but can also add efficiency or effectiveness to IT operations, improving business-IT communication, innovate business culture, and provide for outside-the-box problem-solving capability as well. 

1. Why is Creativity Important in IT?

Creativity is becoming increasingly crucial in today's business environment as it breeds innovation. As it's common that many IT companies tend to focus more on their core competencies with age and often forget about the value of such innovation. Without creativity, organizations would be upstaged by the ones that are creative because disruptive innovation will happen no matter you well prepare or not.
  • The new way to do things: Using our creative side helps to create new ways of doing things that allow for innovation to happen. If we weren't able to think creatively in IT, we would be floundering as much as those falling mighty. How many times has someone used an old computer to do something it was never meant to do. How often do we take a new product and utilize it in a way it was never intended.  
  • Continuous improvement: Creativity is of course about taking something and improving it in a way that one might not normally think of. For example, the benefits of industrialization are obvious, lower costs through standardized, repeatable, measurable execution, etc. It’s a bit like why all cars in the world have an accelerator, a break and a clutch; and in the same order! The automatic clutch was an innovation brought about by creative thinking; the next step, of course, in the car travel, could be total-auto-drive.  

2. How to Encourage Creativity in IT Organizations?

Do IT organizations strategize through the encouragement of creativity? Positive thinking should be yes. Unfortunately, it seems creativity is not encouraged in most organizations. Everyone is so busy keeping up their reports using the accepted methodologies that have taken over the IT world, such as industrialized IT frameworks. If CIOs don't soon realize that stifling the creative mind of IT will set back business, their IT organizations would continue to be perceived as a cost center.  So how should IT encourage and enable creativity in the right way?

  • Creativity without a direction or purpose is building technology for technology's sake. Creativity is the core of what makes IT strategic in any company, but it is critical that the creativity is focused not on the technology but on how it can be used to advance the business objectives.  IT creativity is struggling to occur and it is the reason many executives believe IT is not business aligned. 
  • Creativity and process go hand in hand: Without process there is chaos and from the chaos, it’s hard to be creative. Using both creativity and IT framework to be successful; that could sound like a contraction. But actually, you need an IT framework to achieve the benefits of industrializing certain domains of activity such as Service management, Infrastructure management, etc. The concepts of the framework are good, but they are often implemented in a bureaucratic manner with a focus on processes and not execution. It is not just a matter of filling out the forms or generating reports. These are the byproducts of solid execution. So you even need more creativity to provide agile/flexible products & service and build up competitive uniqueness for business to compete in the long term. 
  • High-performance IT organizations that continue to be successful can manage this tension between defined processes and creativity well. They understand the need for the process, but they also invest in R&D; hoping that staff will use their creative talents to deliver a competitive advantage. This is not just creativity, it is creativity with a focus or even a strategy that requires real discipline to design and implement the technology. Creativity is the core, but it must be wrapped in a "team" that begins with the infrastructure and ends with the user application and the support staff in a circular relationship. IT framework type disciplines are used with solid technical skills that understand how technology really works. Otherwise, it is a stifling process that destroys creativity and drives IT cost even higher. 
Thus, CIOs should cultivate a culture in supporting creativity and innovation, regularly throw out challenges to the team, with a tolerance of calculated failures, process, and creativity need go hand in hand more often than not, to run a creative IT through creative communication. 


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