Creativity management : Best practices and the case of open innovation

In his book Manager la créativité (French), Thomas Paris analyzes how companies manage creativity. Some of them evolve in creative industries (Hermès, Pixar…), which means that creativity is the main resource to create value ; others leverage creativity for innovation purposes (Nintendo, Renault…).  After having analyzed various examples of creativity management, Paris admits that -in some case- companies would gain getting ideas from outside of the organization.

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Steve Jobs took an awfull lot of risks when he bought Pixar in 1986. During the two first years, he paid the 100 employees with his private funds… but it was worth it ! Pixar has produced major blockbusters like Toy Story (1995), Finding Nemo (2003) and Ratatouille (2007). Before even realizing 3D-models, people at Pixar follow numerous trial-and-error steps associating drawings, storyboards and 2D animations. All these exchanges lead to an abundance of ideas, from which only a few will make it into the actual movie. For Ratatouille, « we worked a year and a half to produce something that appears on the screen for only two minutes. We entirely produced 6 main characters that were eventually removed from the movie » says Galyn Susman, producer at Pixar. One specificity of the Californian company is the integration of the creativity : authors, scenarists or producers are all employees of Pixar, which leads to very high fixed costs – and the obligation to produce mega blockbusters on a regular basis ! To sustain creativity, the studios realize shorter movies (kind of concept-cars of the movie industry) : creators can express their creativity while the animations get better and better.

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A very different case is that of the French fashion label Hermès. To create new fragrances, for instance, Hermès relies solely on one man : Jean-Claude Ellena.  « When I joined Hermès, says Ellena, I refused every kind of market testing on the fragrances I create« . Ellena thinks that it takes a very talented individual to create good perfumes, and that the success of the product can only stem from this experimented individual. « When we launch a fragrance, it’s that my superior and I are convinced of its quality […] this is why I decided to ban market testing and to defend bold ideas!« . This very conservative way of thinking does not hinder the brand to innovate and to reinvent itself in other fields, as the two following projects show…

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The 170-year old brand innovated by designing the interior of a Bugatti Veyron and a Eurocopter EC135. These projects are part of the "Intérieur et Design"-entity newly created by Hermès.

A third example of how creativity is managed in an organization is that of Renault, and more specifically Renault Design. Everyone knows that the automotive industry relies heavily on design, which conveys emotions and allows brand differenciation. Renault organizes regular internal competitions between its designers to impulse new car concepts (and concept-cars!), but the company also sends them out for « trend missions », at the Furniture Fair of Milan, for instance. Or, kind of in the same spirit than Hermès, Renault Design associates itself with designers from other disciplines to discover different ways of thinking (like the design of a Renault watch with Tag Heuer designers). « At Renault, it’s about designing vehicles that are audacious and distinguish themselves by theit style« , says Thomas Paris.

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The Avantime was a commercial failure for Renault. However, it inaugurated a new design era for Renault... a very succesfull one

These are three of the many examples that Paris describes. Creativity definitely has to be managed, but every organization is different by design and by culture. Whether you integrate creativity or you appeal to outside competencies ; how you evaluate ideas ; how you forecast and manage failure… these are some variables in the management of creativity. There’s a difference between creation and innovation : creation is about disruption, while innovation is about improvement. You need smart people who are able to transform wild creation into strategic innovation for a company. Today, there’s one more resource to manage : creativity coming from outside ! According to Paris, opening the innovation funnel is a major opportunity for companies… this creativity just has to be managed.

The conclusion of the book talks about open innovation and the vast amount of information available to companies. Abundance is a fundamental aspect in creativity indeed, but you need a leader to impose a direction. Or you can just creative freaks like Intel just did with Will.I.Am or Polaroid with Lady Gaga ! Will this lead to better innovation… ?

About Yannig

Yannig was Marketing Manager at eYeka, responsible for PR, communication and research. Interested in marketing, innovation and design-related topics, he also loves to free his head by cycling, running, reading or drawing. Yannig, who holds an MSc from ESSCA School of Management and a PhD from University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, tweets under @YannigRoth and blogs at www.yannigroth.com
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