“Experienced problem solver” is a term a human resources person might expect to see on an incoming resume. “Successful problem generator” isn’t nearly as likely. But maybe it should be.
Organizational creativity is a process with four separate and sequential stages – generation, conceptualization, optimization and implementation. The generation stage, which launches the creative process, is where new ideas are developed – often by discovering problems that need to be solved. Not surprisingly, generation is usually chaotic, spontaneous and disordered.
The business world has increasingly come to value the results of creativity and innovation, but is often still uncomfortable with people who are considered creative. They may be stereotyped as oddballs in many organizations, which don’t perceive a positive relationship between creativity and wisdom, and may not believe individuals can possess both attributes.
Organizations that undervalue the creative contribution to be made by skilled problem generators are neglecting an essential human resource in the new economy. In my experience, most people understand the stages of problem solving and implementation, but fewer are skilled at problem conceptualization, and even fewer, at problem generation.
Generators aren’t always comfortable employees. They may seem to be continuously dissatisfied. They can quickly become bored with work that requires applying routine procedures to increase efficiency, or executing already defined assignments. They may be perceived to be somewhat unfocussed or even disruptive as their behavior reflects more of an orientation to introducing (generating) a new problem and less of an orientation to defining, understanding, constructing or formulating (conceptualizing) an existing problem or developing (optimizing) or implementing solutions to an existing defined problem. But organizations that are trying to become more proactively adaptable must learn to integrate problem generators into the workplace.
Innovative grows out of knowing customers’ problems, needs and wants before they do, and offering new solutions in advance of the competition – leading the pack rather than following it. Organizations wishing to successfully compete on today’s global business stage would be advised to embrace the discomfort of disruptive creativity that generators bring to the workplace.