Identifying innovation in employees

June 22, 2018 Alexander Lemhoefer

identifying innovation

How to identify creativity

Creativity and innovation can help organisations to flourish, beat the competition and adapt to changing markets.

But helping to spot those capable of approaching challenges in that way has, traditionally, been possible only through one of two methods:

  1. Using an assessment of creativity that, because of the need for objective scoring and benchmarking, requires in-depth training in how to use the scoring key and a heavy investment of resource.
  2. Using a highly ‘creative’ often hands-on approach which can, quite frankly, make it almost impossible to compare across people.

And yet the demand to find a pragmatic and reliable way to identify creativity in people is growing. After all, businesses know that if they are to keep ahead of the game and be competitive for themselves or their clients, they need to have people offering up creative thoughts and ideas. They need innovation.

We have spent years designing and refining an approach to measure creativity – online. The result is our assessment sparks.

We’ve been working with one of the Big Four accounting firms to help them understand what it takes to be innovative in their own particular company. It means that they know who best to include in teams when innovation is required.

The study
1,500 current employees were invited to complete three of our assessments. These were the shapes – management personality questionnaire, the sparks assessment of creativity and the scales – lst – a measure of logical reasoning.

177 completed the three tests. The 16 top and 16 bottom scoring participants were invited to take part in a separate on-site assessment which included three group tasks designed to measure creativity. Participants were split into groups of 4-6 people – and were either those who were ranked in the bottom 16 on sparks (‘low creative’) or in the top 16 (‘high creative’). These group tasks included generating: how to implement a single worldwide currency; how to adapt and deal with the impact of technology on a business; how to change internal processes to get better connectivity and interaction between teams. Ideas were scored by observers based on the idea generation process as well as the originality of the ideas. The groups then were asked to present their best idea, and this was then rated for Creativity, Originality and Overall impression. The results showed:

  • The ‘low creative’ teams produced more ideas (high quantity) than the ‘high creative’ teams – but their ideas were scored as being less creative (low creativity).
  • In general, the ‘high creative’ teams received a higher rating on Originality than the ‘low creative’ teams.
  • ‘High creative’ teams also received a higher rating for Overall impression than the ‘low creative’ teams.
  • That a specific personality profile for a ‘Creative’ could be created for this organisation using the shapes dimensions. That is, someone who possesses the characteristics to:
    • Focus on one idea at the time instead of working on various tasks at the same time
    • Focus on own tasks and objectives instead of directing others
    • Give people space to make up their own mind and ideas
    • Not spend too much time on analysing ideas in-depth and works rather intuitive
    • Generate ideas independently without relying on others’ opinions
    • Set achievable goals rather than be driven by their own too high (unrealistic) expectations

There is no correlation between logical reasoning and creativity – just as we would expect!

What this means in practice
If you want to have creative people in your team that can give you that innovative, competitive edge – and help you to stand out from the crowd – then you need to know what ‘creative’ means for your business, and, how to identify this in your people. And then you have two options. Either ‘hire in’ those with this profile or, alternatively, profile your employee talent pool. Either way, it’ll mean you get to know who brings creative characteristics to the table when building project teams.

Check out sparks on our website.

About the Author

Alexander Lemhoefer is a Product Development Consultant in the Research team of Aon's Assessment Solutions. His main focus lies on the product development for online assessments and data science. He finished his bachelor's degree in business psychology at the Leuphana Universität Lüneburg in 2017.

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