Creativity and InnovationCreative ideas are nothing more than thoughts until they are put into action through innovative implementation. Companies that fail to see the distinction and don’t tie to the two together could be harming their own performance, according to a new study.

The study, collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, Rice University and Brunel University, says that innovation and creativity are multilevel phenomena that demand skilled leadership to maximize.

Many companies, however, say they value workplace creativity, but fail to take ideas and turn them into actionable plans to improve customer service and processes, or to introduce new products to the market.

“We need to better train managers to see an idea and run with it,” said Jing Zhou, the Houston Endowment Professor of Management at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business “If you wait for the idea to be ready to be implemented, it might be too late.”

The study involved research conducted between 2002 and 2013. While studies into creativity and innovation have been done in the past, the purpose of this review was to integrate the two.

Making the Connection Drives Businesses Forward

While many companies say they value employee creativity, they fail to take action on those ideas by translating them into performance. Companies that want to survive and thrive, however, need to take ideas to the next level, the study authors suggest.

Training managers to recognize good ideas and put them into action is critical, Zhu said.

Google and 3M serve as examples of successful companies that have taken encouragement of employee creativity to a whole new level.

They have institutionalized and incentivized the concept, building it into their corporate cultures. With a willingness to also take risks, both companies have also demonstrated their ability to implement ideas and turn them into performance.

The new study follows a 2013 article by the three authors “Core Knowledge Employee Creativity and Firm Performance: The Moderating Role of Riskiness Orientation, Firm Size and Realized Absorptive Capacity.”

Published in Personnel Psychology, the study determined creative employees only impacted performance if the company made a concerted effort to translate creativity into action.

The current study will be published in the Journal of Management’s annual review.

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