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Corus rdt-article by amrinder

  1. 1. 296 CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION MANAGEMENT Creativity (Ideas) Management in Industrial R&D Organizations: A Crea-Political Process Model and an Empirical Illustration of Corus RD&T Han Bakker, Kees Boersma and Sytse Oreel Creativity management is a crucial topic to consider in the debate about the innovative research department. Against the background of discussions about individual creativity and organizational commitment, this article argues that the creative process in organizations is a matter of political strategies. The ideator literally has to sell his/her idea. The article therefore comes up with a crea-political process model in which there is ample room for the thought that ideas emerge and survive within a social-political context. In addition, the crea-political process model is used to analyse the way in which the Corus Group Research Development and Technology (RD&T) department has implemented an electronic idea-management system. The system, called eureka!, has been designed as a straightforward platform to capture, review, evaluate and select creative ideas. The findings challenge the literature on idea management in organizations to consider the political activities of ideators in the whole process of creativity. Introduction 1984). Over recent years this problem has received increasing attention within the field of organization and management studies M ost industrial R&D managers emphasize the necessity of an innovative environ- ment in which creativity can prosper. While (see, for example, Orlikowski, 2000). What is important for the present article in this respect innovation in this respect is not a random pro- is the notion that the R&D organization can cess, R&D managers often argue that this pro- profit from knowledge creation only if the cess of knowledge creation is hard to manage individual action and knowledge (idea) gener- (Argyres & Silverman, 2004; Tell, 2004; Tham- ation is embedded in organizational routines hain, 2003; Verhaeghe & Kfir, 2002). More pre- and local research agendas, as previous empir- cisely, R&D managers struggle with questions ical research has shown (Berends, Boersma & of individual freedom in research and organi- Weggeman, 2003; Saari & Miettinen, 2001). zational commitment (Van Dijk & Van den Strategic and active knowledge management Ende, 2002) and with matters of individual that can influence the innovative and creative flexibility (Georgdottir & Getz, 2004). Given capacity of the firm is therefore a crucial topic local circumstances (such as the nature, size to consider. and market-context of the firm) they have to Recent research in organization manage- find a balance between the scientific ambitions ment studies has shown the relevance of of professionals (the key actors within this information systems (e.g. intranets) to steer process) and organizational goals such as creativity knowledge/ideas exchange among product development. members of the organization (Curry & Stan- In a more usual sense the question of indi- cich, 2000; Damsgaard & Scheepers, 2001). vidual freedom and organizational demands Information systems can become a leading can be problematized as the connection tool in shaping a community of practice in the between the actor (agent) and structure, which firm, which enables practitioners to share has been a important issue in social research knowledge and to create a link between learn- since decades (e.g. Bourdieu, 1992; Giddens, ing and performance (Wenger, 1998; Wenger,Volume 15 Number 3 2006 © 2006 The Authorsdoi:10.1111/j.1467-8691.2006.00397.x Journal compilation © 2006 Blackwell Publishing
  2. 2. CREATIVITY MANAGEMENT IN INDUSTRIAL R&D ORGANIZATIONS 297McDermott & Snyder, 2002). Such a commu- Second, we want to study the development,nity is formed by people who engage in a pro- implementation and adaptation of an ideacess of collective learning in a shared domain management system within the context of theof human endeavour such as the R&D organi- Corus RD&T department. In this empiricalzation. For a community of practice to func- part of the article, we will unravel how eureka!,tion it needs to generate and appropriate a an intranet tool based upon Lotus Notes, isshared repertoire of ideas and creativity. ICT embedded into the creativity (ideas) manage-(in the sense of an electronic idea system) can ment (as part of the knowledge management)be seen as an important tool in this respect. As at Corus RD&T. The main question is how wewe will see in this article, such a tool is not can understand eureka! in the process of cre-neutral, but as a mediator – and because of its ativity management at Corus RD&T and howspecific technical script (Akrich, 1992) – it also the researchers are actually using this system.partly shapes the creative idea. We will study the implications for the In this article we will address this problem, researchers working with the program. We areby focusing on creativity management within interested in how this system affects the gen-the Research, Development & Technology eration and evaluation of ideas within Corus –(RD&T) department of the Corus Group (an how was eureka! defined and how is it used byinternational metals company).1 The idea is researchers to get support for their ideas?not, however, to study the Corus RD&T In what follows, we first will give a briefknowledge management in detail, since this overview of the literature on creativity man-embraces more than just creativity manage- agement analysing two different models ofment. In the following, we want to limit our- creativity management. We will present a newselves to the question of how, in the context of research model with which we will analyseCorus RD&T’s creativity management, indi- creativity management as a crea-politicalvidual researchers come up with creative ideas activity. Next, we will use this model to sketchusing an ICT-tool, and how these ideas are the context of Corus RD&T management andjudged by their peers and management. In this its motivation to implement eureka!. In doingrespect, we see a creative idea as a new and so, we will analyse the process of sensemakingadequate contribution (see Henry, 2005) in the within Corus RD&T. In the conclusion of thisspecific context of Corus RD&T. The ideator article we will discuss the value of our creativ-then, is the person who comes up with a new ity management model and reflect upon theidea. use of eureka! at Corus in the light of this In contrast to static models, we study the model.creative idea management as a process, which: . . . focuses our inquiry on how individuals Models of Creativity Management attempt to orient themselves to, and make creative action in, situations or events that and R&D are complex, ambiguous, and ill defined. In Over the years, scholars have come up with other words, this is an issue of how individ- different theories about creativity, the manage- uals engage in sensemaking in organiza- ment of creativity, and its relation to knowl- tions. (Drazin, Glynn and Kazanjian, 1999, edge generation within (R&D) organizations. p. 287) In this section, we will present two leadingTherefore, we will come up with a model for models from the field of management of cre-creativity management through which we can ativity that have been recently published inunderstand this process of sensemaking. international journals: (a) the model of Van The objective of this article is twofold. First, Dijk and Van den Ende (2002) and (b) thefollowing previous (theoretical) research, we model of Hellström and Hellström (2002).want to show how the process of creativity can Both models address the connection of thebe managed (and modelled) within organiza- individual actor and organization we havetional R&D practices. In this part we will raised in the introduction of this article and arereflect upon the question of individual cre- therefore interesting for us in understandingative action versus organizational rules. the process of creativity management in R&D settings. We will discuss the background of each model separately, taking the theoretical1 starting points into consideration before com- We would like to thank the Innovation Managerand the Manager Communication and Publicity of ing up with an alternative model.the Corus RD&T for their co-operation, providing In the early 1980s Theresa Amabile stressedthe information about Corus in this article and for the importance of creativity among schooltheir useful suggestions and comments on earlier children. Because of her background as a psy-drafts. chologist, she opted for an individual, cogni-© 2006 The AuthorsJournal compilation © 2006 Blackwell Publishing Volume 15 Number 3 2006
  3. 3. 298 CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION MANAGEMENT tive approach in analysing creative processes. creativity process model. The title of their arti- Later on, while working at Harvard, she also cle: ‘Highways, Alleys and By-lanes: Charting paid attention to the urgency of creativity the Pathways for Ideas and Innovations in management for the innovativeness of organi- Organizations’ is indicative of their opinion zations and leadership (Amabile, 1998). that it is impossible to regard idea processes as Many authors in the field of creativity man- unilateral. Based upon an in-depth interview agement have been inspired by Amabile’s study with 34 members of a large Swedish ideas of intrinsic motivation. The Creativity telecoms corporation, the authors tried to find Transformation model by Van Dijk and Van out how creativity is facilitated in organiza- den Ende, published in R&D Management tions. The main question of this study was (2002), is an important example. It can be inter- ‘how stimulation of new ideas comes about preted as a reaction to the rather naïve idea of and what pathways they take through the the uni-lateral relationship between cultural organization’ (2002, p. 107). and structural elements. In the model, shown The authors have labelled the process as in Figure 1 below, the cultural and structural organizational ideation. They combined the indi- aspects are two overlapping domains of the vidual/team orientation (e.g. Leonard-Barton, organization. The theoretical perspective of 1992) and the concept of the knowledge broker this model is based upon individually related (Prusak & Cohen, 1998) on the one hand and factors and organizationally related factors the organizational structure orientation (e.g. (e.g. Tropman, 1998). Van Dijk and Van den Hitt, Ireland & Lee, 2000; Kogut & Zander, Ende’s model suggests mutual influence of 1996) on the other hand to study the involved both factors and elements, with the main focus agency and the pathways of organizational on the organizational part (2002, p. 388). The ideation. The process of ‘organizational ide- authors have developed a so-called three-step ation’ is sub-divided into four factors: idea model, distinguishing between ‘idea extrac- inducement, the pathways, the rules of the tion’, ‘idea landing’ and ‘idea follow-up’ (Van road and ‘gate control’ (Hellström & Hell- Dijk and Van den Ende, 2002, p. 390). ström, 2002), as is shown in the Figure 2. This This model is practical and the distin- model is interesting because it shifts the atten- guished variables are recognizable in organi- tion to structures that include ambiguity and zational contexts. As we can see, Van Dijk and informal management, which are assets in the Van den Ende stress the mutual relation unpredictable processes of organizational ide- between cultural and structural factors and ation. Words such as ‘highways’, ‘alleys’, ‘by- the multilaterality of the process. The focus lanes’, ‘pathways’, ‘rules of the road’ and ‘gate seems to be on the manager (considering control’ clearly indicate that these authors terms such as idea extraction). have found their inspiration in the modern Likewise, in a critical reaction on the unilat- traffic situation. eral flow of ideas in organizations, Hellström In the two models presented above, the and Hellström introduced a management of authors also interpret the role of the man- Culture Structure Idea Idea landing Idea follow- extraction Organization up Encourage- Support Committed ment Resources - Alignment - Idea - Intensity of - Possibility of responsiveness evaluation reflection - Accessibility of - Use of rewards - Emancipation of the systems - Processing of idea receptiveness 7 - Broadness of the ideas scope Figure 1. Phases and Factors in the Transfer of Creativity to Practicable Ideas Source: Van Dijk & Van den Ende, 2002. © 2006 The AuthorsVolume 15 Number 3 2006 Journal compilation © 2006 Blackwell Publishing
  4. 4. CREATIVITY MANAGEMENT IN INDUSTRIAL R&D ORGANIZATIONS 299 Gate controller Factors affecting opening/ closing: Gate opening - Status/ trustworthiness of the ideator - Structural and process factors in organization Gate closing - Toughness of demands on ideator - Small-mindedness - The flow of feedback Alleys and By-lanes Highways Idea inducement: - Simple positive feedback - Emotional-social gratification - Appreciation of creative potential - Competitive self-compensation - Idea herding Rules of the road: - Speed restrictions - Moving incrementallyFigure 2. A Model of Organizational IdeationSource: Hellström & Hellström, 2002.ager in the whole process of creativity. In the political actions, as we will see below. Forfirst model, Van Dijk and Van den Ende, the that reason, culture in our model is notfocus is on the manager, who is presented as added as a separate industrial entrepreneur, whereas in the Ideas are complex wholes of interrelatedsecond, that of Hellström and Hellström, elements that form part of larger wholes. Ideathere is more space for both the employee evolution is strongly shaped (and judged) byand the manager, the manager being a road the organizational context; in the end not allbuilder, rule-maker and gate-controller, ideas are equal. In order to understand thiswhereas the employee is looking for the best phenomenon, we will introduce the politicalroutes. It is a way to focus upon the manage- metaphor to study the creativity process inrial aspect of the organizational-creativity organizations. We no longer perceive this as aprocess. creative activity per se but merely as a ‘crea- However, what is missing in these two political’ process. It is a matter of liminalitymodels is an indication of how the manager (Turner, 1967); an inter-structural situationcan deal with the tension between creativity that occurs when people exist outside theas expression on the one hand and creativity classificatory schemes (in our case politicalas purposeful action on the other hand. and creativity) of daily organizationalMany ideas that arise in an organizational practices.context are hardly free from interpretations,expectations and other experiences that ide-ators have developed in their working life – A New Research Modelthese are the people, operating within differ-ent organizational cultural contexts, who While studying the wide range of literature itgive meaning to the ideas (Drazin, Glynn & becomes clear that creativity has long beenKazanjian, 1999; Weick, 1995). Their cogni- claimed by psychologists. At present it is obvi-tive filters, or frames as Goffman would call ous that creativity can no longer be seen as athem, enable but also can easily limit their characteristic of an individual alone. Creativ-creative expressions and hence the organiza- ity is not only the result of the genius of a per-tion’s potential creative reservoir. Instead of son; it always takes place within a specific‘black-boxing’ the organizational culture (as context (Feldman, Csikszentmihalyi & Gard-Van Dijk and Van den Ende do in their ner, 1994). Gardner (1994, p. 71) states thatmodel in which culture is assumed to be an people are never creative in general. Creativityorganization-wide, shared phenomenon that is always related to so-called domains ofis manageable to a considerable extent), we which a person has a certain amount of knowl-see culture as part and parcel of the entire edge. Apart from that, nothing and nobody isorganization, affecting all kinds of actions creative in essence, it is always about theand relations (Alvesson, 2002), especially judgements of others. This view is also pre-© 2006 The AuthorsJournal compilation © 2006 Blackwell Publishing Volume 15 Number 3 2006
  5. 5. 300 CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION MANAGEMENT sented by Amabile (1983, p. 32), who states a creativity management model in which that creativity is a subjective notion and that it there is room for the political part of the cre- is impossible to see creativity as a dichotomy. ative process. It is better to say that someone or something is more or less creative compared to somebody or something else. A Crea-Political Process Model According to us, the management of cre- There is a thin blue line between where mental ative expression within an organization is a aggregates become expressed or evolve from matter of political strategies. Actors not only the ideators’ perspective and where they have to come up with innovative ideas based evolve from other organizational actors’ per- upon research in the research department (or spective (see Simonton, 1988). There are good elsewhere), but they have to ‘sell’ these ideas reasons to analyse this as a continuum, from to their colleagues, peers and managers. In the the creative process at one extreme to the polit- end, this is a difficult process of justification ical process at the other, because at any time (Latour & Woolgar, 1986; Tell, 2004) in which during the process the ideator shows both cre- the ideators have to translate their ideas from ative and (intentional or unintentional) politi- the individual level to the level of the R&D cal behaviour. department. Bringing up ideas is a matter of However, we want to distinguish three concern rather than a matter of fact, and these separate phases or modalities in this contin- matters must be liked, justified and do-able uum: the creative process, the crea-political (Latour, 1987). Next, on the level of the R&D process and the political process, because we department, the ideas of the ideators are being want to focus on the process in which the cre- re-interpreted by organization actors such as ative and political dynamics become inter- the R&D manager. This is not a uni-linear cog- nitive process, but an activity that needs a linked – this happens particularly and foremost in what we call the crea-political careful political strategy of shaping coalitions phase. In this phase, the new knowledge rep- within the organization. It is during such orga- resentations (as an outcome of this process of nizational processes that actors develop all sensemaking) come into play at both the indi- kinds of power strategies in order to influence vidual and the collective level, ‘. . . while new their organizational environments (Hardy & objectives concerning knowledge accumula- Clegg, 1999). In this respect, power not only tion and knowledge preservation enter the has to do with the individual ability to ‘get organizational level’ (Lazaric, Mangolte & things done’, to influence decision outcomes, Massué, 2003). but, as Swan and Scarbrough argued in a The model must be seen as an action model in recent article in which they refer to the work of which the individual political strategies are Steve Lukes, also with more ‘hidden’ forms of incorporated. Part of this process can be power that involve (de)legitimation of partic- understood by using the models of Van Dijk ular activities (Swan & Scarbrough, 2005). and Van den Ende (Figure 1) and Hellström (See also the ideas of Cross & Parker, 2004, and Hellström (Figure 2). In our model, how- about (the) hidden power in organizational ever, we focus more on the political strategies networks). of the ideator and R&D manager. The way in This is not to say that we want to overem- which individual researchers operate within phasize politics and political processes. For the crea-political phase is visualized in Figure example, it is important to consider the socio- 3 below. Of course, as in all other models, the cognitive processes in which individual ideas figure is a simplification of reality (for exam- are transformed into collective practices. This ple, the different phases and circles in the is another process that includes both the model are overlapping in daily practice), but micro level of the individual cognition and one that can help us to understand in a more the organizational routines, i.e. shared cogni- systematic way – in the Weberian ideal-typical tion (Garud & Rappa, 1994). Moreover, under sense – how in the crea-political phase the equal circumstances some people come up with more creative ideas than others and individual and organizational levels are show more creative behaviour than others. In interconnected. this article, however, we want to focus on the idea that organizational members often search for information and support haphaz- Rationale Behind the Model ardly and opportunistically because of the The idea behind this model is twofold. In the existence of cognitive limits (this point has first place, the model fills the gap we have dis- been discussed earlier in terms of bounded covered in the literature – the idea that creativ- rationality, see Eisenhardt & Zbaracki, 1992). ity and the activities of the ideator can be seen It is this focus that justifies the presentation of as a crea-political process. The model can best © 2006 The AuthorsVolume 15 Number 3 2006 Journal compilation © 2006 Blackwell Publishing
  6. 6. CREATIVITY MANAGEMENT IN INDUSTRIAL R&D ORGANIZATIONS 301 Crea-Political Phase Creating of ideas Selling of ideas Funding of ideas Intimate Professional Managerial circle circle circleFigure 3. The Crea-Political Process Modelbe seen as a sensitizing model for cases in the creative process (see also Czarniawska &which one tries to understand how a creative Joerges, 1996).2individual uses political strategies to get his/ Parallel to this are the actions of the individ-her idea funded in the organization. In the sec- ual researcher, which are divided into the cre-ond place the model gives a structure to our ating, selling and funding of ideas. This processempirical findings – the use of a creativity describes the route of an idea from the indi-knowledge system at Corus RD&T – that we vidual’s mind to the organizational practicewill present in the sections below. In other (knowledge routines). It is especially in thewords, with the model we try to bridge the selling of ideas phase that the individualgap between abstract theory and the practice researcher has to find support for his or herof organizing creativity. idea. This is an entrepreneurial activity that This figure must be read as follows. It first of has been labelled before as internal corporateall describes the various (bureaucratic) organi- venturing, which takes place at different levelszational circles in which the ideator operates of the organization (Burgelman, 1983; Garudand in which the political strategies take place. & Van de Ven, 1992). It indicates how situatedBecause an idea never comes up in isolation individuals try to persuade influential others(i.e. ideas are always embedded in local cir- at the level of the corporation.cumstances), we start with the intimate circle Of course, these processes do not follow ain which the ideator tries to convince a few unidirectional route, in the sense that an ideatrustworthy researchers (inside or outside the simply runs from an individual towards anorganization) or even lay people about the organization-wide realm. For that reason, weusefulness of an idea. In the professional circle have used feedback arrows (pointing to thethe idea is tested against a group of knowl- left in the figure) in our model, which stand foredgeable others, for example in a peer review the interactions between the different phasesprocess or by end-users of the idea (in the case in the whole crea-political process.of Corus RD&T, these people are mainly work-ing in the business units, i.e. the productionand not the research site of the company). Inthe managerial circle the ideator tries to get thecommitment of the management to develop 2his/her idea into a workable research plan. In While travelling, the ideas undergo a constant process of translation giving then different mean-this way, an idea becomes ‘do-able’ (a term ings as a result of changing contexts. It is outsideborrowed from Fujimura, 1987) within a spe- the scope of this article to describe the epistemolog-cific organizational context. This part of the ical implications of this process (i.e. like Latour andmodel describes the travelling of ideas through Woolgar did in Laboratory Life, 1986). Instead, we(local) organizational contexts during which want to focus more on the social interactions andthe ideas are transformed in various phases of strategies of Corus (research) employees.© 2006 The AuthorsJournal compilation © 2006 Blackwell Publishing Volume 15 Number 3 2006
  7. 7. 302 CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION MANAGEMENT The Crea-Political Process Model and systems issues of managing the Intranet as an the Use of ICT-Systems as a Tool information system and a business recourse’ (Curry & Stancich, 2000, p. 255). Traditionally, classical creativity systems such as suggestion boxes are being used as a co- ordinating tool in managing creativity (Ekvall, Research Methods 1971). Such systems have been followed more recently followed by more advanced knowl- In what follows we want to present our empir- edge management systems, that is, by elec- ical case study into the idea management sys- tronic spaces such as intranets (and in the tem of Corus RD&T. Our research into the example case, eureka!) in which ideas can be Corus eureka! system is based upon a survey, captured, enhanced and selected. These sys- interviews and secondary data that describe tems can function as management tools after the initiation, development, operation and the early stages of the innovation process (the local impact of this knowledge management fuzzy front end, see: Boeddrich, 2004). system. Ideally, the R&D information system will The survey consisted of questions about create an electronic infrastructure and knowl- the ideator (his/her motives, reputation, net- edge pool, thus becoming part of the creativity work), the screening of ideas and the role of management process. In our model, it plays a the management and the funding-process. The vital role in the whole crea-political process. questionnaire was sent by mail to about 850 While using information and communication people; 550 of whom were researchers. We got technologies (ICT) in R&D environments, such a response of 173, which is about 33 per cent of as intranet platforms and other knowledge the population; see the table in Appendix 1 management systems, the researchers produce below. In our research, the survey functions as and reproduce their social relations and com- a first step in the analysis and should not be munication patterns within the research set- seen as an attempt to figure out causal rela- ting (Orlikowski, 2000, in a study about the tionships between certain research variables. implementation of Lotus Notes in different The outcome of the questionnaire will be used organizational settings). As said before in the as a quantitative illustration of the way eureka! introduction, the Lotus Notes intranet tool is judged by different researchers and manag- eureka! plays an important role in our empiri- ers of Corus RD&T (see Appendix 2). We have cal study of the process of managing creativity used the outcome of the survey to develop within Corus RD&T. relevant topics that we used during our Although this was not the first motivation interviews. for the Corus R&D management to start with We conducted in-depth interview sessions eureka!, the use of the program can lead to an with eight researchers who had experience environment where creativity can prosper. The with eureka!. The interviews we carried use of the system implies that the manage- out at two Corus RD&T sites (one in The ment must have the skills and competence to Netherlands and one in the UK) were semi- select the appropriate explicit knowledge and structured. We analysed the interviews in the ability to ‘translate’ this knowledge into terms of technology management, organiza- organizational terms. After all, the creativity is tional culture, communication processes and not in the computer system eureka! but within power relations. We paid special attention to human beings. Earlier empirical research has communication patterns and working rou- shown that the implementation and use of an tines and the way eureka! was used by individ- ICT tool is a complicated process of sensemak- ual researchers. The collected data are related ing (Boersma & Kingma, 2005). The knowl- to the process of R&D knowledge creation. In edge system (as a tool for idea management) addition, we have consulted some eureka! key can only facilitate the capturing, selection and personnel, such as the Programme Manager enhancing of ideas among members of the Innovation who set up the system, in order to organization. The starting point is that the understand the managerial problems and knowledge (ideas) put on the knowledge sys- dilemmas. tem is explicit knowledge – in the terms of In addition to the interviews and the survey, Michael Polanyi – that can easily be shared we obtained access to relevant documents and evaluated by members of the user group. such as the ‘eureka! Ideas Management System For this reason, Curry and Stancich (2000) User Manual Lotus Notes’ to reconstruct the state that ‘To obtain maximum value from an (technical) script of eureka! (see also Figure 4). intranet, both the “soft” cultural issues of The data we gathered were analysed in information sharing and change in work pro- terms of (a) the social behaviour of the ide- cesses must be addressed alongside the “hard” ator, (b) the role of the evaluator during the selection process and (c) the lobby-activities © 2006 The AuthorsVolume 15 Number 3 2006 Journal compilation © 2006 Blackwell Publishing
  8. 8. CREATIVITY MANAGEMENT IN INDUSTRIAL R&D ORGANIZATIONS 303that surround the funding process. In what Ideally, the eureka! system works as followsfollows, we will black-box both the cogni- (see also Figure 4). In the ‘ideas capture’ maptive, inter-personal activity and the organiza- all Corus RD&T workers are invited to cometional implementation process after the up with ideas – the map can easily be openedfunding. We will focus on the question ‘what via the Corus intranet. Only a superficialhappens in between’; in the crea-political description of the idea is enough at this stage.phase. Parallel to this the Corus business units can give an idea of their needs in the ‘opportuni- ties capture’ place. During the ‘first screen’ phase, the idea is judged by experts (peers)Ideas Management at Corus RD&T who are selected by the ideator him/herself. (S)he has to consult at least one programmeThe Use of Eureka! manager and one resource manger.Corus Group is an international metals com- In the ‘idea enhancement’ phase, a success-pany, formed on 6 October 1999, through the ful idea (first screen) can be worked out by themerger of British Steel (UK) and Koninklijke ideator. In this phase the ideator has to giveHoogovens (The Netherlands). The head- information with regard to the following top-quarters are situated in London, with four ics: ‘objectives and deliverables’, ‘probabilitydivisions and operations worldwide. Corus of success’, ‘business unit needs that will bepresents itself as a customer-focused, innova- met’, ‘recourses’, ‘key go/no go decisions’,tive solutions-driven company, which manu- ‘intellectual properties’. After enhancementfactures, processes and distributes metal the idea will be put forward into the ‘secondproducts ( – April/May screen’ phase; if not, the idea will be kept in2005). The company has manufacturing oper- the eureka! archive. In the second screen phaseations in many countries, with major plants the idea is put into the ‘adoption phase’ mapin the UK, The Netherlands, Germany, where it can be picked up by one of the CorusFrance, Norway and the USA, and also pro- funding managers. If it has not been picked upvides design, technology and consultancy after a period of time, the idea will be put intoservices. Corus is divided into four main the archive in any case.Divisions – strip products, long products, dis- The route described above only mirrors thetributions & building systems and aluminium formal route of an idea throughout eureka!.– each of them contains several business The aim of the system is to cover more and bet-units (22 in total). Some business units have ter ideas within a shorter amount of time. Fur-idea management systems and pools of their thermore, according to us, it can be interpretedown (separate from RD&T), but a discussion as an attempt by the R&D managers to limitof these systems is beyond the scope of this the subjective judgement of ideas. In dailyarticle. Corus has a research department at whichabout 900 people are working; about 500 inThe Netherlands and 400 in the UK. Corus Opportunities IdeasRD&T plays an important and strategic role in Capture Capturethe entire process of innovation at Corus. Recently, the Corus RD&T management Createintroduced a new idea management system, Linkedeureka!, to handle creative ideas. Eureka! was Ideas Nointroduced with a promising rhetoric state- 1st Screenment: ‘We have to generate a continuous Yesstream of market winners by developing new Enrich Idea Enhancementprocesses, products, product applications and & Evaluation Matchnew business concepts. The start will be Criteria?building up our portfolio of Ideas’ (eureka! NoUser Manual, p. 2). It is part of the Corus Yes 2nd Screenintranet. Figure 4 (below) shows us the formal IDEAS Fast - track Idea Adoptionroute of an idea throughout the eureka! sys- Archivetem. Funding In 2004 about 250 ideas were put in eureka!,20 per cent of which were funded. Since mostof Corus’s products are the outcome of mass-production, one single idea can lead to anenormous saving. Besides, some of the eureka! Figure 4. The Formal Structure of eureka!ideas in 2004 resulted in patentable outcomes. Source: Corus RD&T© 2006 The AuthorsJournal compilation © 2006 Blackwell Publishing Volume 15 Number 3 2006
  9. 9. 304 CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION MANAGEMENT practice, however, we found out that research- of the ideator and the interactions between ers take alternative routes to get an idea the different phases in the crea-political pro- funded – or, in other words, that the way ideas cess are central. Researchers literally were sell- ‘travel’ through the organization is much more ing the idea – the most important phase in our complicated. In the sections below, we will model, since it refers to the crea-political show how in the context of eureka! the Corus activities – even if for them it is obviously an researchers not only come up with ideas, but excellent one. One respondent, for example, also try to sell ideas in order to get them told us: funded. The system is only facilitating; you have to do the lobby-work yourself. Therefore it is Crea-Political Strategies of Researchers at always difficult to get funding for a new Corus RD&T project, because it is not so much the tech- nological innovation, but the lobby-work After an idea has been put into the eureka! and the organizational skills that count. The system, the ideator has to select at least one value of eureka! lies in the formal structure programme manager, at least one resource and transparency. manager and optionally some colleagues (researchers). All have to judge the idea; if the It is in this process that the ideator tries to con- resource (department) manager or the pro- vince the knowledgeable other of the useful- gramme manager is positive about the idea, ness of the idea. Maybe even more important, the ideator can continue to work on it. At this it is the business unit people who must be con- point, the manager who has given permission vinced about the usefulness of an idea (espe- has to commit him/herself to the idea to stim- cially those in the professional circle). If the ulate it. Most respondents argued that it is production people do not commit themselves hard to select evaluators if the idea should be to the outcomes of research, an idea will fail in applied in a field not well known to the ide- an early stage. Thus it is necessary for the ator. Therefore, what they want is to have a researchers to know whether the business unit range of people as evaluators (from the inti- will be interested in a certain idea or not. In the mate and later the professional circle in our whole process of this ‘technology ideas trans- model), selected from various areas of knowl- fer’, social activities – such as informal con- edge, to have the appropriate persons com- tacts and meetings – are crucial. This idea was ment on the idea. confirmed by the Programme Manager Inno- When the selected evaluators are not posi- vation who told us: tive about the idea they will vote ‘no’. In that case they have to provide a reason. Because in If you are familiar with someone you can this phase the evaluators do not always have call to discuss your idea, and if you have enough in-depth knowledge and expertise, worked together, he knows that you are according to our respondents some of the capable of good research. That is different ideas are not very well evaluated. Although to the situation in which one receives the the evaluator has to give comments ono the idea electronically without knowing about idea with respect to the content, we found out the background of the researcher. that most of the ideators decide not to resub- What is important in the lobby process (the mit the idea. The remark of a respondent selling of ideas phase) is to find and contact below is illustrative: people with specific knowledge and commit- The system might be improved by having ment to the idea who can give quick and ade- an option to automatically resubmit an quate comments. The respondents expressed idea that has been modified in response an urge to receive remarks and comments to to specific comments – evaluators who an idea within a relatively short period of have voted ‘No’ should, in such cases, time. This is illustrated by the case in Figure 5 receive a notification that their concerns below. have been addressed and that the idea In practice, the ideator often consults a should be re-evaluated in the light of former R&D colleague who has changed over these modifications. from the RD&T department to a business unit. Such a person is not only part of an informal From the discussions we had with the network within Corus, but also has the expert research people (during the interview ses- knowledge (of both research and production) sions) we could deduce that particularly the to judge the relative quality of an idea. The social, political activities parallel to the formal quality of inter-unit ties seems to be very route are a condition for success. This corre- important. In this respect, most of our respon- sponds with our model, in which the actions dents indicated that the reputation of the ide- © 2006 The AuthorsVolume 15 Number 3 2006 Journal compilation © 2006 Blackwell Publishing
  10. 10. CREATIVITY MANAGEMENT IN INDUSTRIAL R&D ORGANIZATIONS 305 The use of eureka! Mr Janssen is working at Corus RD&T IJmuiden My idea was inspired by developments in Germany. My plan to develop the idea was justified by the committee that gave me a one-year budget to develop the idea. This is the way it should work according to me. At any time, the idea has been recorded in the system of the Business Unit and there it was finally rejected. Next, I visited the Business Unite to figure out why the idea had been rejected. The reason was the lack of informa- tion about the implications of the idea for the Business Unit. Moreover, they argued, the idea was already in use by other companies and therefore not innovative enough. At that time I continued my lobby activities to get funding for the idea, which was a hard thing to do, because I had to convince people who had rejected the idea in an earlier stage. It is often argued by R&D people that the Business Units don’t have a focus. However, I think that we cannot always convince them of the importance of our ideas. At a certain moment I went to the Business Unit to talk with the people who seemed to be interested in the idea after all. So, my lesson was not to stop the lobby process after a ‘no’ of a single person, but to convince others of the importance of my idea. Of course then you can also come to the conclusion that you have had a bad idea, but the argument that the Business Units cannot focus is too easy. Also the argument of budget problems is not decisive according to me – try to implement the idea with a smaller budget. So, what I did, and I think this is a success factor, is not to talk first of all with the Product Manager (which is the ‘normal’ way to do it) but I went directly to the commercial people. After all they have feeling with the market and have reasons to say: this is interesting for us or not. After our meeting the commercial person went to the Product Managers with the message: ‘This is important for us!’. The influence of the commercial person on the Product Manager was of a great importance.Figure 5. The use of eureka!, Case JanssenSource: interview by the authors.ator is a crucial success factor – the higher the side the scope of Corus’ production plans,reputation of an individual researcher, the eureka! offers a section (the Opportunities Cap-greater the chance that a project will be ture Map) in which the production strategy ofapproved. each business unit is clarified. A (technical What is important for the overall success and/or market) opportunity can be used asof an idea in eureka! is adequate feedback inspiration for one or more ideas.fromthe manager(s) to the ideator (to facilitate But even if an idea has been rejected (in thethe interactions between the creating, selling managerial circle), it is put into the eureka!and funding phases). For the ideator, moreover, archive and in a way becomes part of thea transparent schedule of the funding-process research department’s ‘memory’. The archiveis crucial. It is in this phase that (s)he is sup- is important for at least two reasons. In theposed to get the (financial) means to develop first place it can function as a back-up ofand elaborate on the idea. However, we found rejected ideas with which new ideas can bethat researchers at Corus are de-motivated by compared. Until now the archive has not beenthe idea that positive comments from the com- used for this reason, because of capacity prob-mentators in the second screening round do lems and lack of time. In the second place, thenot always (automatically) lead to funding. content manager found out that it can be use- In the whole process of selection it is impor- ful to re-evaluate some of the rejected ideas attant for the ideator to notice that an idea can a later time, because the ideas can becomediffer in quality as a result of the company’s useful because of changing technologies instrategy. The content manager of eureka! told production, the raise of the research budgetus that he makes a distinction between ideas and/of contextual factors (i.e. developmentsthat ‘should be done’, ideas that ‘could be in the market). In other words, there is a pos-done’, and ideas that ‘do not fit within the sibility that an idea goes back from the fund-strategy’ (which is an extra selection – that ing of ideas-phase to the selling of ideas-phasetakes place in the funding phase of the model – (represented by the arrow that points left inin the whole process of creativity). That means our model). However, at any time it is the ide-that even if an idea can be potentially useful, it ator who has to be alert in order to breathecan still be rejected (by people in the corre- new life into the idea – the eureka! archive willsponding managerial circle) at any time because not do that automatically. Again, it is the per-of the lack of money available to fund all ideas. son and not the system that has to takeTo avoid ideas of which the contents are out- actions.© 2006 The AuthorsJournal compilation © 2006 Blackwell Publishing Volume 15 Number 3 2006
  11. 11. 306 CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION MANAGEMENT Discussion and Conclusion phase). For the manager, this demonstrates the need for organizational structures (such as In this article we have first discussed two dif- strategic knowledge platforms) that stimulate ferent models of creativity (idea) manage- and facilitate possibilities for information ment. It appears that within each of these sharing and exchange. For the ideator it shows models there is room for the notion that cre- the importance of ‘political’ strategies in order ativity is not so much in the mind of the indi- to put an idea forward successfully. vidual but that it is a social process. However, Second, we paid attention to electronic idea even with the help of these models it is hard to management (ICT) systems, which play a cru- find out how the individual behaviour of cial and growing role in the whole process of the ideator must be seen in the light of the idea generation and selection within organiza- political strategies of the individual within the tions. Electronic idea management systems organization. that are used in the crea-political phase have Therefore, we have come up with an alter- both an enabling and a constraining effect native model in which we call attention to upon the success of an idea. Possible thresh- what we call the crea-political phase in the olds for new innovative ideas are lowered process of creativity (idea) management. The because of the easy accessibility of electronic theoretical contribution of this article to databases (especially in a situation in which the field of creativity management is the idea employees have equal possibilities to make that the success of a creative idea is above all a use of the system). In this way the system matter of political activities and strategies of enables the ideator to develop ideas that oth- the ideator. It pays attention to the notion that erwise would not have come up. However, a organizational creativity is an individual system can also lead to indolence if the ideator expression on the one hand and organizational thinks that it is the system that will do the hard commitment on the other. The major implica- work and that (s)he can lean back, which is an tions of this model for the understanding of unintended consequence of the use of elec- creativity (idea) management are discussed in tronic knowledge systems. Thus, the system- what follows. in-use can easily create the idea that there is an First, the model gives ample room for the ‘automatic and one way route’ from a creative notion that an idea does not come up in isola- moment to a viable idea (i.e. an idea that will tion, but is the outcome of negotiation. Cre- be funded by the organization). Accordingly, ativity in an organizational context emerges as we have argued, the system must be seen in from a process of sharing information with the context of creativity as a political (sense- other people within the organization. Of making) activity. The management must be course, an idea is produced by individuals aware of the fact that an electronic idea man- with inner creative impulses and ambitions, agement system is not a neutral element in the but such an idea only gets meaning in the process of creativity management, but one that social. In the daily reality and practice of the produces an effect within a context in which organization, people of different backgrounds creative ideas must be transformed into prac- will identify the quality of an idea. In this way, ticable ideas. the model gives rise to the idea we raised in In addition to the model, we presented a the introduction to this article, namely that case study of the idea management at Corus organizations (such as, in our case, Corus) can RD&T, which is only the first start to ‘test’ profit from knowledge creation only if the the strength of the model. The Corus R&D individual creative action and idea generation management has implemented an electronic (within the different creating, selling and fund- idea management system in order to enable ing phases) is embedded in organizational researchers to submit ideas and to ensure that routines and local research agendas (repre- no ideas are lost. That means that the interac- sented by the different intimate, professional tions between the creating of ideas and the and managerial circles). funding of ideas funding phases are facilitated Apparently, not every creative expression by an electronic management system. The will result into a valuable or problem-solving system, eureka!, thus functions as an impor- idea. Ideas can be rejected for reasons regard- tant element in the creativity (idea) manage- ing the content (i.e. an idea is impracticable for ment. Commonly speaking, we found out technical reasons) or – and even more likely – that researchers at Corus judge eureka! as an for reasons related the organizational context enabling tool during the interactions with of an idea (i.e. budget problems, priority of others in the company. It is interesting to note other ideas, organizational policy, competition that the respondents indicate that the lobby and so on). In order to anticipate on the idea work (during the selling of ideas phase in our selection, the ideator has to put effort in the model) is the most explanatory factor in the propagation of his/her idea (the selling of ideas funding process. In other words, the more © 2006 The AuthorsVolume 15 Number 3 2006 Journal compilation © 2006 Blackwell Publishing
  12. 12. CREATIVITY MANAGEMENT IN INDUSTRIAL R&D ORGANIZATIONS 307people you are familiar with within the com- Berends, H., Boersma, F.K. and Weggeman, M.pany with whom you can discuss the idea, (2003) The Structuration of Organizational Learn-the more likely it is that an idea will be ing. Human Relations, 56(9), 1035–56.funded in the end. While this concept would Boeddrich, H.J. (2004) Ideas in the Workplace: A New Approach Towards Organizing the Fuzzyhardly be surprising to practitioners, it is sel- Front End of the Innovation Process. Creativitydom explicitly included in models of creativ- and Innovation Management, 13(4), 274–85.ity management. Boersma, F.K. and Kingma, S.F. (2005) From Means The above case is an illustration of how the to Ends: The Transformation of ERP in a Manu-crea-political phase works in daily practice. facturing Company. Journal of Strategic Informa-Further research into the crea-political phase is tion Systems, 14, 197–219.needed in order to understand the different Bourdieu, P. (1992) The Logic of Practice. Stanfordstrategies that are possible, the influence of University Press, Chicago.contextual factors during the process of nego- Burgelman, R.A. (1983) A Process Model of Inter-tiation and circumstances in which the differ- nal Corporate Venturing in the Diversified Major Firm. Administrative Science Quarterly, 28,ent strategies can be used. Moreover, in this 223–44.article we have not taken issues of gender and Curry, A. and Stancich, L. (2000) The Intranet – andiversity (e.g. aging, identity, professional Intrinsic Component of Strategic Informationbackgrounds and so on) on the one hand, and Management? International Journal of Informationorganizational structures (such as hierarchies, Management, 20, 249–68.firm size, company structures and so on) on Cross, R. and Parker, A. (2004) The Hidden Power ofthe other hand, into consideration. Instead we Social Networks. Understanding How Work Reallyhave presented a sensitizing model, which Gets Done in Organizations. Harvard Businesslinks creative and political processes, and School Press, Harvard.understands the management of creativity as Czarniawska, B. and Joerges, B. (1996) Travel of ideas. In Czarniawska B. and Sevon, G. (eds),part of these multi-faceted and interrelated Translating Organizational Change. Walter deprocesses. Gruyter, Berlin pp. 13–48. Damsgaard, J. and Scheepers, R. (2001) Harnessing Intranet Technology for Organizational Knowl-Acknowledgements edge Creation. Australian Journal of Information Systems, December 2001, 4–15.Earlier versions of this article were presented Drazin, R., Glynn, M.A. and Kazanjian, R.K. (1999) Multilevel Theorizing about Creativity in Orga-at (1) the ECCI-Conference, Lodz Poland, Sep- nizations: a Sensemaking Perspective. 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  13. 13. 308 CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION MANAGEMENT Hardy, C. and Clegg, S.R. (1999) Some Dare Call It The forest of symbols: Aspects of Ndembu ritual. Cor- Power. In: Clegg, S.R. and Hardy C. (eds), Study- nell University Press, Ithaca, pp. 93–111. ing Organization: Theory & Method. Sage, London Van Dijk, C. and Van den Ende, J. (2002) Suggestion pp. 368–87. Systems: Transferring Employee Creativity into Hellström, C. and Hellström, T. (2002) Highways, Practicable Ideas. R&D Management, 32(5), 387– Alleys and By-lanes: Charting the Pathways for 95. Ideas and Innovation in Organizations. Creativity Verhaeghe, A. and Kfir, R. (2002) Managing Inno- and Innovation Management, 11(2), 107–14. vation in a Knowledge Intensive Technology Henry, J. (2005) Creative Management. Sage, London. Organization (KITO). R&D Management, 32(5), Hitt, M.A., Ireland, D.R. and Lee, H-U. (2000) Tech- 409–17. nological Learning, Knowledge Management Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice. Learning, and Performance: An Introductory Essay. Journal Meaning and Identity. Cambridge University of Engineering and Technology Management, 17, Press, Cambridge. 231–46. Wenger, E., McDermott, R. and Snyder, W. (2002) Kogut, B. and Zander, U. (1996) What do Firms do? Cultivating Communities of Practice. A Guide to Coordination, Identity and Learning. Organiza- Managing Knowledge. Harvard Business School tional Science, 7, 502–18. Press, Boston. Latour, B. and Woolgar, S. (1986) Laboratory Life. The Weick, K.E. (1995) Sensemaking in Organizations. Construction of Scientific Facts. Princeton Univer- Sage, London. sity Press, Princeton. Latour, B. (1987) Science in Action. How to Follow Scientist and Engineers Through Society. Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA. Lazaric, N., Mangolte, P.A. and Massué, M.L. (2003) Articulation and Codification of Collective Drs. Han Bakker ( is Lec- Know-how in the Steel Industry: Evidence from turer at the Hogeschool Rotterdam in the Blast Furnace Control in France. Research Policy, Rotterdam Institute of Social Education 32, 1829–47. (RISO). His research interest is in ‘creativ- Leonard-Barton, D. (1992) Core Capabilities and ity’, ‘management of creativity’ and ‘idea Core Rigidities: A Paradox in Managing New management’. He is author of a current Product Development. Strategic Management Jour- introduction on Creative Thinking. Cur- nal, 13, 111–25. rently, he is working on his Ph.D. on Idea Orlikowski, W.J. (2000) Using Technology and Con- Management in Organizations – the Corus stituting Structures: A Practice Lens for Studying case is part of this work. Amongst others he Technology in Organizations. Organization Sci- is teacher in the courses Creative Thinking ence, 11(4), 404–28. and Cultural Research. Prusak, L. and Cohen, D. (1998) Knowledge Kees Boersma ( Buyers, Sellers, and Brokers: the Political Econ- nl) is Associate Professor at the Vrije Uni- omy of Knowledge. In: Neef, D., Seisfeld, A.G. versiteit Amsterdam in the group of Cul- and Cefola, J. (eds), The Impact of Knowledge. ture, Organization and Management. His Butterworth-Heinemann, Woburn pp. 137–59. research interest is in ‘science and technol- Saari, E. and Miettinen, R. (2001) Dynamics of ogy studies’, ‘business history and history Change in Research Work: Constructing a New of technology’, and in ‘organization, culture Research Area in a Research Group. Science, Tech- and power’. He published widely on nology and Human Values, 26(3), 300–21. R&D history, organizational learning, and Simonton, D.K. (1988) Creativity, Leadership, and organizational culture. His publications Chance. In: Sternberg, R.J. (ed.), The Nature of Cre- appeared amongst others in journals as ativity. Contemporary Psychological Perspectives. Enterprise and Society, History and Technol- Cambridge University Press, Cambridge pp. 386– ogy, Human Relations and Journal of Strategic 426. Information Systems. He is teacher in the Swan, J. and Scarbrough, H. (2005) The Politics of courses Organizational Behavior, Organiza- Networked Innovation. Human Relations, 58(7), tional Politics and Technology and Culture. 913–43. Drs. Sytse Oreel ( is cur- Tell, F. (2004) What Do Organizations Know? rently working as a manager in a Dutch Dynamics of Justification Context in R&D Activ- steel company (SME) and interested in cul- ities. Organization, 11(4), 443–71. ture, organization and innovation. He stud- Thamhain, H.J. (2003) Managing Innovative R&D ied Culture, Organization and Management Teams. R&D Management, 33(3), 297–311. at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. His Tropman, J. (1998) The Management of Ideas. Quorum master-thesis (2004) was about creativity London. and innovation management at Corus. Turner, V. (1967) Betwixt and Between: The Liminal Period in Rites the Passage. In: Turner, V. (ed.), © 2006 The AuthorsVolume 15 Number 3 2006 Journal compilation © 2006 Blackwell Publishing
  14. 14. CREATIVITY MANAGEMENT IN INDUSTRIAL R&D ORGANIZATIONS 309Appendix 1Table A1. Number and Functions of RespondentsFunction of respondent Number PercentageDepartment Manager 3 1.7Programme Manager 3 1.7Knowledge Group Leader 18 10.4Principal Scientist 7 4.1Principal Engineer 3 1.7Project Coordinator 12 6.9Senior Researcher 50 28.9Researcher 49 28.3Senior Research Assistant 3 1.7Research Assistant 11 6.4Member MT 0 0.0Other: 14 8.1Total 173 100.0Appendix 2Table A2. Outcome of the QuestionnaireResearch Question Agree Disagreecluster (%) (%)The role of 1 My reputation within the organization influences the 65 35 the ideator chances of success of my idea 2 I appreciate it when judges point out alternative 89 11 possibilities for my idea 3 I appreciate the support of peolple from the 89 11 marketing and financial department importantThe role of the 1 Sometimes the evaluator does not take the time to 74.5 25.5 evaluator give thorough and adequate comments 2 I understand that the evaluators are too busy with 72.7 27.3 their own tasks 3 The evaluators use other than just the formal criteria 86.7 13.3 in the recommendation to select an idea for adoption or funding 4 Business Units not always benefit by new, radical 60.7 39.3 ideasThe lobby and 1 When I look for “funding” for my idea I have to show 73.9 26.1 funding initiative to a “funder”; you cannot expect the system process to do this for you 2 I do not like to annoy acquaintances with extra work 37.8 62.2 of judgment in order to gain financing 3 People in my network can help me to bring my idea 68 32 further 4 After the year plans for the projects have been made 81 19 it is impossible to get funding for ideas© 2006 The AuthorsJournal compilation © 2006 Blackwell Publishing Volume 15 Number 3 2006