Skip to main content

Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin

Trinity Menu Trinity Search



You are here News & Events

Sparking Creative Thinking: What Businesses Need To Know

March 15th, 2019

Dr. Na Fu, Associate Professor in Human Resource Management at Trinity Business School, explores the best ways for businesses to encourage and implement new and profitable ideas.

Creative thinking is critical for all businesses – from problem solving to driving business performance. In order for business owners to encourage creative thinking, they must ensure that they fulfil three key stages of creativity and innovation.

The three stages are new idea generation, promotion and implementation. Dr Na Fu, Associate Professor in Human Resource Management at Trinity Business School, believes that many organisations are good at one or two. However, businesses will only begin to see a positive transformation once all the three stages are fulfilled. For those looking to grow and innovate their business model, the first step of the process is to determine the best strategy to promote idea generation. “Ideas can be generated ‘top-down’ - where a company’s leadership has significantly more control over key decisions than those lower in the hierarchy, or ‘bottom-up’ - where ideas are created by employees and channelled up to senior management.”

The latter strategy has proven most successful for idea generation in today’s forward-thinking business culture as employees voice their ideas and opinions, overcome their frustrations and ultimately feel more valued. “When ideas are generated from the floor, businesses utilise the full talents of their employees and allow for free thought in a relaxed working environment. This approach is adopted frequently due to its cost-effectiveness and responsivity rate.”

To spark individual insights that will encourage creative thinking, businesses must invest in suitable space and resource for staff. “Innovation hubs, accelerators or assigned spaces can help staff to feel empowered to lead on problem solving and idea generation. Many companies will also promote innovation through incentivised team exercises or competitions where prizes are given based on both the quality and quantity of the ideas. There are a number of creative examples in people management. For example, flexible working practices are increasingly used to generate higher productivity whilst new technology like cloud computing can be used to better manage the ideation process as it enters the production stage.” 

Another effective way to motivate staff is through workshops on Design Thinking. These can open dialogue as employees are forced to think from the customer or user perspective, however these can cost time and money.

For idea promotion, Dr. Fu believes that it can be useful to look outside your internal operation and “seek the advice of external business sponsors or trust advisors in senior positions to help give tips on process and delivery. An advisor can contribute useful, independent and informed insights that aid your final business decisions.”

At implementation stage, support from the business owner and senior management is crucial. Corporate innovation is not achieved overnight so it is important to keep testing, revisiting and improving upon the ideas that are generated at this stage. “Businesses should never rule something out that hasn’t been tested before as evaluating the impact may throw up surprises or potential solutions!”

Dr. Fu also stresses the importance of collaborating with universities. Many Business Schools promote collaboration with industry. “We highly encourage and engage with our students to conduct company-based projects. Under academic supervision, students focus on the challenges that organizations are facing. Either individually or in a team, they provide evidence-based recommendations for organizations at no financial cost. It’s beneficial for both parties and is a valuable source for creative thinking.”

Overall, business owners should think of creativity as a process. Rather than managing one creative idea, they should reflect on each stage of creativity to fully reap the rewards.