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About Creativity and Innovation

The power of your company for innovation has a lot to do with the people working in it. In other words, innovation is closely tied to company culture. If your employees have no sense of thinking innovatively, you will hardly create innovation by installing a software tool. On the other hand, creativity is the basis for innovation and creative ideas need room to grow. Creativity can only exist in an environment that enables free thinking and that encourages people to play around with fresh ideas. The question is: How can you create such an environment?

The Creative Environment

What does such an environment look like, that grants freedom for creative work, and that helps new ideas to grow?  An important aspect for the growth of ideas is that they can be shared among peer groups, and that input can be given from all possible points of view. This is the kind of fertilization that you want in your company, so that creative ideas can grow to become new innovations. In earlier days, within small teams that were working closely together at one place, creating an environment for innovation took as much as providing a flip chart and a few colored markers. However, it does not work this way anymore in today's distributed, digital world. The new workplace requires working across contries - sometimes continents in different time zones - and at each individual's pace and schedule.

Email has brought us borderless digital communication at near real-time. I can now reach out to almost every person in the world using email and share ideas or any kind of digital content with them. But email is both a blessing and a curse because it destroys transparency and only creates an overhead of searching, organizing, and manually clustering related information that is distributed in email inboxes world-wide. So, forget email and create an environmen in which people can collaborate directly and in real time.

The Intranet as a Collaboration Environment

Modern Intranet systems, such as Microsoft Sharepoint or IBM Connections come with many features for top-down, but also for peer-to-peer communication, and for providing editorial style content. However, key to great collaboration is a powerful and intuitive Wiki component that enables people to create, and collaboratively edit content in real time. You have an idea?  Quickly note it down in the Wiki so it doesn't get lost and share it with others. The next day, you may come back to it with a fresh mind and start developing your idea. Someone may even has commented on your idea already, starting the process of collaborative, creative thinking. Now, for this to really thrive, it needs a Wiki component within your Intranet that is fun and intuitive to use. Software like IBM Connections or Microsoft Sharpoint have powerful Wiki components but they are not exactly renowned for being fun and easy to use.

A software like Atlassian's Confluence is probably better suited for enabling creative work. LINCHPIN as a Confluence-based Intranet solution combines Confluence as an excellent Wiki system with powerful Intranet functionality.  Coming back to the question: Our little example from above hopefully shows that creative work can be fostered best when people have a place to quickly leave ideas and share these with peers. New ideas become visible immediately to others, while the intellectual property is actually preserved. The latter is an important point for overcoming the natural fears that "someone could steal my idea when I say it" and therefore for increasing acceptance. A well-working Wiki also helps to keep information organised. The original truth always stays in one central place - the Wiki - and does not get scattered over inboxes or file servers at different locations. It makes information accessible to everyone at all times in almost all places, provided one has Internet access.

Conclusion 

So, does an Intranet generate innovation? Probably not, but the question was, can it increase innovation? We'd say, definitely!

An Intranet with an actively used Wiki component helps people collaboratively work in teams. They do not need to worry where to put their stuff, how to find it, or how to share it with others. This happens almost automatically as soon as they start using the Wiki as a working appliance and get away from proprietary documents and emails. It frees capacity for creative thinking and enables collective intelligence to grow. Mutual fertilization of creative intelligence is promoted within and across teams. Even if you only have the most basic level of creative thinking in your company, don't hesitate to help it grow. In our view, a fun, social Intranet is probably the best way to achieve this.



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