Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

Developing Creative and Innovative Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills in a Financial Services Organisation

Academic journal article SA Journal of Human Resource Management

Developing Creative and Innovative Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills in a Financial Services Organisation

Article excerpt

Introduction

Problem statement

Retailers and unexpected competitors, such as telecommunication role players, have begun to enter the traditional financial services domain. Subsequently, a financial services organisation has realised that they are losing valuable customers and decided that innovative ways of doing business are required to ensure future sustainability. This led to the following questions: Can individuals develop creative and innovative thinking and problem-solving skills by means of a workshop? Can the acquisition of these skills ignite innovation that can ensure the long-term competitiveness of the organisation?

Key focus of the study

In this article we examine whether or not employees in a financial services organisation can acquire creative and innovative thinking and problem-solving skills by means of a workshop to ignite innovation. If they can, could the financial services organisation then use this strategy to remain competitive?

Background to the study

A specific financial services organisation in South Africa came to the realisation that they had to join the innovation revolution in order to remain commercially competitive in the twenty-first century. With retailers and other competitors, such as the telecommunication role players, entering the traditional financial services domain, financial services organisations were losing customers and revenue. The organisation realised that they had to create a new business model in order to 'create new value for customers, provide rude surprises for competitors, and create new wealth for investors' (Hamel, 2000, p. 18).

Consequently, the financial services organisation commissioned the primary author of this article to design a creativity and innovation workshop to improve the creative and innovative thinking and problem-solving skills of their employees.

Research purpose

The current focus of the literature review indicates a definite shifttowards a more systemic understanding of innovation because '... innovation has gone through a crisis of credibility in many organisations' and many organisations have simply concluded: 'We tried innovation. It didn't work!' (Skarzynski & Gibson, 2008, p. 15). Although the focus has shifted towards a more systemic approach, the recurrent emerging trends continuously revert back to the individual as the nucleus from which innovation ultimately emanates.

The focus has also been extended from the internal individual (the employee), to the external individual (the customer) (Hamel, 2000; Prahalad & Krishnan, 2008). The promotion of creativity and innovation in an organisational context is well supported and well documented, as is confirmed by the literature review below, although the issues around creativity and innovation are not necessarily related to financial services organisations. Prahalad and Krishnan (2008) briefly mention the role of innovation in financial services but there is little literature available on how the acquired skills could be applied in a highly regulated environment. This lack of research confirms the need for the study and creates an opportunity for the researchers to make an original contribution to the field of knowledge.

Trends from the research literature

The development of creative and innovative thinking and problem-solving skills is crucial for the survival of organisations in the twenty-first century (Hamel, 2000; Levesque, 2001; Skarzynski & Gibson, 2008). Organisations have no option but to innovate. To achieve this, they have to design a strategy that is able to convert creativity into innovation (Allison, 2005; Cook, 1998; Krippendorff, 2008). Man (2001) and Prahalad and Krishnan (2008) argue that a valuable degree of creative skill can be acquired by anyone that sets out to acquire such skills. Training in the field of creative problem solving is generally found to be most effective when organisations wanted to equip employees with creative and innovative thinking and problem-solving skills (De Bono, 1995; Williams, 2001). …

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