Business analytics & the Innovator’s DNA

Creativity
Chris Barez-Brown, author of "How to have kick-ass ideas"

The other day, I wrote about how Business Analytics can help create innovative businesses. For some reason, the topic kept hovering in my mind and I pulled out an interesting six-year study conducted by INSEAD professor Hal Gregersen, Jeffrey Dyer of Brigham Young University and Clayton Christensen of Harvard. It is called ‘The Innovator’s DNA’. The authors of the study found that creative and innovative people tend to have five key characteristics. When looking at these characteristics, it seems that Business Analytics can indeed have a very positive impact on each one of these. Let’s take a look:

  • Associating: Creative people are able to connect seemingly unrelated pieces of information. Military camouflage, for example, stems from ideas created by Cubist artists. Business Analytics allows us to analyze data from various different angles. We can compare different aspects of our business, observe trends and create what-if scenarios. Analytics can therefore help us make new associations between different data sets.
  • Observing: Creative entrepreneurs tend to be keen observers. They have a high level of awareness. Business Analytics can help us raise our own level of awareness: we have the ability to stay closely connected with our business. We can observe trends in great detail. We can obtain information without too much difficulties. We find new trends.
  • Experimenting: No big surprise – innovators are good at experimenting. They try out different things. They fail, they succeed. Business Analytics allows us to try out different things. We can ask what-if questions? We can test assumptions. What would be the impact to costs, if I hired new managers in location A instead of location B? What if we shifted production from one plant to another?
  • Networking: Innovators seek interaction with diverse people to further their thinking. They try to discuss problems with different people outside their normal teams. Business Analytics allows us to connect with people across our organization. Using collaboration features we can share insights, seek input and observe what other people are thinking.
  • Questioning: This is a core skill. Creative minds ask lot’s of questions. They don’t just assume. They explore. Business Analytics helps us ask a lot of questions: How are we doing? Why is that so? What should we be doing? What if we increased our travel budget.

LET’S FOSTER CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION

Creative Powerhouse: Walt Disney

Don’t get me wrong. Business Analytics is not going to turn all of us into creative powerhouses. Although, it could and should….But if anything, it lowers the barrier towards creative thinking. The worst thing we can do today is to just sit there and work with the same type of information over and over again. It gets worse when people are afraid to look beyond the normal standardized paper reports. A classic case of tunnel vision frequently occurs.

INNOVATION IS THE DRIVER

There is a lot of opportunity in the markets today. Actually, much more opportunity than ever before. But global competition forces us to find new and better ways. But to stay competitive and to leverage these opportunities we all need to foster innovation and creativity.

If used right, Business Analytics will make a serious contribution towards success. Try pushing yourself and your users. Also, start considering the above mentioned points in our business case. We sometimes focus on the hard facts such as cost savings. But creativity and innovation can lead to something much bigger. Once again, think about the successful companies out there!

How Business Analytics can drive creativity & innovation

Last weekend I was reviewing my recent photography portfolio. I noticed an interesting theme: my favorite photographs seemed to be clustered around certain months. There are a few months when my activity was low and the resulting photos were not that great. That raised an interesting question: Do we get more creative by being more active?

CREATIVITY IS FUELED BY INPUTS

Simply taking more photographs will probably not increase your creativity. But, there seems to be a clear connection between being curious and immersed in a certain field (e.g. photography). Indeed, several creative minds have confirmed this link.

The path towards creativity & innovation

In his excellent eBook “The Inspired Eye” Master photographer David duChemin says:

“Creative people are raw material gatherers, they hunger for ideas and go outside of the camp to find them. You must increase your inputs, the more ideas and influences you ingest, the more your creative being has to work with – the more Lego blocks your inner creative has to work with.”

In other words, the more we experience, the more interesting things we see, the more we try new things, the higher our creativity will most likely be. That explains why me taking more photographs, me being engaged in the process probably led to better results.

THE SECRET OF STEVE JOBS’ SUCCESS

How does this relate to business? Let’s look at Steve Jobs. Most of us admire Apple for for it’s enormous amount of creativity. In his book ‘The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs’, Carmine Gallo looks at several factors that are responsible for Apple’s tremendous success at delivering innovation. Turns out that Steve Jobs and his team are indeed fueling their brains with multiple experiences. They hire diverse people with different backgrounds. They study the designs of ‘boring’ products such as rice cookers, blenders, cars. Steve Jobs studied calligraphy during his student days which ultimately resulted in Apple’s huge focus on beautiful design. To back up how and why this results in higher creativity, Gallo quotes neuroscientist Gregory Berns:

“To see things differently than other people, the most effective solution is to bombard the brain with things it has never encountered before. Novelty releases the perceptual process from the shackles of past experiences and forces the brain to make new judgements.” 

BUSINESS ANALYTICS & CREATIVITY

If you think about it, Business Analytics is an ideal platform for driving creativity and innovation. The technology allows us to to effectively ‘bombard their brains with new things’:

  • We are able to explore and to relate
  • We are able to slice and dice
  • We are able to drill-down
  • We are able to quickly identify and analyze trends
  • We can create what-if scenarios on the fly
  • We can probe, we can test
Business Analytics - the better approach

Do you see the connection? But not only that – Business Analytics software also lowers the barrier towards asking new & different questions. The ability to view data from different angles, to ability to associate new sets of data has the potential to create new insights. People are no longer afraid to analyze their business from a different perspective: they don’t have to wait and they don’t have to go through a complicated process to obtain the data.

In her excellent article “Data dive reveals and ocean of trends’, Lynn Greiner states:

“BI software gives you the ability to dive into data and find trends and relationships you may not have considered, or to find the cause of anomalies you’ve noticed.”

Keep this in mind!  Business Analytics can make a big contribution towards higher creativity. Just take a look at some of the really successful companies these days…chances are they are very analytical! What are your thoughts and experiences?