Innovation as Dialectical

Innovation and creativity is best understood as a balance between at least two, possibly conflicting constructs. These have been termed severally as follows: (1) novelty and usefulness (Amabile, 1996a), (2) idea generation and idea implementation (e.g. Anderson et al., 2004), and (3) exploration and exploitation (March, 1991). We discuss each of these means of partitioning innovation further.

Novelty and Usefulness

Amabile (1988) has suggested that creativity can be assessed in terms of its novelty and utility within a specific social domain. Leaning on Simontons (1999) evolutionary thinking on innovation Amabile, Barsade, Mueller, and Staw (2005) argue that variation primarily contributes to idea novelty, whereas selection contributes to idea usefulness. Therefore, the more variation that can be introduced to an idea by an individual the more likely it is that the idea would be novel. Selection on the other hand is an evaluative activity, whereby an individual applies criteria depending upon the targeted social domain and selects the idea that is considered to be the most fruitful to pursue. Furthermore, initial selection is usually done by an individual proposer and subsequent selection happens when the idea is exposed to evaluation by the social group or community (Amabile et al., 2005).

From this view, we see that at least two distinct kinds of activities are envisaged that contribute towards an innovative product and which would constitute innovative behaviours. An ability to increase variation in the number and nature of ideas suggested and an ability to select an appropriate idea for further development.

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