Supporting Creativity for Real Business Results

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Do you consider yourself a creative person? Does your organization actively foster innovation generally and your creativity specifically?

As business analysts, our mission might be described as helping organizations realize their best ideas. But how can we create environments in which the best ideas are explored and acted upon?

In this Denver Post article, I learned about how Denver-based Aspenware employee Janet McIllece, CBAP, was freed from the daily grind to help “her brother, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to find ways to explain complex data about water quality to nontechnical audiences.”

Adam Roderick, Aspenware’s chief executive, had this to say about the program: "The premise is any idea that you have is on the table. Ideas that work and gain traction, we invest more in and give more resources, or allow them more free time to work on those things."

For Aspenware, supporting creativity is not only tied to real business results (this particular project paved the way for the company’s move into the government-contractor network), but it’s also an important employee benefit, aiming to create an entrepreneurial environment that attracts the best local talent.

Aspenware is not alone. Business analyst Nik Gebhard wrote the following in support of creativity: “An environment that lends itself to innovation is one where analysts not only feel comfortable putting forward creative suggestions, but are encouraged to do so. New ideas should never be frowned upon or laughed at; no matter how trivial or how extreme. In fact, they should be celebrated and rewarded.”

Nik provides some practical suggestions to achieve this goal. His organization has introduced innovation boards where new ideas can be noted and become visible to all. Aspenware has set aside time when analysts can come up with innovative concepts that are introduced to the management team for consideration.

Patrick Bailey takes this a step further and provides concrete management suggestions that permit inspiration and innovation. On his list are teaching the team a creative process, encouraging end-of-cycle reviews (since creativity is nurtured through feedback), training facilitators to enable peer-led discussions, and using challenging, but not relentless, deadlines to inspire the creativity that surfaces with time constraints.

As business analysts, we often have our fingers on the creative pulse of the organization. New ideas surface in nearly every meeting we facilitate. But many of these ideas die a slow death on lists such as the parking lot, priority two requirements, or future projects. As change moves at an increasingly fast rate, it is time for us to put some systems in place that support action on our organization’s best ideas.

What can you do to help your organization act on the creative power of its people?

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Laura Brandenburg

Laura Brandenburg, CBAP, has more than ten years of experience as a business analyst. She is the author of How to Start a Business Analyst Career and Professional Development for Business Analysts. Laura’s current work is dedicated to helping aspiring and new business analysts solidify their careers. Interested in learning more? Join us at Bridging the Gap.