All innovation depends on the generation of new ideas, but no new ideas will be generated in the absence of human creativity. Consequently, the hiring process needs to emphasize the importance of selecting individuals who have creative potential. More importantly, the human resources system needs to focus on developing that creativity and retaining individuals who show creative promise. 1
However, creative individuals aren’t the only ones required to cultivate a more innovative culture. Other individuals, such as “knowledge brokers,” are also essential. Knowledge brokers are individuals who constantly collect ideas and combine them in unique and valuable ways. They often are not the originators of the ideas, but they have a skill at keeping new ideas alive and seeing where they lead. 2 Sometimes older workers lose their creative spark but serve as knowledge brokers to keep the spark alive.
Most organizations are uncomfortable with “mavericks” who shake up the status quo and display irreverence for accepted wisdom. However, mavericks play a vital role in making an organization more innovative, especially larger organizations. 3 For example, Jack Welch, a relatively famous maverick who led General Electric through a very innovative period, stated, “Here at GE, we reward failure.” 4 Indeed, there is scientific research that demonstrates that when the reward system recognizes and retains creative employees, the organization behaves more innovatively. 5