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Organizational Structure, Creativity, Innovation

The organizational structure can inhibit or encourage creativity and innovation. The problem with organizational structure, however, is that it is the result of many factors, including history, organic growth, strategy, operational design, product diversity, logistics, marketing, customer base, etc. the supplier base, etc. Therefore, what managers need is not prescriptions for complete structural change, but knowledge about the properties of supporting structures that can be adapted to the existing structure.

To begin with, it is useful to analyze preferred versus less preferred structures. There are many definitions of types of organizational structure, but an example is:

a) Mechanistic structures (generally not preferred): includes centralized control and authority, clearly defined tasks, vertical communication links, obedience to supervisors, rigidity and inflexibility.

b) Organizational structures (generally preferred) – decentralization of authority, loosely defined tasks, horizontal communications, more individual authority, flexible, adaptable.

Experience shows that the above can be misleading. For example, flat organizations are generally preferred and hierarchical ones are not, however, even flat organizations are actually hierarchical.

Importantly, if we have a mechanistic structure, what factors allow us to move in the right direction without total change?

Some responses include:

a) Direct communication links with decision makers.

b) Communication and flow of information between departments.

c) Tangible progression of ideas from problem to solution, from product development to commercialization.

d) Creative teams that work outside but are linked to the organization, whose culture, processes, etc. diffuse into the existing structure.

These and other topics are covered in depth in the MBA dissertation Creativity and Innovation Management, which can be purchased (along with a Creativity and Innovation Audit, Good Idea Generating Software, and a Power Point presentation) at http://www.managing-

Kal Bishop, MBA


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