2012. Vol.3, Special Issue, 737-745
Published Online October 2012 in SciRes (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/ce) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ce.2012.326110
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 737
Organizational Creativity: Building a Business Ba-Haus?
Andy Wilkins1, Clive Holtham2
1Perspective LLP, Oxford and Senior Honorary Visiting Fell ow, Cass Business School, London, UK
2Faculty of Management, Cass Business School, City University, London, UK
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Received August 31st, 2012; revise d Se p t e mber 28th, 2012; accepted October 13th, 2012
Our focus is on the systemic nature of creativity and the role of business schools in stimulating and en-
hancing organizational creativity, across all sectors of the economy, particularly those which are not con-
ventionally regarded as “creative” industries. After defining creativity and reviewing a number of fre-
quently occurring “creativity clichés” that are potentially keeping organizational creativity in a rut, we go
on to explore some of the key challenges with creativity that need particular focus, including: taking a
systemic approach, as well as more attention on “difficult” aspects such as the climate for creativity or
creativity “ba”. We propose a Systemic Innovation Maturity Framework as a way to conceptualize and
organize a way forward in organizations and in business schools. We believe that in a similar way to the
Bauhaus of the early 20th century, there needs to be a step change in the way creativity is researched,
taught and applied that encompasses a more ecological approach. We believe a more comprehensive, in-
clusive and useful conception of creativity may result from the consideration of the four dimensions of the
framework and their interactions. We wonder: Is it time for a new Business Ba-Haus?
Keywords: Creativity; Innovation; Higher Education
Introduction and Purpose
We believe that in the current economic climate, it is oppor-
tune—and maybe even essential—to open up a dialogue about
some of the problems with the way creativity is being taught in
higher education and applied in business. We aim to explore
some of the current dilemmas that we believe exist around the
topic of creativity and to propose some ideas on potential ways
In particular, we believe that in a similar way to the Bauhaus
of the early 20th century, there needs to be a step change in the
way creativity is taught and applied. We need to draw on all of
the arts, crafts, informatics, engineering, economics, finance,
and the social sciences when it comes to the education and
application of creativity.
Historically, much of the focus of creativity research and
teaching has been at the individual or small group level. How-
ever, there has been a significant strand of interest in organiza-
tional creativity through most of the twentieth century, includ-
ing Wallas (1926), Osborn (1953), Rhodes (1961), upon which
later business researchers such as Amabile (1996), Tidd and
Bessant (2009), Isaksen and Akkermans (2011) have built.
Definitions and the Language of Cre ativity,
Innovation, Pr oblem Solving, an d Change
Language and terminology are often a block to people work-
ing together—paradoxically it appears that the more sophisti-
cated people become, the more divergence in the meaning of
words. In this paper, we focus on creativity and so believe we
need to be clear about we mean by the term. We acknowledge
and accept that our views are not necessarily universal truths or
norms but are in alignment with many typical and commonly
held definitions in the social sciences. This section therefore
looks at some of the main concepts and our approach to finding
common ground on which to move forward productively.
Creativity often involves holding more than one viewpoint in
mind at a time—what has been referred to as the need to be
“ambidextrous” or Janusian: the Roman God Janus had to look
in two opposing directions at the same time. As F. Scott Fitz-
gerald (1945) wrote: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the
ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and
still retain the ability to function.”
For example, in workshops, when we ask people to generate
words to describe “creativity”, they often respond with words
such as new, divergent, exciting, wacky, artists, advertising,
music, art and unique. In contrast to this, when we ask what
words they associate with “problem solving”, they say: analysis,
useful, focusing, overcoming difficulties.
Most people acknowledge the tension between these two
concepts—the newness, future oriented and aspirational aspects
of creativity contrasted with the more here and now, useful and
reactive notion of problem solving. Many contemporary defini-
tions and approaches to creativity link this tension between
newness and usefulness. Newness for its own sake is not nec-
essarily useful. But put the two together and a powerful ap-
proach becomes possible (Isaksen , Dorval, & Treffinger, 2011) .
Creativity has also been described as a special class of prob-
lem solving where there is difficulty or ambiguity in problem
formulation, there are unclear pathways forward, and a need for
ideas to solve the problem as the outcome does not already
exist (Newell, Shaw, & Simon, 1962). Kirton (1994) states that
from the cognitive sciences, in order to influence the changing
world around us and acquire what we need, we have to solve
problems and to solve problems we have to think. Thinking is
the process by which we solve problems and it is the same brain
function that produces creativity, innovation and change.
Creative thinking and problem solving are also a natural
A. WILKINS, C. HOLTHA M
phenomenon. We acknowledge that all people have creative
potential and all people can solve problems, although not to the
same level. And we also believe that, contrary to popular belief,
all people change. As Kirton adds: “Things that do not change,
fossilise—and humans are not there, yet.”
Another contrast we often observe is that people see innova-
tion and change more concerning the outputs, whereas creative
thinking and problem solving more concern the people involved
and/or the process. We believe that it is possible to have crea-
tivity and problem solving without innovation and change but it
is not possible to have innovation and change without creativity
and problem solving.
We accept that there probably are some differences between
creativity, problem solving, innovation, and change but as Kir-
ton explains (1976) many are socially situated. In our experi-
ence, we find:
more technical professions such as engineering tend to use
the term problem solving;
advertising, media and “creative” industries prefer the term
change is often used by human resources;
governments and industry tend to use the term innovation.
For all practical purposes in this paper, we see change and
innovation as embracing the concepts of creativity and problem
solving as they all closely relate to thinking style and they all
involve the elements of newness and usefulness, at least to the
creator (Welsch, 1980).
Ultimately, our approach is to conceive creativity, problem
solving, innovation, and change as trying to balance moving
away from a current perceived reality towards a desired future
perceived objective. As Fritz (1993) explains, if there is a ten-
sion between what is and what we want, we will seek resolution.
For example, if we are hungry (tension) we usually resolve the
tension by eating. Tension is always composed of at least two
elements in which there is a contrast, discrepancy, gap, a lack, a
need, a problem.
The Problems with the Current Situation
Despite the fast-growing profile and rhetoric concerning
creativity at individual, firm and increasingly at national level,
it is still the case that creativity as a subject of education and
application has not advanced at a pace corresponding to that
profile and rhetoric. Indeed, it could even be seen to be stuck in
a bit of a rut.
For example, whilst the Cox Review of Creativity in Busi-
ness (Treasury, 2005) sees exploitation of the nation’s creative
skills as “vital to the UK’s long term economic success” it con-
cluded that: “The success of the creative industries notwith-
standing, there is evidence that UK business is not realizing the
full potential of applying creativity more widely” and em-
phazised the need for interdisciplinary teaching in universities.
In this paper we argue that a new approach is needed if the
potential of creativity in both academic and business worlds is
to be realized. Some of the main aspects of any new emphasis
1) creativity being viewed systemically;
2) creativity being taught across disciplines as well as a dis-
cipline in its own right—the discipline of “creatology” (Ma-
ghiary-Beck, 1993)—as the Cox Review added, the challenge is:
“not just to encourage creative industries, our priority is to
encourage all industries to be creative”;
3) and any further creativity research needs to be not into in-
dividual “components” to increase the innovativeness of or-
ganizations but rather in how to help it happen and how the
components of the system dynamically interact.
Our ideas are not novel: the holistic formulation of the 4 P’s
of creativity—people, process, product, press—dates at least
back to Rhodes (1961). Isaksen, Dorval and Treffinger (2011)
developed the 4 P’s by showing that although the themes over-
lapped, they operationally function together and that in all cases,
the context plays a major role. Whilst some may argue that the
study of creativity began with the dawn of civilization, many
who have reviewed the research on the topic of creativity fre-
quently point in modern times to the presidential address given
to the American Psychological Association by Guilford in 1950.
The thesis that creativity should be studied within a new, inde-
pendent, cross disciplinary framework called “creatology” dates
at least back to Isaksen, Murdock, Firestien and Treffinger
(1993) in their seminal work: “Understanding and Recognizing
Creativity: The Emergence of a Discipline”.
However, the promise has largely not been achieved as yet
and we believe creativity remains widely misunderstood within
academia and business, where it is often perceived as:
1) Something only a minority of people have as distinct from
seeing creativity as something everyone has although in varying
levels and varying styles;
2) The process for coming up with ideas as opposed to other
aspects such as coming up with visions, data, problems, and
actions. For example the Cox Review (Treasury, 2005) defined
creativity as: “the generation of new ideas—either new ways of
looking at existing problems, or of seeing new opportunities,
perhaps by exploiting emerging tech nologies or changes in markets ”;
3) Mainly about newness and not usefulness;
4) All about “ideas” that are “out there”, wacky, paradigm
shifting, radical, revolutionary, step changes, discontinuous, out
of the box, game changing as distinct from options that are
improvements, developments on the existing prevailing paradigm;
5) Related to but not as acceptable in business as the more
concrete and organizationally oriented term “innovation”;
6) Only involving a few functions or departments such as de-
sign, advertising and marketing, and new product development;
7) A side show—not a really important part of a business;
8) Essentially being about generating ideas and tools such
brainstorming in which many managers in particular feel they
are already well-grounded through everyday experience;
9) Even as a negative term, such as the unfortunate wide-
spread criticism implicit in “creative accounting”;
10 ) A term which has to some extent been explicitly narrowed,
as in “creative industries”, “creative sector”, “creative economy”.
Taking this last point, UK government has been particularly
proactive. The Department for Culture Media and Sport (2001)
defined the creative industries as: “those industries which have
their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which
have a potential for wealth and job creation through the gen-
eration and exploitation of intellectual property”.
The 2008 UN Creative Economy Report (2012)further states:
“There is no unique definition of the ‘creative economy’. It is a
subjective concept that is still being shaped. There is, however,
growing convergence on a core group of activities and their
interactions both in individual countries and at the interna-
We consider it might be more appropriate if the “creative
industries” were to be redefined as arts-based industries, and
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
A. WILKINS, C. HOLTHA M
“creative economy” as a much broader knowledge-based
economy. Creativity is needed as much if not more so in manu-
facturing, professional service industries and the generality of
services, just as much as in the arts-based sectors. There are a
number of reasons why the long-standing need for a systemic
approach to creativity has not been fulfilled:
1) Firstly, many believe that creativity begins with ideas.
This is the most basic misunderstanding relating to creativity.
As Ackoff (1974) wrote “We fail more often because we solve
the wrong problem than because we get the wrong solution to
the right problem.”
Detecting the problem is as important as finding the answer.
Indeed some argue that defining the problem is more important.
For example, in an interview (personal communication) the
Global Creative Director of a major Advertising Company
suggested that “if we understand the problem well enough, the
advert almost writes itself.”
2) Much of the thinking and practice about management con-
tinues to be fragmented, partly for structural reasons, including
the sprawling growth of professions since Rhodes was writing
3) The systemic approach itself has endured hard times since
its formulation and development in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Many of the powerful voices of its prophets have become
muted as that generation has retired and died.
4) The systemic approach is difficult, and faces obstacles
both in conception, and to implement. Von Foerster (1972) has
discussed with great clarity that physical science simplifies its
task, as it continually fragments problem solving. By contrast
societal problem solving is hard, because it cannot afford to
fragment, and avoid/ignore key factors. This is what Von Foer-
ster called his “Theorem Number Two”:
“The hard sciences are successful because they deal with the
soft problems; the soft sciences are struggling because they deal
with the hard problems.”
5) The difficulty of the systemic approach and the relative
growing wealth of the western economies has lead in part, we
believe, to what the RSA Tomorrow’s Company Inquiry (1995)
referred to as “complacency and ignorance of world standards”
as one of three prime reasons for blocking global British com-
petitiveness. (An over reliance on financial measures and an
adversarial culture are the other two.)
6) The difficulty of the systems approach has also resulted in
the maintenance of mental models (Argyris, 1993a) that are
often either passed their “use by” date of just plain wrong. As
Weick (1969, 2001) succinctly puts it: “Managerial problems
persist because managers continue to believe that there are
such things as unilateral causation, independent and dependant
variables, origins and terminations.”
And as Argyris and Schon (1996) and others have suggested,
the irony of improved education is that people may get better
and better at explaining why they are right and why they do not
need to change their mental models, beliefs, and assumptions.
Argyris refers to this process as defensive reasoning and we
believe that higher education may put people through a defen-
sive reasoning master class:
“The purpose is to avoid embarrassment or threat, feeling
vulnerable or incompetent. In this respect, the master program
that most people use is profoundly defensive. Defensive rea-
soning encourages individuals to keep private the premises,
inferences, and conclusions that shape their behavior and to
avoid testing them in a truly independent and objective fashion”
John Galbraith (1971) summarizes the point perfectly:
“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and
proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets
busy on the proof.”
8) Lastly recent research by Mckinsey (Aiken & Keller, 2009)
suggests that successful change—such as the adoption of sys-
tems thinking—is less about the persuasiveness of the advo-
cates and more about how receptive a “group, community or
society” is to the idea. Over the past 40 years there have been
and continue to be advocates of a systems approach and yet we
wonder whether society is any more ready to hear the message
in the early part of the 21st century?
So what might the conditions be that a society or organiza-
tion be ready, willing and able to adopt a more systemic think-
ing approach? To survive and/or to grow in the current times
will require some new thinking and action. Maybe the germ of
a way forward lies when Robert Flood (1999) writes: “Both
Senge’s The Fifth Discipline and complexity theory suggest if
not fully explain a hidden order, or simplicity in the seemingly
impenetrable complexity of the world. Tools of systemic think-
ing facilitate learning about this order.
Specific Focuses—Management, Leadership,
Knowledge, Ba and th e Role of Business Schools
Xu and Rickards (2007) do not explicitly use the term “sys-
temic”, but they do acknowledge the contribution of socio-
echnical systems thinking with its particular origins at the Ta-
vistock Institute in London (Trist, Emery, & Murray, 1997).
They make a welcome call for what they call the two areas of
“management” and “creativity” to be synthesized into “creative
management”. Of course, this is the very title of a well-known
and venerable UK Open University textbook (Henry, 2006).
The authors would argue that the term creative management
could be unhelpful in as much as “creative management” or
“creative leadership” could take on the same aura as creative
accounting and can imply a “whimsical”, “not necessarily legal
approach”, “corporate entertainment” attitude to management.
So we believe that a more productive approach would be to
refer to the “management of creativity” or “leadership of crea-
In the UK, the author who most penetratingly advocated sys-
tems thinking was the management cybernetician Stafford Beer
(1972), who developed the “Viable System Model”. There are
also more recent and more widely referenced authors who ex-
plicitly acknowledge and incorporate systems thinking into
their work, the one with the widest audience probably being, as
already mentioned, Peter Senge (1990), for whom indeed it is
the “fifth discipline”.
Xu and Rickards (2007) argue there are provisionally three
broad “principles of creative management”:
The Universality Principle—creativity is an inherent poten-
tial of all human beings;
The Developmental Principle—potential creativity will be-
come actual creativity under suitable developmental conditions;
The Environmental Principle—environmental features will
influence creativit y.
Ruth Noller, Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of
Creative Studies at Buffalo State College, developed an equa-
tion for creativity. Her background as a mathematician led her
to initiate a creativity formula (Isaksen, Dorval and Treffinger , 2011):
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 739
A. WILKINS, C. HOLTHA M
where Creativity is a function of Knowledge, Imagination and
Evaluation, reflecting an interpersonal attitude toward the bene-
ficial and positive use of creativity.
“The equation is not so precise as to define how many parts
of knowledge, imagination or evaluation need to be present for
creativity to exist.” (Campos, 2000). A child is perceived to be
strong in imagination and not as strong in knowledge or evalua-
tion. Likewise, adults may possess more knowledge and
evaluation but often lack any confidence or understanding of
how tap into their imagination. It can be argued that the most
important part of the equation is the letter “a” which represents
the need for a positive attitude—free from interpersonal blocks.
Without this, sustainable personal creativity cannot flourish.
These interpersonal blocks are climate, a metaphor borrowed
from the world of weather and an intervening variable (Ekvall,
1996; Isaksen and Ekvall, 2006) that either helps or hinders the
use of resources—see Figure 1. We find in our work that cli-
mate is one of those aspects that people intuitively know exists
and is important.
In many organizations today there are many initiatives such
as growth strategies, innovation schemes and engagement pro-
grammes that are not realizing their full potential. It often hap-
pens; an organization introduces an initiative with high expec-
tations of improving performance. When the changes fail to
take root and produce the intended results, the unfulfilled hopes
lead to the introduction of other seemingly promising changes.
These, also, ultimately fail to deliver. Ekvall (1987) writes:
“Climate affects organizational and psychological processes
such as commun icati on, problem solving, decision making, conflict
Climate is an intervening variable
Work Environment, People, Machinery, Concepts, Funds,
Rew ar d s, M anagem en t , Hi er archy, et c.
Eff ects on
Quality, Creativity & Innovation, Productivity,
Well-Being, Job Satisfaction, Profit, etc
Or ganizati onal & Psychol ogi ca l Pr oce sses
Learning, Motivation, Communication, etc.
The outputs of an organization are dependent on its climate. The work-
place climate is an intervening variable which has the power to influ-
ence processes such as communications, problem-solving, decision-
making, learning and motivation. Organizations use resources such as
people, money, buildings and equipment in their processes and opera-
tions. These operations have different effects at different levels of ab-
straction such as: high or low job satisfaction among employees; high
quality or low quality products and services; radically new products or
incremental improvements in the existing ones; commercial profit or
loss. Climate has an important influence on organizational outcomes
but the effects in turn influence both resources and the climate itself.
Therefore, organizational climate has much to offer in terms of its
ability to help explain the b ehavior of people in the workplace.
handling, learning and motivation. It exerts an influence on the
efficiency and productivity of the organization, on its ability to
innovate, the job satisfaction and well being its members enjoy.
The individual is affected by the climate as a whole, by the
general psychological atmosphere, which is relatively stable
over time. No single separate influence produces this more
lasting effect on behavior and feelings, than the daily exposure
to a particular psychological atmosphere. It is because of this
overall and lasting effect that the climate concept is of interest
and importance to our understanding of organizational life.”
We believe that a lack of understanding and focus on climate
has been one of the main reasons for the problems of the way
creativity is taught and applied. For example, an organization:
May well have the brightest people but have a climate that
doesn’t encourage the use of their talents;
May be attempting to use the latest management tools and
processes, but fail to realize full value from the investment;
That focuses mainly on results and ignores the climate as-
pects that enable people to achieve them, will decrease the
potential for success.
For a relatively small number of organizations creating a
healthy, productive and positive climate has become a must do
and not a nice to have. Climate has a major effect on people’s
motivation and their attitude to creativity. Climate is the fun-
damental psychology of an environment—the recurring prac-
tices that create the “atmosphere” of a situation. It is this at-
mosphere that focuses and motivates behavior. Without chang-
ing this, there can be no sustainable change, creativity, or
learning and ultimately firms with very poor climates may de-
cline or fall.
Knowledge an d Climate and “B a”
Knowledge management has considerable overlaps with
creativity. As a discipline it is concerned with two broad ar-
eas—the sharing of existing knowledge and the creation of new
knowledge. The latter area clearly is very dependent on, and
closely related to, the whole creativity process. And in our view,
the area where this relationship becomes most significant de-
rives from Nonaka and Noboru (1998) when they develop the
concept of “ba”.
Ba (roughly equivalent to “place” in English) is a shared
space for emerging relationships. It can be a physical ort vir-
tual space. Knowledge, in contrast to information, cannot be
separated from the context—it is embedded in ba. To support
the process of knowledge creation, a foundation in ba is required.
“In knowledge creation, generation and regeneration of ba is
the key, as ba provides the energy, quality and place to perform
the individual conversions and to move along the knowledge
spiral.” (Nonaka & Konno, 1998)
Ba then has close links to and overlaps with the Rhodes’ 4th
P of “press”, and Nonaka, Toyama and Konno (2000) demon-
strate its pervasiveness in both physical and virtual con-
Isaksen and Ekvall’s (2006) 9 climate dimensions describe in
more detail the quality of the social conditions that moderate
success. Climate is the moderating variable on people’s ability
to be creative and to create and share knowledge.
Historically, “hard” factors such as processes and assets were
sufficient to focus on but now investors, companies and ma-
nagers are asking for a way to measure the “soft” issues like
climate. For example, the Council of Institutional Investors
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
A. WILKINS, C. HOLTHA M
(CII), which manages over $1 trillion worth of stocks have
started to pay attention to good workplace practices. (Bucking-
ham and Coffman, 2001). So what does a healthy and vibrant
ba or climate feel like ? Isaksen and Ekvall’s 9 dimens ions are (2006):
1) Involvement: To what degree are people challenged, in-
volved and committed to making contributions to the success of
2) Freedom: To what degree are people able to decide how to
do their jobs, take independent initiatives and make decisions?
3) Trust: To what degree do people trust each other, as well
as feeling safe in being genuinely open and honest with each other?
4) Time: To what degree do people have the time to think,
explore and test new ideas and ways of doing things?
5) Playfulness: To what degree do people feel it is OK to
have fun when working, be playful and humorous?
6) Conflict: To what degree do people engage in interper-
sonal conflict, prestige and territory struggles?
7) Support: To what degree do people encourage, warmly
receive and professionally support ideas?
8) Debate: To what degree do people frequently share, con-
sider and discuss a variety of viewpoints?
9) Risk Taking: To what degree do people regard failure as
an opportunity to learn and feel able to take risks in trying new
Because, like the weather, climate is situational, we have real
ability to influence the climate that we work in. For example
the climate in an organization might be gloomy, but a particular
project, group, or interaction with another person, we can create
a more sunny, healthy, and productive energy. (The converse
also applies, of course.)
Since 1981, Ekvall, Isaksen and others have been developing
an instrument to measure the climate for creativity and innova-
tion and the current version is known as the Situational Out-
look Questionnaire® (Isaksen & Ekvall, 2006).
Typ es of Ba
Type of In tera ction
F ace to F aceVirtual
Dialoguing BaSystematising Ba
E xerc ising B aOrig inating Ba
These four types of Ba highlight the types of interaction that can lead to
the creation of new knowledge. Nonaka and Konno characterize Ba on
two axes: the degree of social complexity and the type of interaction
and the model is helpful in showing how it can be put into practice.
Social complexity is viewed as either an individual or group and the
type of interaction is labelled either face to face or virtual (through the
use of technology). Originating Ba is where individuals share experi-
ences, emotions and mental models. Interacting Ba (or Dialoguing Ba)
is where the tacit knowledge of individuals is made explicit. Systema-
tising Ba (or Cyber Ba) is a place of group interaction in a virtual world
where existing explicit knowledge is combined with new explicit
knowledge. Exercising Ba is where explicit knowledge is internalized
and made tacit.
Reflecting on these dimensions, people are instantly able to
see how their enthusiasm and creativity parallel their work
environment. People are readily able to contrast their work,
team and organizational situations and describe the climate as
either dark and chilly with heavy clouds or grey and cool with
light clouds or sunny and warm with a clear blue sky.
Having identified the 9 dimensions that made up the climate,
Ekvall and also Isaksen have sought out the factors that affected
the climate. They (and others) have found that climate is mainly
determined by the behavior of the leader in the particular situa-
tion. Other factors included the behavior of colleagues, hard or
physical resources such as the environment and capital or
money, as well as vision and strategy.
However, the single biggest factor was leadership behavior,
which accounted for up to two thirds of the statistical variance
(Ekvall & Ryhammer, 1998; Ekvall, 1997). Certain leadership
practices (Ekvall, 1999; Akkermans, Isaksen, & Isaksen, 2008)
stimulate a healthy climate, which in turn creates the conditions
for innovation. Therefore, any effort to improve climate will
inevitably involve some leadership behavior development.
However, our experience is that many organizations are un-
wittingly encouraging people to think and behave in ways that
are counter productive to creativity and learning. Managers are
indeed often rewarded for doing things that have negative ef-
fects on innovation and learning.
And also, because climate is situational, we often find that
the view of climate is related to the level of the observer. As
Prather (1996) explains: “The higher up the organization, the
better the environment often appears to be. It is like flying over
Barcelona at 30,000 feet—from that height it looks just fine, but
at street level you begin to notice the problems because it’s at
the street level that much of the work gets done.”
Prather goes on to conclude: If you are thinking about how to
improve the climate in situations that you work or socialise in -
be sure to begin at the street level.
In terms of the vehicles which may move both academic and
business thinking towards the systemic nature of creativity, we
are acutely aware of the obstacles. Wilson (2008) points out
that: “our education system remains structured in such a way
as to reinforce traditional 19th century cultural values, un-
helpful stereotypes, the status quo and the ‘great divide’….
between creativity and commerce.”
Focusing in particular on the academic world, in particular
on business schools, creativity tends to be treated as a module
or as a topic, often specifically belonging to a particular disci-
pline. It is rarely treated as a theme or as a mindset. But creativ-
ity as a theme or mindset cannot be resolved within individual
disciplines; it needs to be approached in our view on a transdis-
ciplinary basis, defined by Nicolescu (2001) as: “that which is
at once between the disciplines, across the different disciplines,
and beyond all discipline.”
Ours is by no means a unique argument. Scharmer and
Käufer (2000) proposed seven theses to reorientate the 21st
Century university, and their thesis 7 saw “universities as
birthplaces and hubs for communities of creation”, which “do
not strive for a type of science whic h merely reflects the world,
but for a science capable of grasping reality by contemplating
the underlying forces of its genesis. In such a university, learners
and researchers shift from being distant observers to creative
co-designers of a praxis in progress—to midwives assisting in
the birth of innovation.”
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 741
A. WILKINS, C. HOLTHA M
Since disciplines have had such a strong hold on business
schools through almost all of their history, it is necessary to
look outside management education for suitable higher educa-
tional models. Almost certainly the most compelling is the ex-
ample of the Bauhaus (Holtham, 2007), which we also refer to
by its formal original name of the Staatliches Bauhaus. Wick
(2001) sets out a masterly review of the Bauhaus as an aca-
demic institution, with much that is relevant to teaching and
research in any discipline. However, Volkmann and De Cock
(2007) warn against simplistically pushing the Bauhaus meta-
phor too far in business education.
There are continual educational innovations taking place, for
example a very interesting grassroots initiative took place at the
Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT, 2007). This focused on
bringing together the arts, sciences, hum anities, and technology,
and also seeking collaboration am ong faculty, students, colleges,
and disciplines in co-curricular activities and courses. It also
encouraged a dialogue on the role of creativity in teaching,
learning, research, and leadership; one of the most impressive
dimensions of this was the “unlikely partners” collaboration,
involving staff and students in, for example, engineering and
poetry working together.
Less frequent are policy-driven initiatives, perhaps the most
notable being in Finland. Here, as part of generic university
reforms, in 2009 Aa lto University was created through a merger
of three existing universities: the Helsinki University of Tech-
nology (TKK), the Helsinki School of Economics (HSE) and the
University of Art and Design Helsinki (TAIK). Markkula and
Lappalainen (2008) argued that much of the logic for the new
institution lies in is promotion of innovation, and indeed at one
point this institution was given the provisional title of “the in-
Even in the absence of mergers across higher institutions,
there will continue to be a wide range of other activities which
aim to stimulate cross-disciplinary teaching and research. There
are numerous individual modules which take innovative ap-
proaches, not least those directly and indirectly concerned with
creativity. But our concern in specifically with the business
school, which has proved relatively resistant to innovative ap-
proaches, though some of course do have strong specialisms in
creativity, including research departments and extensive
knowledge transfer relating to creativity (IEDC-Bled would be
a good example).
A New Type of Business School?
In order to provoke thinking about a new type of business
school which would be driven and underpinned by beliefs in
creativity and innovation, we have come up with a name, or
perhaps more accurately a nickname, which is the “Business
ba-haus”. We do not regard the ba-haus as working independ-
ently or in defiance of ranking and accreditation systems, as
argued by Mintzberg (2005). We are working within a less
radical approach, such as that advocated by Khurana (2007).
The Staatliches Bauhaus itself had to contend with craft-ac-
creditation systems. The business ba-haus would provide every
type of space—physical and virtual—for research and applica-
tion into the conventional business disciplines and creativity
and innovation. Creativity and innovation would be not just be
a research focus, they would also be expected in the learning
and administrative processes, and particularly in the crucial
relationships with external stakeholders.
Its intellectual foundation would not be economics but rather
systems thinking, the social and neuro sciences. Transdiscipli-
narity would form the dominant mindset. The business ba-haus
would be able to live with duality and multiplicity and, with
“and” being the dominant word:
In terms of research, there is an urgent need to work on the
relations between the 4 P’s, such as recent work linking people
and press (leadership and climate), and on the 4 P’s taken as a
In recent research, Akkermans, Isaksen and Isaksen (2008)
reviewed relations between leadership and innovation. They
concluded: “This study confirmed that there is indeed a strong
relationship between leadership and innovative productivity.
Furthermore, a leader must focus on the creation of a climate
for creativity and innovation in order to truly achieve the in-
novative outcomes desired. In order to do so, we must be able
to know what leadership behaviors help and hinder. This study
was an initial attempt to discover these behaviors.”
Some device is needed to integrate and connect the 4 P’s, and
one possible solution for this has been developed by Straker
and Rawlinson (2003), in the form of a Systemic Innovation
Maturity Framework. We follow the general approach in our
own formulation below (Table 1), but have changed some of
the formatting and terminology.
The Systemic Innovation Maturity Framework is a useful
model but we cannot simply categorize an organization into a
box marked “Level 5” without recognizing the limitation that
this type of categorization brings—that the maturity of an or-
ganization is an aggregate of its individual members. As a re-
sult there will be a distribution of innovation maturity across
groups and the organization. The model will therefore be po-
tentially more useful if used for understanding parts of the or-
ganization and identifying strategies required to develop or
transform individual entities to the next level.
Some caution is needed. Moving through stages takes con-
siderable time, effort and risk especially to the individual who
challenges the existing innovation approach. Many struggle for
a long time in stage 3. Some manage to change and progress by
moving out of their personal comfort zone and take risks by
challenging and changing the existing approach.
The Systemic Innovation Maturity Framework is proposed
with the goal of helping to identify the whole picture. As men-
tioned earlier in this paper, what often happens is an organiza-
tion introduces an innovation programme with high expec-
tations of improving performance. When the changes fail to
take root and produce the intended results, the unfulfilled hopes
lead to the introduction of other seemingly promising but in-
complete innovation changes. These, also, ultimately fail to
There are several possible reasons; however, one reason is
that the climate for innovation and its relationship with leader-
ship behaviors is not well understood and is often ignored.
As the PwC Innovation and Growth Survey (Davis, Arnett,
Gibbons, & Milton, 2001) found, climate creation and inclusive
leadership behaviors were two of the three capabilities that
separated the top 20% from the bottom 20% of companies, with
the third being benign structures or deliberate processes that
The maturity model explains why progress can be made at
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
A. WILKINS, C. HOLTHA M
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 743
Systemic innovation maturity fr a mework.
Stages Focus Approach Feeling Character
1. Innocence Ad hoc No conside red approa ch Hope Ad hoc
2. Awareness Product Initiate, often via new produc t development or R & D Impatien ce Hard
3. Hope Process Develop pr o cesses, methods, and tools Enthusiasm Hard
4. Competence People The more complex, long term and difficult people aspects are addressed Frustration Soft
5. Excellence Press (Climat e) Nee ds understanding of systems, culture and cl imate, and key aspects of beha vior EnlightenmentSoft
the lower levels (individual and small team) of creativity,
without impacting much at organizational level. The maturity
model heavily emphasizes that even success with the mid-level
tools and processes still only achieve part of the potential of
creativity. The maximum potential is only achievable by a
combination of a systems mindset, systems thinking and fun-
damental reviews of leadership behavior in helping or hindering
the creation of a productive climate. We are under no illusions
about the difficulties of achieving levels 4 and 5 in this maturity
model. It is difficult and not without risk. But it is a level that is
needed for supporting the needs of many organizations in their
increasingly com p etitive 21st c entur y environments.
We are not convinced that conventional business school
education will quickly enough promote the systemic approach.
Something along the lines of the revolution stimulated and
accelerated by the Staatliches Bauhaus in art and design is
probably needed. And much of this will hinge on the “ba” or
So we have named our selected vehicle, not wholly face-
tiously, the business ba-haus. It is possible to create a ba or
climate to promote organizational creativity within a formal
business school environment. It is possible for schools suc-
cessfully to practice what they preach, as did the Staatliches
Bauhaus. We particularly look to the Systemic Innovation Ma-
turity Framework as a potential organizing system for what yet
remains to be achieved in management education more gener-
ally. We can re-imagine management education based on sys-
temic thinking. Creativity, both individual and organizational,
lies at the very heart of this re-imagination. Schools need a
climate which is appropriate for stimulating creativity and, in
our view, this might initially only be possible in greenfield
locations such as a Business Ba-Haus.
Our Vision for the Ba-Haus
When we envi sion the Ba-Haus, we see a pl ace where…
It would have both a strong physical component of class-
room/syndicate room learning and a strong virtual component,
and the two would be designed together. The aim is to achieve
the highest level of engagement with both learning and humans,
if not full immersion/flow. “Being there” whether physically or
virtually, is held to be of the highest importance.
It is of fundamental importance that there was little or no dis-
tinction between academics, administrative staff, visiting fel-
lows and students. All are learners. All are teachers. All are
team players. All are practitioners. All are reflective. The aim is
collegiality on an almost medieval, Bologna-University style
model. The Dean is the President, and the staff and student
representatives form the Senate, with stakeholders including all
students, being members of Convocation.
The basic design principles of the school’s processes draw
heavily on Stafford Beer’s proposals for the reorganisation of
the Manchester Business School in the 1970’s (but which were
One of the core principles of the school is “practice what we
preach”. All decisions on administrative matters will be taken
by the School Senate and will be made by direct reference to
the academic principles taught at the school and recommended
Recruitment will take place for Professors in the Practice of
Management, who will be experienced managers with adequate
expertise in the theory and learning of management. These will
be a mix of full time and part time posts.
Another principle is “lean administration”, the explicit mini-
misation of non-academic expenditures, which had often crept
up in some schools to surprisingly high levels. This would use
self-service business processes, heavily relying on streamlined
Enterprise 2.0 business systems and use of electronic media at
Turning specifically to the area of creativity, this is high-
lighted as one of the core domains of the school. It is addressed
through the following perspectives:
The philosophy of the whole school is to emphasise creativ-
ity and innovation in its own mindset, in its business processes
and its incentives and rewards. Using Nonaka’s term, the “ba”
of the school would be conducive to both the theory and prac-
tice of creativity.
All staff, academic and administrative, are expected to keep
updated with all developments in creativity and innovation.
Teaching and learning methods of all disciplines will be im-
bued by approaches that promote creativity for each and every
learner, not simply defined narrowly in terms of conventional
rational management thinking, but also of the humanities and
Learners will be continually challenged to develop their own
understanding of, and competence in, creative approaches to
thinking and doing. There is a constant concern with pushing
beyond the conventional boundaries of text-based and of elec-
A concern with creativity at individual and small group level
is not enough. This has to be complemented by understanding
of innovation at business unit and enterprise-wide levels with
an emphasis on processes to stimulate innovation, including the
right sort of “ba”.
The first draft of the Ba-Haus’s vision is as follows:
People find meaning and fulfilment not only in what they
do, but the way they do it together;
A. WILKINS, C. HOLTHA M
People are respected and appreciated for who they are and
the values they hold dear;
Innovation, creativity and new mistakes are welcomed,
learning is encouraged and rewarded;
Any “elephants in the room” and “the moose under the
table” are fearlessly addressed long before they stomp all
over trust, creativity and commitment;
Accountability, self-responsibility and compassion stand
side by side;
People are always honoured with the truth, even when it is
scary and difficult;
People are inspired by visionary leaders who care about
them. Yes… care;
Leaders hold the larger community at heart, honour our
children and our future through responsible decisions and
People thrive on excellence, discipline and execution… a
place of extraordinary results.
Our dream at the Ba-Haus is to liberate the creativity inside
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