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Introduction

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This assignment is going to look at two companies: Microsoft Corporation and Apple inc, to examine how they innovate within their companies; and use creativity to their advantage. Both Microsoft Corporation and Apple inc are companies within the technology industry; which develop, manufacturer, license, support and sell computer software, personal computers and consumer electronics (Google, 2017). They have both vastly expanded into a number of different sectors since their launch and are a great example of why innovation and creativity is important, and also how it can be best utilised in order to develop and expand a company.

Apple was founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in California, USA,  with the aim of ‘changing the way people viewed computers’ and making computers small enough for people to have them in their homes (Terrell, E. 2008). It has since grown into the world’s largest information technology company by revenue (Wikipedia, 2017). Microsoft, respectively, is in 6th position in the rank of largest information technology companies by revenue and was founded just one year earlier in 1975, in New Mexico, USA (Google, 2017). Microsoft was founded by Bill Gates, and has been described as “probably the most outstanding success story of a generation” (Burns, P. p.24). Microsoft was launched with a core product of a computer software program, and from there it expanded, like Apple, into a large number of different markets with a large and has created diverse portfolio of products. 

Creative thinking within an organisation

There has been much analysis focused on creative thinking over the past few decades, such as Harris (1998) who describes creativity as “an ability to imagine or invent something new”. He believes it requires an attitude willing to accept change, and also a process, in order to utilise creativity; in such a way which can continually improve ideas and solutions. Harris states that this “kind of thinking” focuses on exploring ideas and generating possibilities. He also categorises creative thinking into two different groups: Critical thinking, and Creative thinking; which he stresses are both vital to a successful working life. For companies which have grown as much as Microsoft corporation and Apple inc, it is crucial that an efficient creative and critical thinking process would have been in place. 

Creative thinking could be described as finding an opportunity; or possibilities, generating new processes or brainstorming ideas. Where as critical thinking is described more in terms of analytics; being objective, assessing probabilities,(Harris,R. 1998) and being generally critical of the creative’s ideas. Its purpose is to impose sensibility and ensure the viability of new opportunities.

Creative thinking relies greatly on the attitude of the thinker.  A negative attitude is the main obstacle to creative thinking, and this can also be clear in the works of Roger von Oech (1998) who argues that there are 10 individual blocks which are critical to creativity. A few of these are as follows: Fallacy that there is only one solution to a problem, tendency to be practical, lack of belief and tendency to think too narrowly. Von Oech also acknowledges that realising these blocks may exist in yourself, may be the first step in dismantling them. 

In 2011 ‘a brutally frank memo from the new CEO of Nokia, Stephen Etop, described a company in crisis (Burns,P. 2013, p.263). Nokia phones were failing to compete with both the top of the range smart phones like those at the time produced by Apple, and also the lower priced end of the market. Etop came up with a creative and bold new idea; he decided to completely withdraw from using the current operating system which was just not good enough (which he most likely realised from his previous position at Microsoft) and saw an opportunity to create a ‘broad strategic partnership with his old employer; which allowed Nokia to use the Windows OS smartphone operating system on its top end devices. This is a great example of creativity; and the market reaction was ‘overwhelming positive’, the result was an attractive competitor to Apple iPhone and Android systems being offered by Google, at the time. 

Innovation

An example of innovation could be “putting the familiar into a new context” (Allen, K. 2012, p.52), this means changing or modifying an existing idea for improvements into a new market. An example of this could be something such as the Smart watch; watches and smartphone technology already existed separately, it was the innovation of putting the two into one product which brought an old idea into a new context.

Apple were not the first to be in on this action of this product, at the time of the Apple watch release, competitors such as Samsung, Pebble, 5ive and Sony already existed within the market (Domingo, J. 2015). However these competitors had not managed to duplicate the seamless integration into user’s lives such as Apple had done up until then. Apple described this in 2014 as having “created an entire range of products with unparalleled personalisation.” The launch of the Apple watch was extremely successful with estimated pre-orders of 1 Million units booked on the first day of sale (Nielson, J. 2015). Apple described the features of their smart watch as innovative within the smartwatch market themselves; such as the ‘Digital Crown’ which ‘provides an innovative way to scroll, zoom and navigate.”(Apple, 2014) and features such as Siri, downloadable Apps and a Retina display saw this product make incremental innovational changes to the current product offered. 

Creativity in business

“For the entrepreneur, creativity is an essential tool that is used to seek out a business opportunity, finding unmet needs in the marketplace, or finding innovative ways to meet those needs.” (Burns, P. 2011, p.87)

The term ‘creativity’ in business can mean creating a completely new idea, business model or a new market. An example of a company which used creativity to create a new market would be Apple with the first iPhone product. It was the first smartphone to be invented, and it created an entirely new market in the mobile phone industry in 2007. (Cohen, P. 2007b)

The first generation Apple iPhone was the brainchild of Steve Jobs, for which he began research and invention in 2005. Jobs famously conceived a creative idea; to use a multi-touch touchscreen to interact with a computer in a way which he could type directly onto the display.” (Cohen, P. 2007a). This creative move is what lead to the smartphone as we know it today, 

Organisational Culture

“Organisational culture may be a contributing factor in the extent to which creativity and innovation occur in an organisation.” (Tushman and O’reilly, 1997), 

Therefore it is important that the organisational culture of a business is able to encourage and nurture creativity and innovation within the business; in order to continue to grow, expand and stay ahead in its market.

Organisational culture  has been defined as a “cognitive framework, consisting of attitudes, values, behavioural norms and expectations shared by members of an organisation” (O’rielly, C. Tushman, M. 2011)

The basic elements of organisational culture include, shared values, beliefs, and behaviour expected of members; Martin & Terblanche (2003) argue that these factors influence creativity and innovation in two ways: a) through socialisation within an organisation. & b) through structures, policies and practices.

There are different factors of organisational culture that support innovation and creativity; These are the business strategy, communication, structure, support mechanisms and encouraging behaviour.  Some organisations take action to stimulate creativity and innovation (Martins, E & Terblanche, F. 2003) These actions can include steps such as: recruiting and appointing personnel with creativity characteristics, setting work performance standards and giving feedback. But Martins and Terblanche (2003) also recognise that certain organisational factors can also “hamper” the creative and innovative process. A lack of morale or reward for employees could be one of these factors, and to counteract this one of Microsoft’s employee initiatives includes a special day of the year called “hack day” which aims to relieve pressure and inspire creativity (Greenberg, J. Baron, R. p,570. 2000)

Organisations use different resources and processes to guide behaviour and change. Since Satya Nadella took over the CEO position at Microsoft in 2014 he made a decision to remove a number of past processes. By removing/or improving parts of the OC within the business he achieved a 93 percent approval rating on the job-hunting site Glassdoor. Some of Nadella’s other improvements included employee salaries and bonuses, diversity in the work which can be carried out and a great emphasis on team work (Bort, J. 2016). These are factors which contribute to morale, therefore boosting the productivity of workers and giving them an incentive to meet the company goals – which include innovation and creativity.

For employees of Apple, initiatives and benefits are offered in the way of competitive salaries, a mature working environment but also social events and these maintain relationships and morale. Another of the things mentioned as a positive; is working with highly educated professionals who are at the top of the industry (Kosoff, M. 2016). This will help  to create an environment where I&C are easily and actively pursued.

Conclusion

As has been described, both Apple inc, and Microsoft Corporation have displayed outstanding examples of innovation within their organisations. Apple have shown I&C within their products: the creation of the Smart phone, the Apple watch,  Apple Mac computers and expansion into the Music market with the iTunes store; which has been the largest music vendor in the world since February 2010 (having launched only in 2003). 

Microsoft; an equally innovative and creative business; who have shown this through their continual improvements with software, a successful move into the smartphone industry and expansion into the games console and news channel sectors (Playstation launched 1994 and MSNBC launched 1996). 

It appears that both companies have also been equally innovative and creative in terms of organisational culture management. Both creating incentives and desirable environments for their employees, and I believe there is a lot to learn from these businesses.