Creativity and service innovation: an examination of differences between theory and practice

Gordon, Shaun MacGregor (2016) Creativity and service innovation: an examination of differences between theory and practice. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This study addresses creativity and innovation literatures and explores the necessity for creativity in the implementation of service innovations in the English National Health Service. In doing so, it examines whether the standard definition of creativity (Stein 1953; Runco and Jaeger, 2012) is sufficient to explain the workplace creative practices associated with the implementation of a service innovation through the replication of best practice.

Based on a qualitative research design, and using a critical realist approach (Bhaskar, 1975/2008, 1998), this research unearths a rich seam of empirical data through observations and semi-structured interviews in an English National Health Service primary care organisation, known as a NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (NHS CCG). Although human creativity is an essential ingredient of any successful innovation, characterised by individuals and teams having ‘good ideas’ (Amabile et al, 1996), creativity has a crucial role in the development of new services (Zeng, Proctor and Salvendy, 2009). However, it is noted that there have been relatively few recent empirical studies of creativity in service innovation (Giannopoulou, Gryszkiewicz and Barlatier, 2014), and in particular in the public sector. Thus models of organisational innovation remain virtually unchanged over the last three decades (Anderson, Potočnik and Zhou, 2014), and have not attempted to account for creativity and service innovation in the English NHS.

The thesis makes a number of contributions to creativity and innovation literatures. It also provides some understanding of creativity and service innovation in a public sector health service context. First, the study provides empirical evidence for human creativity when new services are introduced through the replication of workplace practice from another geographical location or organisation. This means that the current understandings of creativity, which are focused on creativity as a teleological outcome, driving the production of novelty, for example a creative product, need to be modified to account for novelty in a new context. Accordingly, a definition of creativity which accounts for contextual novelty is presented.

Second, the research study also contributes to existing knowledge by illuminating the creative practices of workers tasked with implementing service innovations. Hitherto, creativity research has focused attention on the importance of creativity in the earlier ideation stage of the innovation process (for example, West, 2002a). The empirical evidence presented in this thesis demonstrates that creative practices are also necessary at the back end of the service innovation process, and may be driven by human reflexivity, rather than more formal organisational structures, such as ideation workshops.

Third, there is a contribution to both creativity and service innovation literatures. These literatures are influenced by stage-gate models of innovation, with an ideation stage followed by an implementation stage. This research study suggests that future approaches to service innovation should embrace the innovation process as a whole social process rather than be separated into discrete segments.

A final contribution relates directly to the context of the research study. The English NHS is one of the world’s largest employers, with strategic guidance provided by the Department of Health, and operational training and developmental needs met by NHS England. However, this top-down approach has not stifled the capacity of its workforce to problematise issues arising during the implementation of service innovations, even though there is a lack of purposeful guidance on how to do this. Instead, with the support of the local clinical and managerial leadership, front-line staff are able to address difficulties requiring creativity as they arose, drawing, primarily, on their reflexivity. Further, while the workforce is being creative, it is not associating their practices with creativity. Consequently, people lack a discourse of creativity, which would otherwise make further calls on their reflexivity, and positively impact on their productivity.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Martin, Lee
Noke, Hannah
Keywords: creativity, innovation, nhs, national health service
Subjects: H Social sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Nottingham University Business School
Item ID: 35883
Depositing User: Gordon, Shaun
Date Deposited: 25 Aug 2017 13:00
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2017 21:17

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