Factors External to the Individual Encouraging Idea Generation in SME Contexts
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This thesis sets out to explore factors external to the individual that encourage creative idea generation in SME environments, understanding their importance in a variety of organisational contexts. The original contribution to knowledge made by this thesis is the creation of a framework which aids understanding by splitting the various factors into those responsible for initiating and sustaining idea generation.
Literature concerning creative idea generation is continuously developing and contains a broad spectrum of topics and understandings. Key amongst these are leadership, the nature of creative idea generation, theories such as the ‘strength of weak ties’, collective creativity and the concept of ‘flow’. Fieldwork followed a primarily qualitative, inductive approach, using exploratory surveys, semi-structured interviews and participant observation to develop rich narrative ‘stories’ of idea generation for ten different organisations.
Data was analysed in accordance with the principles of grounded theory and resulted in numerous novel findings such as the importance of internal organisational contacts to the development of ideas, the notion that organisational visions can be used to guide idea generation and the effect that physical distance has on the development of interpersonal ties. Leadership also featured heavily within the analysis process with it being found that a combination of transformational and servant qualities best enables idea generation in SME contexts. These and other findings were reflected in the final framework produced by this thesis.
From a practical perspective findings from this study arguably have implications for both organisational and leadership development in SME contexts, although overall generalisability is hindered by the chosen sample. Future studies could potentially focus on applying quantitative methodologies to verify the final framework or extend understandings by interlinking organisational factors discussed by this thesis with individual characteristics, mental process and/or experiences that are also known to drive creative idea production.
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