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Creativity and Productivity

Mr. Parag Mehta



Creativity - is the characteristic of a person to generate new ideas, alternatives, solutions, and possibilities in a unique and different way.




Productivity is the rate or efficiency of production or the output per unit of input. This could be calculated for a person, team, function, unit, department, organization, nation etc. Enhancement in productivity makes organizations more profitable and hence is a key objective in most organizations.


An application-oriented question on the topic along with responses can be seen below. The best answer was provided by Babu Ramachandran on 24th December 2018. 


Also review the answer provided by Mr Venugopal R, Benchmark Six Sigma's in-house expert.


Applause for all the respondents - R Rajesh


Q. 120  Companies typically evaluate employees on “Productivity”. However, one of the secondary metrics which gets hindered is “Creativity”. Although activities ancillary to creativity can be systematized, it’s very difficult to systematize creativity itself. Most creative ideas involve people finding new uses for existing knowledge. Henry ford got the idea of assembly lines when he visited a slaughter house. Fiona Fairhust developed Speedo fast swim suit by understanding shark skin. These and many such examples highlight the fact that creativity also involves learning new areas of knowledge, building up a base and exploring it for ideas. However, these activities take time and hence the hit on “Productivity”. Do you think it is possible to manage “Creativity” in such a “Productivity-obsessed” corporate environment? If yes, what are your suggestions?


Note for website visitors - Two questions are asked every week on this platform. One on Tuesday and the other on Friday.


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Productivity is too often narrowed down to refer to maximising rate of output, whereas by definition and by inception, it is the effectiveness of effort and industry measured in terms of ‘rate of output per unit of input’. So it lends itself to a much wider scope than mere numbers.


Henry Ford, the archetype of productivity, is often quoted as having said this of the Model-T's churning out of the Ford assembly line, “You can have any colour as long as its Black.” So this stands out as an oft-quoted citation that ‘mass production’ abhors creativity. But in reality, and history is a witness, that the Assembly line triggered creativity and innovation in so many ways to enhance productivity and quality. And on the other hand, the structure of manufacturing in an Assembly line did not constrain the ‘creativity’ of conceiving and designing automobiles of many a type, size and shape. 


This is deeply entrenched in Industry - from the first industrial revolution when creativity enhanced productivity and consistency; to the current Industry 4.0, where cutting-edge technologies are applied to make Industry intelligent and sustainable. All  Industrial philosophies - be it the Toyota kind or the GE or the Apple, have creativity concepts, call it Kaizen, SixSigma, ZeroDefect, Business Excellence, Break-thru innovation, even the disruptive ‘Jugaad’, inevitably intertwined with Productivity for success in business. Be it in leap-frogging new business ideas and business models, like OYO or Uber, or selling an ‘iWatch’ (fitness wearable) or a loan on ‘Bankbazaar’ (financial marketplace) - the productivity is only possible and maximised because of the ‘innovative’ content and execution of the ‘package’ - i.e a product and its affiliated service offering. It like It is indeed the creativity that makes or breaks an organisation in the modern competitive world, where socio-economic factors can swing, as much as the market-forces of demand-supply. So while it is necessary to do well in terms of ‘productivity’, it also needs to be ‘creative’ and ‘innovative’. No organisation or individual can focus on one without the other. 


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Expert Comments by Venugopal


This is an interesting topic, which each one of us would have encountered in one way or the other, many times in our careers, wherever we may be working.


The world could not have come forward so much without creativity. Creativity is an inborn trait, with not only humans, but even among other living beings. It is my personal belief that everyone understands how to view creativity and productivity appropriately, but tend to get into debates or arguments depending on the positions they hold at that time.


While a set of people, typically the ‘production work force’ focus on routine productivity, another group, typically ‘Production Engineering or Design Engineering’ focus on coming up with creative methods to improve / enhance productivity. Over time, we have seen the emergence of concepts like “Kaizen”, whose objective is to harness the creativity from the minds of the people who are engaged in the day to day production, chasing productivity targets. This is a good example that illustrates that while being productive, and being closest to the workplace, the minds have been active on building up creative ideas. Unless these thoughts are tapped and encouraged we miss good opportunities of enhancing productivity (and other improvements) at the work place.


However the improvement through Kaizens have limitations and it is important to have dedicated experts to explore best practices and leverage other technological advancements and ergonomics for breakthrough improvements on productivity. On the whole, it is a combination of the Kaizens (continuous small improvements) and the re-engineering / innovations (continual thoughts that result in periodic breakthrough improvements) that bring the transformation over a period of time.


So long as the ‘human’ minds are involved, creativity will co-exist with productivity. Maybe I would take a step forward and mention that even RPA methods keep endeavoring creativity through “Machine Learning” methods, while productivity is in progress.

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Creativity is a key aspect for any project(be a service/product) development . Often creativity is comprised due to - lack of time , lack of mgmt support (in some companies this do happen), citing that as stalling progress/productivity , lack of transparency to the customer.  


Having said this, how important creativity is, in a corporate world.I feel,  the answer is an absolute must. Often because of the changing requirements in an Agile world and an increasing demand , an Organisation management expects the productivity of its individual to go up a notch. If we were to talk about creativity, we need to justify what that creativity would bring the customer/critical stakeholder(s) . If ROI is not good enough to impress the customer/orgn mgmt(primary stakeholders), then that creativity aspect would be stalled/prevented from being taken up further. If ROI is good enough to impress the key stakeholders, then no one might question about your productivity. Therefore your Business justification on the creativity could often hold the key in getting across your creativity.

Let us see some examples across industries.

In an IT organisation, a project team develops an insurance web application for an insurance client.  Per current design,in the 'Insurance Quote' web page of the application, when all fields are filled, then the user needs to submit a button which will take the control to the next page, along with the data stored in that page. Also all the fields in the page had to be moved by use of Mouse-Cursor.


Now the tech lead of the project comes up with a creative solution. All the fields in the page could be used using key board and also as soon as relevant text field was entered with the respective no.of characters/digits, the cursor automatically entered into the next field. The last field in the page is a drop-down box field. Upon changing that and ensuring all other existing mandatory fields are filled as per the needs, the control gets redirected to the next page. By this way, the user of the system need not click on the 'Submit' button and therefore the system is easy to use. Here in this case, the productivity did not suffer that much and the ROI was more as the customer did not need to manually take the mouse anywhere and the ease of use was very high which produced customer satisfaction.



A reputed Mechanic dealer had lot of cars having issues and lot of them were in his garage and the dealer's mechanics were looking into them.Some cars were supposed to be delivered on a given day and those cars had their danger lights,to be set right. Now while doing that, the dealer had a creative idea. He ensured that his team had put reflector stickers(stickers that you can get in many good shops) in all of these vehicles. By doing this, there was not a big productivity loss but certainly a creative solution which helped identification of those vehicles at night times, just in case whenever the danger lights went off for whatever reasons. Adding the reflector stickers on the back of the vehicles did not take much time for the mechanics and it also saved the vehicles from getting hit by other vehicles in National Highways,whenever their danger lights went off.


Creativity is essential. It can be to enhance your existing product/process . Or It can lead to a new way of doing things. Many big organisations encourage its employees to provide creative ideas and solutions and provide rewards and recognitions for best ideas/solutions. If creativity is not there, then at one point of time, an organisation may stop to grow and may struggle to survive. EVery Organisation who want to be a pioneer in its chosen sector would definitely have Creativity as a critical aspect of its visionary objective.    

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