Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Current Topics: Bliesner family, importance of organisational history, the creative organisation

The last few days have been one of those busy periods when things have been all over the place, making it difficult to think about a single topic in any in-depth way. So I thought that I should simply record some of the issues/topics.

Part of the time was spent creating a story on the Regional Living Australia site - www.regionalliving.com.au - on the relocation of the Bliesner family from Melbourne to the Dalby on Queensland's Darling Downs. These case studies on people who have left metro for Regional Australia are always interesting because they introduce me to new communities, or at least communities that I do not know well.

Part of the time was also spent in professional discussion inside and outside my own group, looking especially at issues associated with organisational development and change.

One discussion thread triggered in part by the current University of New England strategy review (see story of 7 July : Welsman, University of New England and Planning) was the role that history plays in both impeding and assisting organisational change.

This is a topic that deserves a long post in its own right. In summary, organisational history is often ignored or seen as an impediment, especially by new broom CEO's. Change is required, we must get rid of the past. Yet the reality, at least as I see it, is that cultural change depends upon understanding existing history and culture, is most effective when related to that history. The challenge is to find the right way to understand and respond to both history and culture.

A second discussion thread was the difference between individual and organisational creativity. This one was triggered by a post by Jeffrey Baumgartner on Nava Shalev's Global Relocation Portal blog - http://www.globalrelocation.ca/blog/. In this post Jeffrey makes a clear distinction between the two and argues that organisations must consciously manage organisational creativity if they are to maximise individual creativity.

Now that's fair enough. But like the earlier and related concept of the "learning" organisation, management of organisational creativity is actually a slippery topic.

Organisations can, as Jeffrey suggests, adopt policies that will encourage creativity at individual level, they can consciously bring in new people from different areas (I am always astonished at the way organisations want to just recruit people from narrowly defined experience slices), they can use multi-function teams. But is this the management of organisational creativity or simply the creation of conditions that will encourage creativity? Is is possible to go further than this? Does it in fact matter?

As a consultant and senior manager, my experience has been that there are in fact creative organisations, that the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts, that it does therefore matter. However, getting this across properly to clients is hard because so much of it is "soft" stuff, things that cannot be directly measured. And we live in a measurement age.

This post is long enough. I will return to these themes later.


Geoff Robinson said...

Regional living site interesting. I will recommend it to my students.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, Geoff. Much appreciated.