Creativity for innovation: organising the creative negotiation
The creators of Assassin’s Creed, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell and Rayman Raving Rabbids could have the answer to our innovation needs.
It’s a crucial issue in many industries; how do we achieve consistent innovative breakthroughs? My study looks at the video game industry, renowned as a juggernaut of development, and focuses on Ubisoft, the third largest video game developer in the world. It shows just how companies can get ahead of this increasingly important game.
Over the last 15 years, I’ve studied cinema and audiovisual, fashion, music, publishing, advertising, haute cuisine, perfumes, architecture, design and, now, video games. As interest in these inventive sectors increases, the environments they construct for innovation have become ever more intriguing for companies looking to improve their own innovative efforts.
That’s why my research – carried out with David Massé and Patrick Lê, two PhD students – aimed to understand the fundamental aspects of the creative capability of Ubisoft.
The videogame industry is characterised by permanent technological change. The pace is set by the release of new consoles – developers have to be aware of these changes to be able to propose new games alongside these releases – but what is striking at Ubisoft is the way changes in technology are intertwined with the creative development.
This involves two different processes. On the one hand, employees on the technological side test and show the opportunities that are available to the creative staff, and on the other hand, the game developers have ideas and submit them to the people in technology, and then they see what is feasible.
So when a new console is to be launched, a dedicated team studies it and dismantles the engine. Sometimes they develop small games, and they regularly report what they have succeeded in doing to the game developers. The aim is to show the creative teams the technical possibilities of their imagination. One can draw a parallel with the world of painting: it is as though, after a new colour has been created, certain individuals were put in charge of testing it to see what can be done with it – and all to inspire artists.
Just like that collaboration, innovation in videogaming is a constant conversation between the creative and the technological teams. It is characterised by an ongoing negotiation between a conceptual process and the more real technical process rooted in reality.
Other industries can take a look at this tight intertwining between a conceptual dimension – ideas – and a real one – existing technology – to embed their own type of interaction into their innovation process. In any industry, new materials and technologies can serve as a starting point for exploration. And separate teams can work together to feed into innovation.
After all, creativity is not a matter of sole talent, it involves processes; it relies on a labour division. The video game industry understands this – and is predicted to make $111 billion in 2015. Companies in other sectors would do well to adopt similar approaches in the hunt for consistent innovation.
About the Author
Thomas Paris is an Affiliate Professor at HEC Paris business school and a specialist in the field of creative industries. He carries out research into creation management and works on innovation management and organisational learning, in partnership with big companies and start-ups. At HEC Paris, Thomas has created a course about Creation Management and is involved in the Master program of Ecole polytechnique.