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Metaphorical creativity: an aspect of everyday creativity cleans-up a work-based problem

Frederik Hertel (Business School, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark)
Michelle Wicmandy (University of Houston-Downtown, Houston, Texas, USA)

Development and Learning in Organizations

ISSN: 1477-7282

Article publication date: 15 February 2021

Issue publication date: 21 July 2021

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Abstract

Purpose

According to Mumford et al. (2018), case studies illustrating creative-problem solving at work is lacking. To help fill this gap, this study aims to show how metaphorical creativity was integrated in the realm of everyday creativity to form a new soap that solves a cleaning crew's challenge.

Design/methodology/approach

Participatory observation was the qualitative methodology used to conduct this study. The cleaning team understood they were the research participants under investigation in the food plant. Participatory observation favored an efficient and flexible process for the cleaners to demonstrate their experiential knowledge while the researchers documented the cleaners' routine cleaning practices and challenges. Directly observing and analyzing the cleaners' everyday creative acts inferred face validity. This ensured to a degree that the study was effective at exploring everyday creativity.

Findings

Following Finke's Geneplore model in creative cognition (Birdsell, 2019), the consultant shifted between cycles of analogical reasoning in the generative process with exploratory processes to test hypothesis and tailor his thinking. Through this process, the consultant leveraged everyday creativity to develop a small innovation of foaming a non-foaming soap. The foaming process changed the soap's chemistry, enabling the cleaners to remove the spot quickly, accelerating the cleaning process.

Research limitations/implications

According to Mumford et al. (2018), case studies illustrating creative-problem solving at work are lacking. In this study, we aim to show how metaphorical creativity was integrated into the realm of everyday creativity to form a new soap that solves an industrial cleaning crew's challenge. To fully understand the variety of metaphorical creativity more qualitative cases need to be analyzed and qualitative research is needed to grasp the scale of metaphorical creativity in everyday creativity.

Practical implications

The findings gleaned from this study are beneficial to help organizations solve problems. Viewing problems metaphorically in everyday creativity involves unconventional thinking. When confronted with a challenge that seems impossible to solve, employees should approach the problem from a different angle. Sometimes, a small, innovative act can solve problems that appear hopeless, similar to the Columbus Principle. After all, a challenge is only simple once you know how to pull it off – the triumph is having the courage to try something new and succeeding. With practice, metaphorical creativity is a skill that one can develop. This could e.g. be viewing old problems through a new lens. Applying a new approach may reveal an unconventional solution.

Originality/value

According to Mumford et al. (2018), case studies illustrating creative-problem solving at work are lacking. To help fill this gap, this study aims to show how metaphorical creativity was integrated into the realm of everyday creativity to form a new soap that solves a cleaning crew's challenge.

Keywords

Citation

Hertel, F. and Wicmandy, M. (2021), "Metaphorical creativity: an aspect of everyday creativity cleans-up a work-based problem", Development and Learning in Organizations, Vol. 35 No. 5, pp. 15-18. https://doi.org/10.1108/DLO-09-2020-0200

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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