Functional Innovation: The Cure for the Creativity Crisis.
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Functional Innovation: The Cure for the Creativity Crisis.

Posted by Mark O'Connell on Monday, July 26, 2010

Posted by guest blogger Mark O'Connell, President Multi Service Corporation

A study conducted by the College of William & Mary reports that the United States is suffering from a creativity crisis. I recently came across a blog by Dave Kellog, CEO of Mark Logic Corporation, that touched upon what I would consider a distinct nuance of this crisis in his post relating the evolution of Relational DBMSs to MTV’s television show, Pimp my Ride.

Newsweek defines creativity as the “production of something original and useful,” and while there is no denying the artistic creativity of the mechanics tasked to “pimp” a 1987 Wagoneer, the technology behind the new exterior and a modified engine is basically the same. Does the reliance on existing technology make the final product any less creative, if in the end the vehicle is more useful to its owner?

I think the substantive question behind the “creativity crisis” always comes back to utility.  Multi Service designed an interface called Service Gate, which integrates directly with existing business system technologies to streamline point-of-sale transactions, billings and collections. The interface itself is fairly simple; the systems it is designed to interface with are well-established and built upon standard database technology, yet the usefulness and originality behind the interface itself has proven to be a truly functional innovation.

While studies have reported a lull in creativity, I continue to see the minds of our employees ingeniously develop these types of functional innovations. The key, I think, is to continuously evaluate innovation, to differentiate between “innovation for innovation’s sake” and “functional” or “useful innovation.” This focus on the how and why behind innovation seems to spur our advancement and may just be the cure for our national creativity crisis.

-Mark O'Connell

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