Creativity, Innovation & The Business Analyst

Creativity helps in generating ideas without boundaries.

Innovation on the other hand, is creativity on wheels. You come up with an idea and run with it until it is implemented.

A quick example: creativity is the skill that helps the BA uncover options for minimizing the cost of production while innovation is the process through which the selected option for minimizing costs comes to fruition. The skill of creativity is applied at every point in the innovation process.

For a business to be innovative, it must create an environment that allows creativity to thrive. For a solution to be tagged as innovative, it must fulfil the following conditions, at the minimum:

  • It must be something new, that is, not done before in the organization – This could be a new promotion, business model, product, customer service model, etc.

  • It must add value.

Innovation is crucial in business analysis no matter the country, niche, age or variables that affect the organization. It leads to the introduction of new and better solutions to existing problems for both the business and its customers. It is the engine upon which the foundations of our now global community rests. Business drives innovation but at the same time it is innovation that drives the way the business evolves and behaves.

Business Analysts can support the process of innovation by:

  1. Coming up with creative ideas to the company's problems — Business Analysts should understand that creativity on its own, without implementation (innovation) will not get the business to where it needs to be.

  2. Acting as Change Agents — Business Analysts act as change agents when they ensure that any planned change is viable. If you have plenty of ideas, ask yourself these questions: How many of them can be successfully implemented? How many of them will be socially, culturally and economically feasible for the organization? Business Analysts can add value by ensuring that projects that will not generate much business value are identified and halted so that resources can be diverted to other productive ventures. Business cases are useful in identifying and justifying the launch of projects whose outcomes can deliver the benefits of innovation.

  3. Supporting the implementation of solutions from conception till initiation by providing information, managing stakeholders and engaging in all the key business analysis tasks that need to be completed to implement the solution.

  4. Linking opportunities for innovation to business value — Businesses should not just innovate for the sake of it but should do so to increase the value delivered to the business or to meet the needs of the business.

  5. Crafting requirements that do not curb the ability of designers or developers to innovate.

  6. Facilitating brainstorming sessions that help stakeholders identify opportunities for innovation.

  7. Encouraging stakeholders to “think outside the box” and embrace opportunities for innovation.

Skills Necessary to Support Innovation

A Business Analyst can be compared to a Swiss army knife.

Do you know what brought the Swiss army knife to life and subsequently to market?

Its innovative nature.

A combination of different skills are needed to support the process of innovation. This includes creativity, communication, influencing and negotiation skills.

Another key attribute of Business Analysts that makes it possible to innovate successfully is empathy — empathy is about walking a mile in the shoes of stakeholders to understand exactly what their problems are and how best to resolve them.

Analysis is not a rigid or narrow activity to be carried out within defined boundaries. Neither is it a boring or exhausting activity designed to trap your mind in a box or at least, it shouldn't be — especially not in the times we live in. Times of innovation and alternative thinking.

Innovation, no matter how big or small, can make a big difference to the business. You don’t have to suggest a mammoth project that will deliver gargantuan benefits. Just look for minor improvement opportunities around you, no matter how small they are. Ideas can come when discussing with stakeholders, when you personally experience a process that can be improved or when you receive a complaint email. Ideas can come from anywhere. The important thing is to look out for opportunities so that you do not miss out on making a difference, no matter how big or small.

Creative thinking and innovation are mandatory in business analysis and should be used as the norm rather than the exception.

Useful Links & Attribution

"All Purpose Knife" Picture by posterize/