Staying Alive: Processes ofEnacting Novelty and Quality for Keeping Novel Ideas Alive



Novel ideas are the foundation of creativity, offering the potential of distinct competitive advantage to organizations. Yet, research suggests that the collective processesenacted to identify, value, and assessthe quality of novel ideas often result in the most novel ideas dying an early death. If groups routinely fail to keep novel ideas alive, then their efforts to generate ideas—and researchers’ efforts to improve idea generation—will be wasted. At the heart of this problem is a tension between novelty and quality: the more novel an idea, the more uncertainty exists about its quality. In this talk, I aim to provide new insights into the processes involved in keeping novel ideas alive by exploring how to engage productively with this tension. I present qualitative data from two settings – healthcare policy and fashion design. The results challenge our understanding of collective creativity in three ways. First, in this study, keeping novel ideas alive involveddeveloping an integrated understanding of novelty and quality rather than evaluating one then the other. Second, the process moved towards moments of agreement around liminal ideas rather than elaborating and implementing literal ideas. Third, keeping novel ideas alive involves retaining divergent interpretations rather than building consensus. The results further surprisingly suggest that novelty can and often is enacted through quality, providing new insight into our understanding of what it means to engage in a creative process.