Table of Contents
The history of organizations is closely entwined with that of human beings. During the early stages of human history, organizations were limited minor tasks associated with the most basic human needs, such as food, clothing or water. As humans evolved and attained stable supplies of basic needs, organizations evolved too (Shinohara, 2016). This is evident from the growth of commercial organizations during the Middle Ages.
Industrial Revolution marked a new chapter in the history of mankind, with organizations evolving further too, improving the rate at which production processed could occur (Stearns, 2018). Finally, periods leading up to and from the second world war saw remarkable growth and evolution in companies, as new business sectors were formed to cater to consumers’ requirements or formal industrialization was achieved.
Close observation of the transitions discussed earlier shows that innovation and creativity lied at the core of each evolution. For instance, as humans entered the Middle Ages, wind and water-powered machines were developed, allowing for minor automation (Shinohara, 2016). As the Industrial Revolution took over, steam engines resulted in further automation and process optimization (Bucheli and Wadhwani, 2014). This illustrates that creativity and innovation are crucial for continued organizational success, process enhancement and even evolution of human civilization.
This paper aims to discuss creativity and innovation, laying special emphasis on the creativity and innovation strategy pursued by Instagram. Furthermore, it also aims to shed light on potential measures for improvement for Instagram once its strategy has been assessed.
Although creativity and innovation are concepts that often used interchangeably, researchers have pointed out a number of differences between them, as summarized in the following table:
|Rogers (1954) defines creativity as the process of developing a new product or concept (which has its roots in the characteristics of the individual involved in its development, as well as the resources, people and situations associated with its development.||Rogers and Rogers (1998) state that innovation is more concerned with implementing new thoughts and ideas in organizational products, processes or characteristics with the aim of generating maximum value and returns from ideas|
|Runco (1996) defines creativity as the ability or intent to “transform the objective world into its original form and interpretations” and knowing when it is necessary and when it is not||Crumpton (2012) claims that innovation is the process of improving organizational products or processes by application of new ideas, or creating a culture that promotes creativity (that provides new ideas for implementation)|
|Robinson (2008), on the other hand, refers to creativity as an individual capability concerned with moving beyond conventional thoughts, ideas, and processes and coming up with newer ideas or thoughts, or newer interpretations of existing ideas||Kamasak and Bulutlar (2010) claim that innovation is concerned with the creation, acknowledgment, and implementation of new “ideas, products, services or processes” or “successful implementation of new ideas within an organization”.|
|Runco and Jaeger (2012) claim that the standard definition of creativity refers to it as a combination of originality and effectiveness; that is, ideas must be unique and useful to be creative.||Atkinson (2013) defines innovation as the development of new products or services, organizational processes, marketing methods, organizational structure or practices, and external relationships.|
The aforementioned discussion clearly reveals that creativity and innovation, despite being quite closely linked, are fundamentally different processes (Dawson and Andriopoulos, 2014). While creativity is concerned with the development of new ideas or new interpretations of existing phenomena, innovation is more concerned with the use of these “new” ideas and interpretations in the product, process or overall organizational improvement.
There are ten distinct types of innovation, namely:
(Keeley et al., 2013)
Profit Model Innovation: Profit model innovation refers to the implementation of new ideas that allow an organization to convert its products, services, and offerings into material profits (Davila, Epstein and Shelton, 2012). Mostly concerned with revenue generation of pricing, common profit model innovations include premium pricing (charging higher prices than competitors) or auctions (letting the market set prices).
Network Innovation: Such innovation is concerned with how an organization interacts with other firms (and hence, benefits from their resources, assets, strengths, and capabilities) (Keeley et al., 2013). The idea is to connect with other firms and players in such a way that in-house strengths are capitalized upon, while external strengths also contribute to productivity and performance.
Structure Innovation: Structure innovations are focused on rearranging organizational assets and resources in new ways to generate maximum value. These innovations can focus on the human resource (talent management programs), automation (reconfiguration of capital goods) or costs (modification of the cost structure) (Davila, Epstein and Shelton, 2012). In any case, structure innovations can add value by creating highly supportive workplace conditions or leading towards performance levels that cannot be matched by competitors.
Process Innovation: These innovations are focused on altering the core activities of an organization to create greater value. Generally, these innovations lie at the heart of company productivity as they are usually patented and hence, cannot be copied by competitors, acting as sources of competitive benefit for extended time periods (Chenavaz, 2012). A new production or inventory management approach, for instance, may cut down costs, granting a significant competitive benefits to the organization.
Product Performance: Development of new features in existing product lines, or new products altogether, that meet consumer needs more effectively or generate higher value (Skerlavaj, 2011). Such innovations can be copied relatively easily and hence, cannot grant sustained competitive benefit (apart from exceptional cases).
Product System: The creation of a network of products that complement one another, giving rise to an effective “product system”. Integration and interoperability are key here since they allow for consumers to develop links between otherwise unrelated items, leading towards greater satisfaction (Ganzer, Chais and Olea, 2017).
Service: Such innovations are concerned with improving the apparent usefulness and accessibility of a product, thereby adding to the smoothness of overall consumer experience (of using a product) (Skerlavaj, 2011). The key aim of these innovations is to reduce issues that may be faced by consumers during their entire experience (to make it more memorable and ensure that they return again and again).
Channel: Improving the accessibility of products so that consumers can purchase them with minimum efforts and costs. Major channels for product delivery include online and physical stores, and innovation, in this regard, is also concerned with making the shopping experience more immersive for consumers (so that they can satisfy their needs at the time they want to, with a highly memorable experience) (Stoneman, 2010).
Brand: Representing products and offerings in a way that makes them unique or appealing to customers so that they recognize, remember and prefer them over those of competitors (Abbing, 2010). Generally, brand innovations encompass various aspects of company-consumer relations, ranging from product quality or “promise” to marketing, communications and social responsibility.
Engagement: Understanding consumers’ needs and preferences and using them to drive innovation can result in the development of healthy relationships with them (Mount and Martinez, 2014). This can increase the level of customer satisfaction, while simultaneously creating a priceless connection between a company and its customers, which can provide considerable competitive benefit.
The most important types of innovation used at Instagram are product performance and product system innovations. When the Instagram application was first developed, it focused on coming up with new features that other social media platforms did not provide. While photograph sharing was available elsewhere, the application came up with “filters” to improving the appearance of pictures, targeting an area that had not been exploring previously (Tidd and Bessant, 2014). Moreover, the organization has focused on the creation of multiple offerings that amalgamate to form an intricate product system (Keeley et al., 2013). For instance, its basic image sharing platform, coupled with live streaming, video sharing, and stories, allows common users, celebrities and commercial users to interact with their friends, followers, and customers in multiple ways, resulting in a more immersive experience.
In addition to that, Instagram has also engaged in consumer-focused innovations over the years too. For instance, the organization introduced the filter feature in response to consumers’ need for making photographs look better (Afuah, 2014). Similarly, other features, such as stories and Livestream have all been added in response to growing consumer demand.
|Strong focus on consumers’ demands and needs, allowing for higher consumer engagement than other social media platform coherence between different offerings, resulting in the formation of a coherent product system, which can greatly enhance experiences of various users||Instagram has lacked a profit model until its acquisition by FacebookThe company’s current business model relies on only a single revenue stream (advertisement), which means it has not been very innovative with respect to internal processes and profit models|
|The brand formation can improve the relationship with consumers further, enabling the company to gain an edge over other social media platforms further product, as well as process innovation, can enable Instagram to target more consumer needs that have not been exploited yet||Snapchat is a direct competitor for Instagram, especially in relation to the stories feature. The growing popularity of Snapchat means that Instagram is lagging behind it, particularly in terms of product performance innovation Instagram engages mainly in product innovation, which can be copied and does not provide a sustained competitive benefit.|
(Keeley et al., 2013; Tidd and Bessant, 2014)
|From a socio-cultural perspective, Instagram has enjoyed great success over its competitors, as reflected in immense growth in its usage since its inception in 2010. This is reflective of its strong innovative strategy (Tidd and Bessant, 2014). Furthermore, the fact that Instagram has shown commitment towards users’ needs has resulted in its innovative strategy generating value in terms of usage.||Despite its popularity with smartphone users, Instagram has struggled as a social media marketing tool for businesses. This is attributable to the fact that other social media sites, such as Twitter, allow for the use of scheduling software to post content. In contrast, this functionality has been absent from Instagram during the best part of its run|
|Instagram acts as a platform for spreading awareness regarding environmental issues and steps that may be taken at the individual and organizational level to promote it (Heathman, 2019). Moreover, with “hashtags” devoted to environmental issues and conservation, Instagram further promotes environmental awareness and conscience.||From an economic viewpoint, Instagram’s innovative strategy has been slow. The company’s profit model is stagnant, in that it makes use of advertisements as the only source of revenue. However, over the years, Instagram has gained value, indicating that its profit model, despite being unidirectional, is considerably sound (Wagner and Molla, 2018).||There are no major political or governmental regulations pertaining directly to the use of social media. However, Instagram has become a popular platform for political parties and governments to connect with their followers (Hinsliff, 2019). This has boosted Instagram’s success|
|Social media platforms remain regulated by privacy and data-related legislation across the world. Instagram has abided by these laws quite well (Tidd and Bessant, 2014). Legal factors do not have major impacts on Instagram’s profitability (currently) and hence, the organization’s innovative strategy does not have major provisions for them.||Instagram was faced with ethical challenges, particularly in relation to misinformation and the circulation of fake news (Newton, 2019). These issues have raised questions regarding the company’s overall strategic focus on ethics compliance, as well as emphasis laid on achieving ethics compliance in innovative ways.|
The APT model of creativity compares overall creativity with the choices that one has in an amusement park. It outlines four different tiers essential for achieving creativity, as shown in the following figure:
(Kaufman et al., 2010)
When applies to Instagram, it can be seen that even though Instagram has the initial resources and has directed its efforts in all general thematic areas (science, art, and communication), its selection of domains and micro-domains has not been quite effective (Miller, 2012). Hence, creativity and innovation at Instagram have been quite exceptional in some areas (product performance, product system, and consumer engagement), but has not been up to the mark in others (like process innovation or brand innovation) (Afuah, 2014). Either way, analysis reveals that even though Instagram’s current creativity and innovation strategy and measures have contributed considerably to the social media platform’s success, it is lagging behind consumers in certain areas, which must be fixed to generate greater value.
A number of challenges and complexities can arise when implementing creativity and innovation in an existing organization or business culture. Firstly, introducing new ideas and changes into existing products, processes or structures can spark resistance from workers. This can reduce the likelihood of success, while simultaneously wasting resources devoted to creativity and innovation (Oreg and Goldenberg, 2015). In addition to that, another critical complexity is an alteration of the corporate culture to support creative thinking and readiness to innovate (Spieth, Schneckenberg and Ricart, 2014). While organizations have become more and more interested in making their corporate culture supportive of innovation and creativity, many still lag behind in this area, making lack of support a key complexity in this regard (Bock et al., 2012).
In addition to that, another key challenge lies in the fact that creativity is an essential prerequisite to innovation and it requires intelligence, motivation, and effectiveness. At times, workers and managerial staff within an organization can lack these attributes, hindering creativity and hence, motivation (Chesbrough, 2010). Moreover, another major challenge associated with the implementation of innovation and creativity is the need for resources. Usually, creative production of ideas, as well as their implementation requires time, funds and efforts (and lack of any of these may hinder the implementation process; alternatively, the implementation of creativity and innovation may cause a lack of these resources, creating issues for other activities) (Afuah, 2014).
While quite a few challenges can arise before, during or after the implementation of creativity and innovation, it must be kept in mind that overall, this process is favorable for organizations in the long-run as it can improve competitiveness and profitability (Chesbrough, 2010).
Creativity and innovation are critical for ensuring that companies continue to grow and develop. This is attributable to the fact that creative thinking and innovation allow companies to come up with new ways of performing routine tasks, creating value for the organization or meeting consumers’ requirements (Mumford, Hester and Robledo, 2012). These factors enable organizations to remain ahead of their competitors and achieve continuous improvement (Bessant, 2017). Hence, the importance of creativity and innovation is attributable mainly to the following factors:
Failure to foster innovation and creativity deprives an organization of these benefits, resulting in decreased performance, as well as reduced competitiveness. This can clearly be observed in the case of Nokia (Vuori and Huy, 2016). Once the leader of the global mobile phone market, Nokia rapidly lost market share to Apple after it failed to match the latter in terms of innovation (Furseth and Cuthbertson, 2013). While Apple came up with numerous innovations in its business model (diversified revenue streams in iTunes, iPhone, and MacBook), products (the advent of the first iPhone, followed by successive upgradations) and brand, Nokia struggled to do the same (Aspara et al., 2013).
Not only did Nokia failed to keep with product innovations launched by Apple, the quality of Nokia’s phone declined too, as it was deprived of the continuous improvement offered by creativity and innovation (Aspara et al., 2013). Furthermore, another negative impact of the lack of creativity and innovation was that Nokia failed to meet consumers’ requirements (Vuori and Huy, 2016). This represented a lack of consumer engagement, which also led towards the drastic reduction in sales and market share that marked the end of Nokia’s stronghold in the global mobile phone market.
The creative strategy process can broadly be divided into five stages, as illustrated in the following figure:
As evident from the aforementioned figure, the creative strategy process starts with an issue (which can be anything that requires change or improvement, such as an ineffective organizational process, or an untapped consumer need) (Beswick, Geraghty and Bishop, 2015). Once the issue has been identified, potential solutions to it are pointed out, with all potential solutions being assessed and ranked according to their feasibility. This “assessment and filtering” stage can be repeated numerous times, until the best possible solution is identified, which can then be chosen (Afuah, 2014).
The creativity strategy followed at Instagram can be termed as ‘congruent’ to the approach outlined above. Firstly, issues or untapped needs (such as the need for improving photographs before sharing) are identified, followed by the identification of potential solutions (offering in-app camera functionality, using built-in filters or providing filter extensions) (Tidd and Bessant, 2014). Then, these options are assessed for feasibility, with selection of the most suitable option (offering in-app filters).
In light of the aforementioned discussion, it has been observed that Instagram’s creativity strategy and innovation process (despite being quite effective), lag in certain areas. Most importantly, a distinct lack of process innovation has been observed in case of Instagram (Beswick, Geraghty and Bishop, 2015). This is a major concern, since process innovations are generally sources of sustained competitive benefit (and allow organizations to generate value from an innovation for considerably periods of time) (Bessant, 2017). Therefore, the first recommendation for Instagram is to shift its focus on process innovations (rather than product innovations).
In addition to that, yet another measure that can be taken by Instagram is restructuring its profit-model. It has been observed earlier that the company does not focus extensively on profit-model innovations (as evident from its one-dimensional revenue streams) (Grant and Jordan, 2015). Firstly, Instagram has a number of commercial clients; it can introduce an in-app e-commerce option which can allow consumers to directly purchase products from their chosen brand via Instagram. On the other hand, the application can consider the development of a ‘premium’ or ‘business’ version with improved functionality to suit specific consumer group (Beswick, Geraghty and Bishop, 2015). Finally, another potential option for Instagram is to introduce an option of virtual or digital gifts, which can be sent to friends or followed for small price.
Apart from that, Instagram also needs to improve its performance in terms of ethics compliance. The application has been subject to criticism due to misinformation and propagation of fake news. While checking all posts and verifying them is tedious (and unethical) task in itself, the application can be equipped with an algorithm which automatically checks and removes false news (once it has been reported by other users) (Van den Hoven, Vermaas and Van de Poel, 2015). Also, accounts used for propagating such information can be ‘flagged’ or ‘banned’ depending upon the number of times this happens.
In light of the aforementioned discussion, it can be said
that Instagram has a considerably sound and thorough creative strategy, as well
as innovation process. The presence of these factors has enabled Instagram to
turn into a social media giant in a relatively short period of time. However,
there are certain weaknesses in Instagram’s strategic framework pertaining to
creativity and innovation. These pertain mainly to ethical and technological
factors, lack of alternative profit streams and unequal focus on different
forms of innovation. These limitations can put Instagram behind its competitors
in the long-run and hence, it is critical for the organization to diversify its
revenue streams and restructure its profit model, focus on process innovation
and enhance ethics compliance to achieve continuous improvement.
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