what matters most for your businessThe answer is variable and seems to depend on who you ask. It is like the chicken and the egg. What is your end game?  Do you thrive on creativity or require consistency and quality?

It seems there are 2 divided views on if it is people or process that gets you what you need with regards to solving business problems, or producing creativity and innovation.  What’s more critical to producing a breakthrough innovation – finding creative people or finding creative ideas? This is a question Pixar head Ed Catmull has asked a great many people, and he says they tend to be pretty much split on it 50/50.

This astonished Catmull. Fresh off eight blockbuster successes in a row in 2008, he was arguing in his article “How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity” that people exaggerate the importance of the initial idea, whereas, as he put it simply, “talent is rare.”

Ok, so it’s not that surprising that companies full of motion picture, fashion, product designers, or even graphics and web designers should feel comfortable with the notion that innovation depends on talent.

Oh yes, this approach doesn’t sit as well with the more engineering-oriented thinkers whose work forms a parallel stream of thinking and perhaps represent the other half of the crowd in Catmull’s polls. Engineer based industries like manufacturing leans more on the process as opposed to the people.

Let’s call this the “In my ideal world, great ideas are generated through a process anyone can follow” camp. At the most technical end, arguably, is Intel, whose innovation process, based on the precise exchange of information, is described in meticulous detail by Steven Eppinger in “Innovation at the Speed of Information.”

Sales pro’s have likely felt this same diametrically opposed viewpoint.  Some organizations still see sales as part art and seek naturally talented sales people and loose processes to allow them to innovate, create and work their magic.  Others have worked hard to move the human element and define the process as a tightly woven path to sales success. Which is better?

In the end, the answer to the people or process question is probably “both”:  people matter, process matters. Talented people can be hobbled by poor processes; hesitant people can be uplifted by smart processes. In the best of all possible worlds, extraordinary people pursue innovative ideas through processes that are perfectly suited to their talents. In the real world, less-than-perfect people are wise to use all the help they can get.