Keeping SR&ED Creativity Alive

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Keeping SR&ED Creativity Alive

Are you avoiding pitfalls that slow or discourage innovation? Are you fostering creativity?

Part of the SR&ED program’s mandate is to seek innovative ways to perform scientific work. Creativity is essential to thinking of the necessary hypotheses and various experimentation that comes with SR&ED work.

Innovation requires creative thinking on the part of managers directing the work as well as the employees that are performing it. However, innovation can only take place in an environment where it is fostered and encouraged.

Six Creativity Killers (from David Owens)

In his book Creative People Must Be Stopped, Vanderbilt University professor, David Owens, identifies six “creativity killers” that put a stop to innovation. Below is a brief summary of his position, adapted from a web page on the Vanderbilt University website.1

1. Individual Constraints

When a single person either does not produce adequate ideas to solve a business problem, or among the ideas generated, does not recognize which among them is the strongest and chooses the wrong idea.

This is a problem that is often a result of poor training, both in the technical sense (the person does not understand the required tools) and in the personal sense (the employee did not display the correct judgment).

2. Group Constraints

When creative individuals make efforts to collaborate, the group dynamic can produce problems in generating creative ideas. Risk-taking, among other behaviours, is sometimes not encouraged within a group environment. Additionally, factors such as personality conflicts could affect the individuals involved. This problem can usually be addressed with team-building exercises to strengthen the company’s culture and individual aspirations to help others.

3. Organizational Constraints

At times, it is the organization that is at fault. New ideas are often discouraged from being shared with management, or there are financial and human capital resources lacking to pursue innovative approaches.

A problem commonly cited problem among large companies and public institutions is that the process itself may be at fault. While solutions here are beyond the scope of a blog post, Owens succinctly stated the issue that needs resolution is “the problem of organizing people in a way that won’t systematically kill [innovation].” 2

4. Industry Constraints

A business cannot survive without understanding its target market and correctly positioning its products or services to that market. Often, an idea fails because it is said to be ahead of its time, or fulfilling a need that does not exist now, but in the future. Owens stated this occurs when “the utility and value of the change are not clear.” 3 Innovation can only truly take place if it is adopted by all.

5. Societal Constraints

The culture within a certain society can also dictate if an innovative idea is actually accepted. One example, Owens stated, is in human cloning. While plants and animals have been cloned, and there are logistical arguments made for doing so (e.g. to save a dying species), humans are less accepting of cloning themselves for various ethical and moral reasons.

6. Technological Constraints

At times, the will exists to create a new process or product, but the technology of the time falls short of the expectation. Owens uses the following as current examples of technological constraints:4

“It is hard to keep a body alive during brain surgery, to derive energy from the splitting of uranium atoms in a controlled and safe way, or to plug an oil leak fifty miles offshore and one mile beneath the surface of the ocean.”

Conclusion: SR&ED Needs Creativity

SR&ED is driven by innovative thinking. Avoiding the common pitfalls listed above (if possible) will go a long way toward keeping your SR&ED projects pushing forward.


How do you nurture innovation? Does your company have an excellent track record in creativity?

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Show 4 footnotes

  1. Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management. (2011). Creativity killers: Six ways innovation dies. (Accessed: September 7, 2017.) Retrieved from
  2. Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management. (2011). Creativity killers: Six ways innovation dies. (Accessed: September 7, 2017.) Retrieved from
  3. Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management. (2011). Creativity killers: Six ways innovation dies. (Accessed: September 7, 2017.) Retrieved from
  4. Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management. (2011). Creativity killers: Six ways innovation dies. (Accessed: September 7, 2017.) Retrieved from

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