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ABSTRACT
Creativity and innovation by definition involve the creation of something new which, according to Barringer and Ireland (2006) “is central to the entrepreneurial process” (p. 15). Creativity and innovation are considered to be inseparable from entrepreneurship, which is in turn manifested in the act of starting up and running an enterprise. Pretorius, Millard and Kruger (2005) maintain that “creativity is clearly part and parcel of the entrepreneurial skills required to successfully start a venture” (p. 56). Entrepreneurs and their start-ups are considered to be “important agents of innovation” (Bosma & Harding, 2007, p. 16), not simply in terms of the products and services they provide, but also in terms of the technologies and processes that they utilise (Bosma & Harding; Watson et al., 1998). Start-up entrepreneurs could thus be argued to be, by their very nature, the essence of creativity and innovation.


This study explores ways in which start-up entrepreneurs are creative and innovative. Data was collected by means of a combination of in-depth interviews and telephone questionnaires with entrepreneurs who started up an enterprise in Malta between January 2002 and June 2007. Results indicate that the start-up entrepreneurs in this study display high levels of creativity and innovation and these are reflected in several ways. These entrepreneurs generate, develop and implement new ideas for their start-ups, foster a climate that is conducive to creativity and innovation, provide top-down support for creativity and innovation in their organisations, and offer innovative products and services through innovative methods of production and delivery.

Keywords: Creativity |  Innovation | Entrepreneurship | Start-ups | SMEs

1. Introduction
Creativity and innovation are considered to be overlapping constructs between two stages of the creative process; both are necessary for successful enterprise (Martins & Terblanche, 2003). Creativity can be defined as “the production of novel and useful ideas” (Amabile et al., 1996, p. 1155), while innovation refers to the implementation or “transformation of a new idea into a new product or service, or an improvement in organization or process” (Heye, 2006, p. 253).

By definition, creativity and innovation involve the creation of something new that “... is central to the entrepreneurial process” (Barringer & Ireland, 2006, p. 15). Creativity and innovation are considered to be inseparable from entrepreneurship, which is in turn manifested in the act of starting up and running an enterprise. Pretorius, Millard and Kruger (2005) maintain that “creativity is clearly part and parcel of the entrepreneurial skills required to successfully start a venture” (p. 56).

Entrepreneurs and their start-ups are considered to be “important agents of innovation” (Bosma & Harding, 2007, p. 16), not simply in terms of the products and services they provide, but also in terms of the technologies and processes that they utilise (Bosma & Harding; Watson et al., 1998). Entrepreneurs could be argued to be, by their very nature, the essence of creativity and innovation.

Entrepreneurs implement creative ideas to introduce innovative products or services, or to deliver products or services in a new, more efficient, and hence innovative way. Innovation in New Product Development could include upgrading an existing product or developing a totally new concept to create an original and innovative product (Larsen & Lewis, 2007). This is also true for services and processes, thus innovation is recognised in the literature as ranging from the incremental to the radical. There is broad agreement that innovation should be present in all aspects of an organization and that it should be a mindset or a way of life (Abraham & Knight, 2001; Kuczmarski, 1996). Innovation should permeate through the various elements of the organization’s business model in order to make it harder to be copied by competitors (Loewe & Dominiquini, 2006). Therefore, innovation is not only measured by the new products or services offered by an enterprise but also by new and more efficient ways of developing, producing or delivering products or services.

It is argued that creativity is not required solely in the domain of certain sectors or departments, or only in the development of new products or services, but is needed at every level of every type of organization. Creativity is seen as going beyond new products, new services and new and improved processes (Cook, 1998; Heye, 2006). Therefore if one can “better organize *one’s+ day or write a report in a new or more effective way, then this is every bit a creative act” (Gurteen, 1998, p. 7).

2. Methodology
This study explores ways in which start-up entrepreneurs in Malta are creative and innovative. Data collection and analysis took place in two phases: Phase One utilised a qualitative method of data collection while Phase Two made use of a quantitative method to substantiate the findings of the first phase of research. The data collected in Phase One was fully analysed before Phase Two was conducted, as the preliminary findings from the qualitative research were fed into the quantitative part of the study for further investigation.

For entrepreneurs to be included in this study their enterprises needed to meet the “new” and “active” criteria as described by Luger and Koo (2005). Enterprises which were set up in Malta in the last five years were considered to satisfy the “new” criterion. The “active” criterion was satisfied if the enterprise employed at least one full-time employee (excluding the entrepreneur) and was engaged in commercial activity.

2.1 Phase One: Personal Interviews
In Phase One, in-depth personal interviews were carried out with 13 entrepreneurs. Respondents were identified through the principal business incubation centre in Malta and through personal contacts. This first phase sought to provide insight into how entrepreneurs tap into their creativity and innovation to overcome the challenges they face starting up and running a new enterprise. In these circumstances, a qualitative approach was considered to be the most appropriate as it allowed in-depth exploration of the issues under investigation.

A tailor-made, semi-structured interview schedule that included the main questions, prompts and probes, was used to ensure coverage of key issues and to guide the interview process (Creswell, 1998). The interview schedule, which was also translated into Maltese, was rigorous enough to enable the identification of patterns and trends, but was sufficiently flexible to allow the interviewer to follow emergent leads (Frankfort-Nachmias & Nachmias, 1996). Questions were open-ended and as non-leading and as unambiguous as possible. All interviews began with the respondents being asked to provide some details about themselves and their start-up. These opening questions were non-threatening ice-breakers to help put the respondents at ease, build rapport between the interviewer and the interviewee and at the same time provide a wealth of information about the entrepreneur’s background before moving onto a discussion on creativity and innovation.

Interviews were conducted in the English or Maltese language, depending on respondent preference, and lasted around 45 minutes each. Gilmore et al. (2004) suggest that the understanding of entrepreneurial phenomena is enhanced when they are examined in their own natural context. Consequently, all interviews were carried out on the respondent’s business site. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed in full to ensure accuracy and objectivity in data collection and to facilitate analysis. Notes on the respondents’ nonverbal behaviour were also recorded in the space provided on the interview schedules, in order to take advantage of the richness of information provided by the personal nature of this method of data collection (Frankfort-Nachmias & Nachmias, 1996). Prior to analysis, each transcript was e-mailed to the respective respondent for a process of member validation, whereby they were asked to read through the document and verify that the information was reported truthfully and accurately, and to make amendments if necessary.

To be continued...

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