4.    Discussion
Findings from both phases of this study indicate high levels of entrepreneurial creativity and innovation in Malta. The entrepreneurs in this study generate, develop and implement new ideas for their start-ups, foster a climate that is conducive to creativity and innovation, and reap the benefits of such a climate by making good use of their employees’ creative ideas. Furthermore, their creativity and innovation are reflected in the innovative products and services that they offer through innovative methods of production and delivery.

The personal interviews provided various examples of how these entrepreneurs employ their creative thinking skills to compensate for shortcomings, overcome obstacles and create opportunities in their start-ups. The telephone interviews later demonstrated that nearly all entrepreneurs personally generate, develop and implement new ideas for their start-ups. Together, these findings offer substantial support for the literature that argues that creativity is central to and inseparable from the entrepreneurial process (Barringer & Ireland, 2006), and confirms that creative thinking is an essential entrepreneurial skill (Pretorius et al., 2005).

Creativity and innovation are contingent upon a supportive climate and a top-down approach (Kuczmarski, 1996; Thacker & Handscombe, 2003). A supportive climate is in turn strongly shaped by the attitudes and practices of entrepreneurs who play such a central role in all business activities. The fact that the entrepreneurs who participated in this study generate, develop and implement new ideas for their start-up makes them positive role models for their staff. Furthermore they provide top-down support and foster an organisational climate that is conducive to creativity and innovation, according to the criteria dictated by Martins and Terblanche (2003) and by the Harvard Business Essentials (2003).

The extensive encouragement and implementation of employees’ ideas are strong elements of a supportive creative climate (Martins & Terblanche, 2003). The high percentage of respondents who claimed to practice an open-door policy indicates ease of communication across all organisational levels. Together with the reported high levels of trust, this increases the likelihood that employees would share their ideas with colleagues and superiors, and therefore enhances creativity and innovation (Martins & Terblanche, 2003).

With regards to innovative products and services, it is interesting to note that several respondents in both phases of the study claimed that their products or services were not only new to the Maltese market but were the first of their kind in the world. Four respondents declared during the personal interviews that their products were too advanced for the market of the time. One of these respondents was even in the process of obtaining an international patent for his product. Furthermore a high percentage of entrepreneurs reportedly added products or services which were new to the market, or upgraded their existing products, services or methods of production or delivery as time elapsed. Although one may wonder whether these reportedly new-to-market products or services caused any sleepless nights to their competitors, or whether they were really only me-too products or trend-of-the-moment products (Kuczmarski, 1996), they may still be assumed to be indicative of some level of product, service and process innovation respectively.

5. Limitations and Directions for Future Research
Although this study was designed to address the research question as closely and accurately as possible, the research design and methodologies gave rise to a number of inherent limitations which could not be eliminated. Other limitations arose at a later stage of the study from circumstances that were beyond the researchers’ control. The fact that the research sample was made up exclusively of entrepreneurs raised the possibility of biased responses where indicators of creativity and innovation were concerned. The respondents may have refrained from providing information which they felt would reflect negatively on themselves or their start-up. One should bear in mind that many entrepreneurs take great pride in their start-up, and some even refer to it as if it were their child. It is likely that, just as a parent would want to mask his/her child’s shortcomings to strangers, entrepreneurs would be reluctant to admit the deficiencies of their start-up to third parties. Thus there is a possibility that they prov
ided responses that they believed were socially desirable. There is also a likelihood that they replied truthfully, but their perception of the situation was somewhat distorted and biased. This would mean that they inadvertently provided misguided views of their start-ups’ indicators of creativity and innovation.

One way to compensate for this limitation would have been to use triangulation, obtaining the views of employees and to personally visit the start-ups for direct observation. This would have been too time-consuming, excessively invasive and disruptive for the start-ups involved and was therefore avoided. One should also consider that it is unlikely that employees would be in a position to provide information regarding start-up success factors. The lifeblood of a start-up runs through the veins of its entrepreneur: no one else is better equipped to divulge which factors contributed to business success.

Nevertheless, it would be beneficial for future research into creativity and innovation in start-ups to include triangulation of methods to obtain a holistic picture and reduce as much as possible that bias resulting from perceptual data that is bound to influence results.

On a positive note, the use of purposive sampling ensured the selection of a theoretically relevant sample, which is highly recommended for entrepreneurial research (Davidsson, 2004). Thus although the small sample size does not allow confident generalisations to the population of start-up entrepreneurs in Malta, the sampling method used ensures that the enterprises under investigation were all perfectly suited for the purpose of this research. This in turn increased the validity of the findings that are largely in line with the relevant literature.

Entrepreneurial Creativity and Innovation © Leonie Baldacchino, University of Malta, 2009 Page 12

6. Conclusion
In summary, the entrepreneurs in this study are highly creative and their start-ups innovative. These entrepreneurs foster creative climates, provide top-down support for creativity and innovation, and offer innovative products and services through innovative methods of production and delivery. This confirms the central role of creativity and innovation to the entrepreneurial process (Barringer & Ireland, 2006).

This implies that the Maltese have migrated from the traditional role of traders to the more creative and innovative role of entrepreneurs. This augurs well if Maltese entrepreneurs are to meet the challenges of competing on a European and global market, as this demands enterprises to reinvent themselves, which in turn requires creativity and innovation (Xuereb, 2004).

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