Revised Feb 17, 2014
Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity is characterised by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions. Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing. If you have ideas, but don’t act on them, you are imaginative but not creative.
“Creativity is the process of bringing something new into being. Creativity requires passion and commitment. It brings to our awareness what was previously hidden and points to new life. The experience is one of heightened consciousness: ecstasy.” – Rollo May, The Courage to Create [Is this possible in business? I believe so, but you have to be willing to take risks and progress through discomfort to get to the finish line.]
“A product is creative when it is (a) novel and (b) appropriate. A novel product is original not predictable. The bigger the concept, and the more the product stimulates further work and ideas, the more the product is creative.”
—Sternberg & Lubart, Defying the Crowd
What is Innovation?
Innovation is the implementation of a new or significantly improved product, service or process that creates value for business, government or society.
Some people say creativity has nothing to do with innovation— that innovation is a discipline, implying that creativity is not. Well, I disagree. Creativity is also a discipline, and a crucial part of the innovation equation. There is no innovation without creativity. The key metric in both creativity and innovation is value creation.
Creativity and Economic Development:
We are living in the age of creativity.
Daniel Pink in his book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future defines Economic Development as:
1. Agriculture Age (farmers)
2. Industrial Age (factory workers)
3. Information Age (knowledge workers)
4. Conceptual Age (creators and empathizers)
Pink argues that left-brain linear, analytical computer-like thinking are being replaced by right-brain empathy, inventiveness, and understanding as skills most needed by business. In other words, creativity gives you a competitive advantage by adding value to your service or product, and differentiating your business from the competition. Without creativity, you are doomed to compete in commodity hell!
Creativity is the Most Crucial Factor for Future Success
IBM’s 2010 Global CEO Study stated:
“The effects of rising complexity calls for CEOs and their teams to lead with bold creativity, connect with customers in imaginative ways and design their operations for speed and flexibility to position their organizations for twenty-first century success.”
The Creativity Gap
A 2012 Adobe study on creativity shows 8 in 10 people feel that unlocking creativity is critical to economic growth and nearly two-thirds of respondents feel creativity is valuable to society, yet a striking minority – only 1 in 4 people – believe they are living up to their own creative potential.
Can creativity be learned?
The short answer is yes.
Creativity begins with a foundation of knowledge, learning a discipline, and mastering a way of thinking. You learn to be creative by experimenting, exploring, questioning assumptions, using imagination and synthesing information. Learning to be creative is akin to learning a sport. It requires practice to develop the right muscles, and a supportive environment in which to flourish.
Studies by Clayton M. Christensen and his researchers uncovered The Innovators DNA: Your ability to generate innovative ideas is not merely a function of the mind, but also a function of five key behaviours that optimize your brain for discovery:
- Associating: drawing connections between questions, problems, or ideas from unrelated fields
- Questioning: posing queries that challenge common wisdom
- Observing: scrutinizing the behavior of customers, suppliers, and competitors to identify new ways of doing things
- Networking: meeting people with different ideas and perspectives
- Experimenting: constructing interactive experiences and provoking unorthodox responses to see what insights emerge
Sir Richard Branson has a mantra that runs through the DNA of Virgin companies. The mantra is A-B-C-D. (Always Be Connecting the Dots). Creativity is a practice, and if you practice using these five discovery skills every day, you will develop your skills in creativity and innovation.
Additional creativity resources:
Creativity and Innovation workshops
A curated list of creativity tools and techniques
Overcoming myths about creativity
Beliefs that only special, talented people are creative-and you have to be born that way- diminish our confidence in our creative abilities. The notion that geniuses such as Shakespeare, Picasso and Mozart were `gifted’ is a myth, according to a study at Exeter University. Researchers examined outstanding performances in the arts, mathematics and sports, to find out if “the widespread belief that to reach high levels of ability a person must possess an innate potential called talent.”
The study concludes that excellence is determined by:
- motivation, and
- most of all-practice.
“Few showed early signs of promise prior to parental encouragement.” No one reached high levels of achievement in their field without devoting thousands of hours of serious training. Mozart trained for 16 years before he produced an acknowledged master work. Moreover many high performers achieve levels of excellence today that match the capabilities of a Mozart, or a Gold Medallist from the turn of the century.” (The Vancouver Sun, Sept.12/98)
Fostering Creativity at Work: Rules of the Garage
Follow these simple rules and you will foster a culture of creativity and innovation: These were defined by HP, which in fact started in a garage.
Believe you can change the world.
Work quickly, keep the tools unlocked, work whenever.
Know when to work alone and when to work together.
Share – tools, ideas. Trust your colleagues.
No politics. No bureaucracy. (These are ridiculous in a garage.)
The customer defines a job well done.
Radical ideas are not bad ideas.
Invent different ways of working.
Make a contribution every day. If it doesn’t contribute, it doesn’t leave the garage.
Believe that together we can do anything.
-1999 HP Annual Report
- Seven Habits of Highly Creative People
- Reflections on Working with Centers of Excellence
- Can Creativity be Taught?
- ROI on Creativity Training
- How to Educate More Creative Problem Solvers