Creativity and innovation play an important role in the survival of any business.
Creativity is the connecting or viewing of things in a different way than the status quo. Creativity is not only about solving a problem, but also about providing better aesthetics, happiness or for the betterment of people, animals and the environment in general.
Innovation is about taking creative ideas and/or processes and turning them or making them into reality – which is the backbone of any successful business.
A good example of this is when Jack Ma, a Chinese school teacher, used his creativity to believe that he could revolutionise how the Chinese could buy and sell online. However, the real innovation happened when he brought together a team of people who had the skills and processes to make this vision happen through his company, Alibaba.
Where does creativity come from?
The application of creativity requires three components (Amabile 2012):
- Domain-relevant skills – some expertise in the area of creativity
- Creativity-relevant processes – skills and attributes to be a divergent thinker
- Task motivation – the ability to thrive on intrinsic or ‘self-satisfying’ motivation
Everyone can be creative, however, creative people can be described as having the following traits:
- Come up with more than one idea or way of doing something
- Using a variety of thinking styles to see things differently
- Do not automatically follow conventions or assumptions
- Are intrinsically motivated
- Appreciate diversity and uniqueness
- Are willing to push the boundaries and take risks
Unlocking the barriers to creativity
Unlocking the barriers to creativity is understanding what creates the barrier to creativity in the first place, such as (Davis, 1999):
- Learning and habit barriers – humans are creatures of habit which they have developed through positive responses to correct behaviours – this barrier provides a ‘comfort zone’ of familiarity
- Rules and traditions barriers – social, cultural and legal norms are needed to guide human behaviours, however they also present restrictions on how people feel they can act in different situations
- Perceptual barriers – through a lifetime of learning from, and being influenced by others, humans have a predisposition to perceive things in a certain way based on their interest, biases and values
- Cultural barriers – social expectations and pressures to conform to the status quo, and the desire to know what one’s identity is, means humans are susceptible to following what others have done before them
- Emotional barriers – emotional blocks of fear, anger, love, hate, and anxiety have the ability to block a human from thinking clearly or beyond the status quo
- Resource barriers – shortage of essential resources such as time, money and supplies, can create a demand or conflict for these resources, preventing people having the freedom they need to be creative
Luckily there are many ways to prevent barriers to creativity, such as:
- Reducing competition between people and asking people for input into how a team functions
- Providing people with the opportunity to practice being creative in a safe and non-threatening way so they can play to their ‘A’ game
- Helping people appreciate how other people process information so you can tailor communications so the message is understood more clearly by the receiver
Individual vs Group creativity
Individual creativity has traditionally been seen to be focussed on a lone genius who was sought after to fuel the innovative energy room of an organisation, such as Steve Jobs at Apple or Bill Gates at Microsoft.
It is now, however, more widely accepted that group or collective creativity, whereby people from diverse backgrounds, personalities and experiences are brought together to come up with and produce new ideas, is the secret to a business’s innovative success
Whether we participate in creativity as an individual or within the context of a group is a bit like the question: “Which came first – the chicken or the egg?”
Consider this – an individual’s creativity is built upon how their senses have made ‘sense’ of the world around them, and the people they interact with. While the group is made up of individuals expressing their creative ideas and solutions, and it will be the skills of a good facilitator who will be able to harness these ideas to take them to the next level.
An example of this is where organisations allow their employees individual ‘R&D’ time to work on a project of their own creation. However, it then requires the individual to work and rely on the ‘team’ and other key stakeholders (eg customer participating in prototype testing etc) to bring about billion dollar creative ideas.
This model of individual creativity leading into group creativity is a great motivator for employees to want to do great work as it provides them with a challenge, a feeling of accomplishment and an opportunity to be acknowledged among the crowd of employees.
Creating the right environment
Core elements to support individual and group creativity can include:
- Openness to experience new things and ideas
- Passion with emotional stability
- Adopting ‘right brain’ thinking strategies
- Openness to share information
- Reflective dialogue
- Facilitation and effective leadership
While everyone is creative in one sense or another, it is important for business leaders to lead their organisation’s creative capital, both within individuals and groups, by facilitating the opportunity of right brained thinking people to work effectively with left brained thinking people .
This can be done through Stanford University’s Jim March’s Theory of Novelty (Amabile, 2008) by providing:
- Stack – the time and resources to experiment
- Hubris – managers having the confidence to take educated risks
- Optimism – having a shared vision which is better than the status quo
Contact us now (email or [+61] 0400 732 270) to discuss how we can help you unleash the creativity which leads to innovation.