Creativity myths

 creativity myth no. 1

“Only a few special people are truly creative”

Creativity is a skill that can be learned, an attitude that can be assumed, a system (see Innovation Boosters) that can be adopted. Creativity is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.

Whereas creativity was previously associated with radical insights that only a tiny population could aspire to, we now assume that everybody can be creative, and we now pay more attention to creative adaptations and not only to “breakthrough” ideas. You can apply creative skill to any part of the innovation process – you can implement and not just invent creatively.

 creativity myth no. 2

“You either have it or you don’t”

Creativity is not associated with a specific type of person with certain specific traits.

A number of theories and models describe individual styles and preferences and the contribution that different types of person make to the creative process. One of these (Roberts & Fusfeld) identifies five specific creative leadership roles, essential to the innovation process:

  • idea generator
  • entrepreneur/champion
  • project leader
  • gate-keeper
  • sponsor/coach

We help companies identify and develop these roles (see strategic innovation management) within their organisations.

 creativity myth no. 3

“Creativity is a solitary effort”

Baruch states that, “millions saw the apple fall, but Newton was the one to ask why.” However, Isaac Newton himself said, “If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants.” No great work is ever conducted in isolation.

Certain fields at certain times and in particular locations seem to produce great creative endeavour, for example, art and architecture in Florence at the beginning of the 15th century, Silicon Valley and the development of computers in the second part of the 20th century. The implications of this are that ideas build on what has gone before, and that managers should focus less on identifying creative individuals and more on the system of social relationships and the conditions and systems that nurture and sustain creativity.

creativity myth no. 4

“A creative company has a lot of new products and services”

A creative company is one that has the ability to continually renew itself and respond to a changing environment. Having many new products and services is not, on its own, a guarantee of long-term health or survival. Creativity also needs to be present in company processes and practices, in the company’s attitude towards the customer, in the organisational climate, and in the mentality of the company’s management.

Management has an increasingly important role to play in fostering the conditions that sustain and nurture creativity within their company. Companies such as General Electric have created specific roles to foster creativity, such as creative managers who are either trained as creativity or problem-solving facilitators or who distinguish themselves as having a particular creative leadership style (see creativity myth 2 above).

 creativity myth no. 5

“A creative company operates in a ‘creative sector’, e.g. fashion, film-making, etc.”

As explained above, everyone can be creative, and all organisations need to be able to renew themselves to ensure their long-term health and survival.

Company survival depends on the ability to make the company unique in some way – although it is difficult to remain unique for very long. Creativity is making new connections between existing elements, and making connections between existing and new elements. All companies need to be able to continuously create new solutions for emerging challenges.

See the Innovaction cases for a sample of the challenges that the companies we have worked with have addressed.