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Creativity and Innovation

Creativity in Business

Creativity in Business

Most commercial organizations will say that they are looking for greater levels of creativity or innovation at all levels but do not necessarily fully appreciate what either of these terms mean, or what it might involve in terms of different future behavior.  If we truly therefore want higher levels of creativity and/or innovation we therefore need to be much clearer about what these words entail.

One definition which seems to apply well when we are talking about creativity in business is the one provided by creativity at work consultant Linda Naiman on her excellent blog at http://www.creativityatwork.com/blog/.

Linda states that:

“Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing”. “Innovation is the production or implementation of an idea. If you have ideas, but don’t act on them, you are imaginative but not creative.”

In terms of changed behavior, many experts think that being creative (whether it is coming up with a new idea or executing it) is within the grasp of every one of us (not just a few geniuses) and a big part of that creative or innovative “mind set” is improved by exhibiting more levels of curiosity (as we probably all did when we were children, largely by asking lots of questions). This means that we can use greater curiosity as a way of getting into a more creative state-of-mind.

As marketing expert Garret Moon says:

If creativity is a state of mind, then it would do us well to shape our lives so that they are continually developing our creative side. The ability to think in directions that rub against the status-quo is extremely important to business.

Many people also argue that curiosity is an ‘innate’ ability or interest – you’re either curious/inquisitive or you are not. However, there is evidence to suggest that being curious about the world and life in general is a choice that people tend to make and practice, rather than a naturally learned process. In this respect, more than any other single tactic that you can choose to adopt, the practice of asking questions (and especially why and how ones) often pays the greatest dividends in terms of helping to develop curiosity levels.

So, how do we become more creative in practice?

To be curious (and by implication to be more creativity and/or innovation) an individual’s thought processes and/or stated ideas must be seen to be at least somewhat new, fresh and different from others. What this means is that all individuals in the workplace need to think about their work and business challenges in general in as “free” a way as possible or almost without constraint (letting thought patterns run “wild” before we start the process of considering their value in reality, with all the actual problems or obstacles that may need to be overcome). Of course, this is much easier said than done, as the human mind is very much “wired” to look for familiar solutions and patterns. All we can therefore do is to be more aware of these tendencies to be so “reality bound” and guard against falling into one or more mental “stereotypes”.

Naturally, every individual uses mental stereotypes through which he or she sees his or her world. Some of these stereotypes combine helpfully to shape our overall attitudes, beliefs and behavior in relation to the world. However, some stereotypes (or what some creativity experts call “fixed paradigms” are unhelpful. In this case, they are familiar or fixed mental processing techniques which can act to inhibit creativity.

Major examples of this kind of thinking are:

  • conventional wisdom (or a lot of people think the same way),
  • unsupported inference (making guesses about connections that have basis in evidence) and
  • false extrapolation (extending a pattern in one area to another where it may not apply).

We therefore need to carefully guard against these particular “short-cut” mental processing techniques that can impede our ability to be more creative or even to appreciate and build upon the creativity and/or innovation of others.

Summary

Creativity (idea generation) and innovation (idea execution) in general and in the business world in particular can gain far greater traction not only with clarity about the what these terms mean at all levels but by encouraging every individual to be more curious in their behavior. To develop curiosity, individuals should ask more questions and work hard to guard against applying unhelpful mental stereotypes. The most common of these is conventional wisdom, unsupported inference and false extrapolation.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at OptimalJon@gmail.com

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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