Everyone has the ability to be creative and accessing that creativity is what makes the difference between someone being creative or not. It requires being able to think about old problems in new ways to discover a new way of looking at things.
It requires the ability to use the imagination to think abstractly about a situation to see it in a new light. Satell of Digital Tonto opines that it requires the ability to look in different places from insights. In fact, Satell argues that:
“We often get so wrapped up in our own area of expertise – its paradigms, practices and social networks – that we fail to look elsewhere for insights. That’s a mistake. Great creativity comes from breadth as much as depth”.
In fact, Satell goes as far as to argue that in many regards there was nothing particularly special about Einstein.
He was lauded as being a genius, but was at the same time unexceptional in many regards.
The difference between Einstein and others, is that Einstein was able to foster his creativity to allow him to see the world in a different way.
One way in which Einstein nurtured his own creativity, according to Satell, was in understanding that even if he got it wrong, his learning was of value.
He sought answers to questions that people had not even asked before, and this began to shape the way that other people think as well.
Einstein gained some of his creativity from studies of philosophy, which were quite far from his chosen field.
This led him to think differently.
Satell also argues that the same is true of Picasso’s discovery of African art that led to his pioneering Cubism.
It’s a bit of a cliché, but these examples show how people really did think outside the box in order to be creative and innovate.
Writing for The Guardian in 2014, James Allen argues that fostering creativity is difficult for organisations.
They know that they need creativity to be able to avoid becoming stale, but the problem is that as Allen puts it, “creativity is largely unmanageable”.
The idea that you can schedule creativity is akin to craziness. People can’t just suddenly decide when they will get inspired.
They may be enthused by brainstorming at a set time, but more likely ideas will come to them at the strangest and most unexpected of times.
Google Accommodates Creativity in Business
Google and 3M, as well as Apple and LinkedIn make efforts to foster creativity by allowing people time to work on their own projects.
At Google, employees get one day a week to do this (Allen, 2014). Very often projects will lead nowhere, but as Allen explains, at Google the Gmail and Google Maps functionalities both emerged as a result of time given to employees to be creative and work on their own projects.
Other organisations try different approaches entirely. Allen explains that at Basecamp, a company that developed a successful project management tool and app, employees are encouraged to take their time off and work proactively with travel agents to achieve this. That is because they know that having a fresh mind inspires creativity.
Collaboration and diversity also nurture innovation as you become exposed to new ideas that help you to think differently, and travel certainly encourages that. Some organisations find that cold hard cash promotes creativity, says Allen, citing the examples of Cisco and Scottish & Southern Energy.
How to hire creative people
Another key aspect of encouraging creativity in organisations is getting the people on board that are the most creative in the first place.
Writing for Inc, Tim Donnelly argues that there are some steps that can be taken to get the most creative people on board.
One is hiring in a different way to start with. Changing up the approach could lead to finding more creative people.
Also developing a job listing that is “amazing” would be more likely to appeal to those that are more creative at heart.
Finding out what makes people different can give an insight to their potential for imagination, and Donnelly recommends asking interviewees questions to understand how curious they are about the world, like what they are currently reading.
People that live on the edge but can exist in the middle are the targets, argues Donnelly. This requires education, energy and eclectic behaviour and activities.
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.