Creative Thinking at Work

“Being wrong is not the same as being creative, but if you’re not prepared to be wrong you’ll never come up with anything original”, said Sir Ken Robinson.

Creativity always involves some measure of risk, you will have to deal with uncertainty and possibly failure and this holds true whether you are making an artwork or starting an entrepreneurial venture. In fact, balancing opportunity and risk is a skill we all use in all aspects of life.

Companies are increasingly aware of the need to tap into the collective creativity and innovative thinking of their employees; many organisations are building teams of people to generate new ideas and solutions to new challenges. Gerard Puccio at Buffalo State College in New York says it’s never been more important to arm people with the skills for creative thinking. “It’s no longer a luxury. It’s about survival”. He points out that industry thrives when creativity thrives, and fails when it doesn’t.

Puccio says that successful creativity means ensuring ideas are practical and convincing - “creativity is not a licence to be bizarre” but it may mean rethinking ideas around making time for creative projects and what constitutes failure. For creativity to flourish you need to encourage people to ignore convention and hierarchy, to argue the case for their ideas. The greatest stumbling block in seeking innovation is failure to act.

Adapt and Create

In the current economic environment employers seek creative people who can adapt to uncertainty and disruption. A list of desirable professional competencies is likely to include ‘innovative’, ‘imaginative’ or ‘inventive’, as the ability to adapt and create is essential.

Leaders need to be role-models by demonstrating learning agility and using networking, coaching and collaboration to foster creativity and innovation. Encouraging others to articulate fresh ideas is predicated on stepping around and beyond traditional ways of thinking and working. Further, the link between employee engagement and organisational innovation is clear, research has shown that happier and more content employees are more likely to foster an innovative environment.

It’s important to remember that great ideas can come from anywhere, creativity is for everyone, not just leaders or specific teams like R&D, design or marketing – the bought ledger clerk or the admin manager may be a mine of new thinking. Creativity is not just for dreamers, the most successful enterprises are the ones that use the creative potential of all their workers, not just “the creative ones.”

What if?

The Center for Creative Leadership distinguishes between business thinking and innovative thinking. Business thinking is about removing ambiguity and driving results whereas innovative thinking is about exploring multiple possibilities. Ambiguity is not a disadvantage because it means you ask the question “what if?” and allows you to be open to intuition and inspiration without relying on past experience and known facts.

A DreamWorks executive says that every one of their employees has countless opportunities to pitch innovative ideas, whether they be for movie plots or new technology: “Each employee is encouraged to be their own CEO”. Employees who tap into their creativity tend to be more highly engaged in their work and experience higher morale, leading to a greater sense of commitment to job and company, which results in higher productivity.

There’s plenty of untapped creativity in the workplace and coaching can help staff to think differently and explore innovative ideas to develop strategies for the future. Boosting organisational creative thinking skills enables the creative sourcing of productive solutions not just quick fixes.

Posted: Tuesday 21 May 2019

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