The world is full of opportunities for creativity, every day. There are an increasing number of new problems to solve, and inventions to create. Most of us will — on a daily basis — have new ideas for things to fix or put right. Yet how many of us act on those instincts? Why is it that so often our creativity stops at the ideas stage, and we become frustrated when we see someone else has been able to implement the same idea quickly and easily?
I think Pablo Picasso could have had the answer: "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once [we] grow up."
We are all creative. Remember when you were young and the genius inventions you were able to create from a box of Lego or blocks?
This is still inside you. It has likely just been suppressed over time. Society teaches us to conform and to avoid risk — being creative requires us to reignite that courage and learn to act on it.
And businesses do the same. We make being creative "a role" for some people in the organisation, thereby classifying others immediately as not "permissioned" to be courageous and take some risk with creativity.
Imagine if we were able to embrace the creativity inside everyone in our workforce — what power could we unleash and how much more fun and happiness would we have together?
Fundamentally there are two types of creative people. Those with true Creative Ability (or skills) and those with Creative Power (the will).
Undoubtedly people with high creative ability are the ones we want first on the team. They are the visualisers, the engineers, the artists and the linguists. With them on the team — pointed in the direction of a real problem to solve for the business or society — quickly they can visualise and imagine how things could be different or better. For them, being creative comes naturally and they can be a source of immense creative productivity for the organisation, if enabled. You can spot these people by simply asking them what they do when they are not working. If they have creative ability, they will love to talk about it. As a manager it's your job to find ways to connect them to a challenge your organisation has and give them time and space to apply their ability and skills.
Then partner them with those with creative power. These are the people in your organisation with the will and capability to make creativity commercial.
When paired up with those with creativity ability and skill, they can enable new ideas to survive the firestorm of criticism in a risk-averse culture. They are determined to move ideas to reality. They see the potential in a storyboard and can visualise how to produce the outcome quickly. Creativity for them is like yoga for their mind — whatever their day job they will gravitate to a new idea with energy and enthusiasm.
Creativity is certainly the starting block of problem solving yet requires a chain of momentum to get ideas implemented and innovation happening. Especially in organisations where there is risk involved. By unleashing how people are able to create value in new ways, we will enable bold and creative ideas to produce tangible commercial outcomes and innovation will start to flourish.
To unlock this capability from your workforce you need
- People in leadership with 'learning mindsets' – the ability to take risk, see challenges as an opportunity for learning, and can encourage creative people to have a voice.
- Time and space – recognizing that all employees have some inner creativity, give them time to 'think' and produce ideas outside of their day-job. Research tells us the biggest blocker to innovation and creativity in the workforce is 'I'm not allowed to – I don't have the time'.
- To embrace new ways of working – enable your people to express their potential in multiple ways e.g. why can't a CFO work on social media campaigns if that's his talent too? More and more people are looking for outlets for creativity in their work – find ways to augment their existing role to enable this.
Melissa Jenner is founder and managing director of START Now, a business that helps individuals and companies design sustainable careers.