by Lynn Schwebach
When I hear people say they aren’t creative, I shudder. To me, it’s the equivalent of saying you don’t have any hemoglobin. It’s nonsense. Our culture has a way of dividing us when we’re young into categories: scientific or artistic, verbal or quiet, visual or nonvisual. These categories unfortunately lead to labels, which lead to damaging beliefs – such as “I am not creative.”
Innovation and Creativity
Yet our economy at this point in history demands creative employees and business owners. We live in a “knowledge economy.” We no longer rely on manufacturing to fuel economic growth but on producing and distributing information. The ability to find ways to profit in a knowledge economy depends on innovation – the byproduct of creativity.
Experts define creativity as divergent thinking, or the ability to find many solutions or ideas for problems. (Also see Why Cutting Arts Funding is Lethal.) Creativity means flexible thinking, or the ability to ask simple questions about complex problems, and to develop unique and novel solutions.
You will note that the definition of creativity does not use words like “painter,” “musician” or “dancer.” In other words, the definition of creativity does not apply only to traditionally defined artistic careers. In today’s world, creativity is the main component in any successful career.
Teresa M. Amabile, the Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School, researches how life inside organizations can influence people and their performance. Originally focusing on individual creativity, Dr. Amabile’s research has expanded to encompass individual productivity, team creativity, and organizational innovation.
Let Creativity Thrive
Writing in the Harvard Business Review article “How to Kill Creativity,” Amabile states that creative thinking is more important than ever. But the ultimate test in today’s organization is not just letting creativity “survive, but letting it thrive.”
She states that managers who hold productivity, efficiency, and control as their ultimate goals, without including creativity, end up decimating it. In effect, they end up decimating motivation – and innovation.
So the next time you start to say you’re not creative, stop yourself. Think. Come up with a creative way to see how your work, your product and your output stands apart from others. Think how YOU are uniquely you. Then say it out loud. Strive to be creative – and you will thrive!