Change and globalization are leading to creativity growing in importance. Technological innovation has led to an increasing pace of change. Handy (1991) suggests that things are developing so fast that you can only expect the unexpected. That’s the only certainty you have. Due to globalization and the internet, barriers of entry to markets are being lowered and there is ever-increasing competition and pace of change. You need to be creative enough to add value through continual innovation. While previously value was being added through labour, land or capital, this is now happening through creativity, knowledge, innovation and learning.
Nature and Origins of Creativity
Creativity generally has two characteristics: newness and appropriateness, where newness means that some idea seems novel to the perceiver. Before the 1990s, most researchers believed that creativity was an ability, linked to mental flexibility and relevant experience. It was also being linked to intrinsic motivation but only later did the effect of work climate and environment be recognized to play an important role. The social context is important.
Creative people do the unexpected, are original, have a dream or purpose and are very determined. Lesser characteristics are flexibility and a positive outlook. One of their abilities seems to be that of finding problems, finding the important question and they can tolerate ambiguity. The importance of a special trait has decreased considerably over the years. Style however is gaining importance, especially focussing on incremental improvements, an adaptive style of creativity.
When creativity is seen as a mental skill, one about mental flexibility, being able to withhold judgement and shift perspectives. This can be taught though, meaning that this skill is transferable, even though it is only part of the story.
This already shows though, that to have a creative organization, you need to allow thinking out of the box, foster a positive outlook no matter what, tolerate uncertainty and stress the importance of questioning everything. Add open (really open, not want to be open) communications and you can get there.
Experience, Knowledge and Motivation
I’ll start with a quote here, as it fits just a little bit:
Hire and promote first on the basis of integrity; second, motivation; third, capacity; fourth, understanding; fifth, knowledge; and last and least, experience. Without integrity, motivation is dangerous; without motivation, capacity is impotent; without capacity, understanding is limited; without understanding, knowledge is meaningless; without knowledge, experience is blind. Experience is easy to provide and quickly put to good use by people with all the other qualities. – Dee Hock
Now let’s see what the course has to say. Creative people seem to have relevant experience but they still value chance. The experience services as an easy access point to different scenarios. In this sense, expert recognition is very important, meaning older and more experience staff will have more creativity, provided that the climate lets them.
Amabile (1983) suggested that neither mental flexibility nor relevant experience are sufficient, but thye need to be combined with intrinsic motivation. The problem with intrinsic motivation really is that it is very individual, different for everyone. People will be most creative in areas that they are most interested in.
Context of Creativity
Work climate and culture are important, as people will do more exploring when they feel safe. Then you need to trust that it will emerge, because it cannot be fored. You need to give freedom and tolerate mistakes and allow people more time to communicate with each other.
Freedom is the greatest when the ground rules are clear. Chalk out the playing field and say, Within those lines, make any decision you need. – Dick Brown, chairman CEO of EDS
The soecial context is gaining importance with Csikszentmihalyi (1996,1999) looking at the aspects of the creative individual, domain of knowledge and the social field. He found that there are some fields that lead to more innovation, bringing in the point that what has gone before is important, and you need to allow people to connect.
Emergent creativity borrows from complexity theory in which very complex systems seem to be capable of self-regulation. Creativity is likely to occur at the edge of chaos.
Creativity research looked at the who, how and getting around barriers. Innovation research looked at how ideas reach the market and knowledge management recognizes the importance of local knowledge.
Following is a very good table from the books summarizing everything up till now a little bit.
|Ability||Trait||Identify creative abilities||Not everyone is creative|
|Style||Balance styles in teams||All people are creative|
|Competence||Skill||Develop creative skills||Transferable skill|
|Attitude||Remove perceptual blocks||Transferable skill|
|Experience||Application||Develop expert recognition||Domain dependent|
|Motivation||Build in personal freedom||Domain dependent|
|Context||Climate||Encourage open climate||All people are creative but are more likely to be so in open environments|
|Field||Nurture creative networks||All people are creative but will not be recognised as such unless their idea is accepted by their field’s judges and opinion makers|
The ideas of creativity have changed from a chosen few to everybody, redical to incremental, unique to new to you and ideas to implementation.
How do you develop your creativity? Model yourself against traits of creative people. Think positive and look for opportunities at all times. Be playful and take risks. Do things with passion and persistence.
In the end, personality, mental flexibility, experience, motivation, organization climate and social context all play a small part in the quest for creativity.