A THOUGHT LEADERSHIP ISSUE
In today’s competitive world, creativity is in short supply and it is more important than ever for businesses to attract and keep highly talented people. Bill Bernbach remarked that “an idea can turn to dust or magic, depending on the talent that rubs against it”. In order to do that, a company must provide a workplace environment that is challenging, creative, and fun. Since creativity is at the root of innovation and invention, it would benefit all companies – large or small – to help promote a creative atmosphere in which this talent may flourish. What better way to get a huge return on your investment? Champion those innovators.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of creativity is artistic or intellectual inventiveness. Creativity is marked by the ability or power to create or bring into existence, to invest with a new form, to produce through imaginative skill, to make or bring into existence something new. When you create something, you are actually bringing it into being, making it from nothing. But how do you make something from nothing? How do you achieve creativity? What is the essence of creativity? The little yellow light bulb in cartoons visualizes creativity very well – that sudden “aha!” moment when it all comes together. Some have said that it’s something mysterious and puzzling, perhaps impossible to figure out. Some have said it must be divine inspiration. Creativity is thinking the impossible, and then doing what no one else has done before, sometimes discovering completely new horizons. If you’ve taken a new approach to a problem and it works, then you’re using your creativity.
Creativity comes in many forms. It can be scientific creativity, resulting in inventions or medical cures. It can be artistic or musical, resulting in beautiful paintings, sculptures or operas and songs. It can be creative writing, designing new business processes or translating the mundane into something exciting. The important thing to remember is that creativity includes generating the idea or concept, as well as applying that idea and producing or manifesting the end product or result. Creativity or imagination is an integral part of taking our careers to the next level and producing stellar results in the marketplace. A two-year in-house creativity course offered at General Electric resulted in a sixty percent increase in concepts available for patents, according to the Wall Street Journal. In 1999, after investing over two million dollars in research and development, Hewlett Packard generated more than 1,300 applications for patents.
So, how can your company keep its employees happily coming up with great, innovative ideas? Look out for creative people and recognise them for the intelligent innovators that they are. Create an atmosphere that’s conducive to creativity. You need to let the ideas come forth and thrive. Be tolerant about ideas that don’t work out initially. There’s always a next time when more fresh ideas can be implemented. Acknowledge the people in your organisation that generate new ideas. It’s important to show visible support. Reward the innovators with public recognition, monetary rewards, or both. Managers and employees should bring about creative changes in the company together, shaping a culture that allows for a feeling of security for those creative ideas. It should provide an environment where people can feel secure about expressing those ideas, without being fearful of criticism or ridicule. The feelings of respect will foster inspiration, and minimize negativity or critical judgments. The perfect atmosphere would be one of encouragement, motivation, good training, and lots of opportunities to be creative.
If your creativity is allowed to blossom, your heart and soul for your career returns as well. This could change the face of the work place. Many companies try to avoid encouraging creativity. They feel it could lead to chaos. They say that it would be illogical, unruly, and uncontrollable. This needn’t be the case, if approached in the proper manner. If you encourage creativity within your company and support the talented and responsible people, it will help you compete, regardless of your industry. According to Fortune Magazine (January 1998), highly motivated employees are up to 127% more productive than those averagely motivated employees in complex jobs. It’s simple – if employees feel satisfied and encouraged in their jobs, they will become more motivated and thereby become more productive.
In many organisations, smart employers are beginning to see the advantage of closely-knit teams working together to form creative, problem-solving forces. They’ve begun using a more open kind of office, omitting walls between the departments. They’re making use of more computers and other forms of communication with each other. Department heads are working more closely with the lower levels, so they are aware of what’s happening at all times. The chain of command is made simpler, responsibilities are expanded, and creative and innovative ideas are welcomed and encouraged. In any job or profession, there are problems to be solved; and where there is problem solving, there will be creative thought.
Unfortunately, workaholics are not conducive to creativity. Sometimes we need to rest and relax in order again to become productive. Problems that seemed beyond your reach while brainstorming might come so much easier when your mind is rested and free of stress and worry. Watch out too for the frustration that can come at you. Long hours of preparation and anguish, when the answer doesn’t present itself, can often lead to total despondency with the whole project. You just want to throw up your hands and yell, “I quit!”. But don’t! That’s just the “darkness before the dawn”, as they say. Stay persistent. The answer is out there and you’ll find it; just don’t give up. It’s not that a problem is unsolvable; sometimes, people give up too quickly. Sometimes, you just have to let that thought simmer in your brain for a while, let things gel a bit. Maybe you just need to “sleep on it”. Let your subconscious work on it for the night. Often times, going on about your usual business, getting ready for work, showering and shaving will break the dam and the brilliant ideas just pop to the surface of your brain. A long walk or doing something that you really enjoy will make all the difference. You just need to relax and let those ideas simmer in your brain until they’re done. Maybe it’s time to chill a bit. Try to take a break often during your day and let your mind rest a bit. Our world is encroaching on our thinking time, all during the day. Your boss, associates and colleagues, all want to tell you what you should be doing, every minute of the day. Sometimes, you just need a break from all the mind controlling going on and think your own creative thoughts. William Shakespeare said, “No profit grows where no pleasure is taken, in short, study what thou dost affect”. Simply put, do what you love and you will succeed. You work hardest where your heart lies.
Keeping a journal is an excellent way to avoid losing all those marvellous ideas that your creative mind is capable of churning out. Watch out for the notorious “inner critic”. This is simply that little voice in your head that tells you it’s impossible for you to solve this problem. It’s the old “if others haven’t been able to solve this muddle, what makes you think you can?” critic. Disregard this voice. Allow yourself that spontaneous creativity. Each person has their own way to bring his/her creativity to the fore. Remember, developing creative ideas is not enough. You must back them up with action.
Whether it’s on the job or at home with your family, the creativity you possess is a vital tool in your life. Don’t be so hard on yourself if things don’t work out the first time. Be an observant human, tap into your creativity, watch everything, learn, and don’t be afraid to ask the dumb questions. You know what they say – the only dumb question is the one you didn’t ask. Implement this yourself, and see if you can make a change for the better in your own organisation. Robert Ringer said, “Nothing happens until something moves”. Put those wonderful ideas into motion. Take action.
Estienne de Beer is a Professional Speaker and Leadership Coach. He is the author of the book “Boosting Your Career – Tips From Top Executives”. To receive his free personal development newsletter or to browse e-books for your success, visit his website at www.leader2leaders.com <http://www.leader2leaders.com> or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.