The Top 10 Questions About Creativity

As a creativity researcher and a professor for the MBA in Dubai, I regularly receive questions from all over the world about creativity. What is it? Can it be trained? Who needs it? How do you build a culture of creativity…?

Here are the Top 10 Questions About Creativity.

1. What is Creativity?

Creativity is the capacity to develop ideas to solve problems and take advantage of opportunities.

Creativity is NOT art, it is NOT design and is NOT the sole preserve of geniuses.

Creativity is a capacity – it is something that we can all learn to use more effectively. It allows us to develop ideas to solve problems in different ways and capture opportunities.

2. What is Innovation?

Innovation is the application of creativity to produce a new concept, product, service or process delivering something new and better to the world.

When we innovate, we work with the creative ideas we have developed and put them into practice.

Innovation is NOT just about making new gadgets and fancy widgets. We can be innovative in New Product Design, but in many other ways too. New concepts, like how to lead and motivate people at work, as well as new services and processes.

3. How Are They Related?

Innovation relies on creativity. You cannot innovate without first developing some ideas. Creativity is the source of innovation.

Every improvement at work starts with an idea.

4. What Jobs Require Creativity?

Every job requires creativity. Every trade, occupation or role will need new ideas to solve problems and maximize opportunities.

But, its not just jobs now, but in the future too. The World Economic Forum Future of Jobs report suggests that the top 3 skills needed in 2020 will be complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity.

5. Why Do Organisations Need Creativity?

In a range of studies running for more than a decade, The Accenture Institute for High Performance found that the highest performing companies in the world encourage staff at every level to solve problems to make things new and better.

According to the PwC Workforce of the Future survey, Three-quarters or more of people around the world are happy to say they have soft skills with adaptability, problem-solving, creativity and innovation, and collaboration skills scoring highest. This seems to be good news as these skills will be in high demand as humans work alongside technology, including automation and AI, in the future. The report asks - but are people really as readily adaptable as they claim?

The good news from the survey was that three-quarters of people said they were ‘ready to learn new skills or completely re-train in order to remain employable in the future’ and it seems that people are generally happy to take learning into their own hands with seventy-four percent of people globally agreeing it is their own responsibility to update their skills rather than relying on an employer.

Critically, the report adds - the good news for CEOs is that the soft skills they’re looking for – including problem-solving, creativity and innovation, leadership, and adaptability – are the most frequently claimed skills by the survey participants

6. Is Creativity a Strategic Priority?

In PwC’s 20th CEO survey they were asked about which skills were important and which were hard to find. Soft skills were in high demand: problem‑solving, creativity and innovation, leadership and adaptability were identified as today’s skills battleground.

Why? Because creative ideas drive not only winning new products, services and processes, but winning business models and strategies too.

7. Can Creativity be Trained?

Research studies have shown that creativity can be trained.

Scott, Leritz & Mumford (2004) found that creativity training programmes produced improvements on everything from attitudes towards the importance of creativity at work through to improvements in job performance.

8. What is the Best Way to Train People to be Creative?

Training colleagues to be more creative is like teaching people to ride a horse or swing a golf club – you need to learn it by doing, not through reading a book.

I train leaders and colleagues to be more creative by sharing my 5 key principles for creativity and innovation, identifying a real challenge and then working on the challenge in diverse groups whilst applying some powerful, but simple creative problem-solving tools and techniques.

We learn approaches like The Kipling Method to gain insight, Picturestorming to develop “The Big Idea”, Attribute Listing to work up creative details and Dot Voting to help sensitively and rapidly evaluate options.

The key is to learn the right behaviors, the right tools and gain the confidence to have a try.

9. What Are the Biggest Barriers to Creativity at Work?

At the level of the individual the biggest barrier is that many people do not see themselves as creative – they are, and they have much to contribute.

In teams, the barrier is often a failure to embrace diversity, create a supportive atmosphere and the day-to-day know-how of what approaches to use during a team brainstorming session.

In organizations, there are many cultural issues that can undermine creativity. Often organizations need to genuinely value creativity and innovation, to encourage wider collaboration and be more open to intelligent risk-taking.

10. How Do You Build a Culture of Creativity?

Creativity provides the ideas that allow for innovation. So how do we build a culture of creativity?

This requires matching bottom-up processes with top-down processes.

Top-down processes are the formal practices that help to form the culture. Mission, vision, values, etc.,

Organisations are normally very good at including creativity and innovation in their mission, vision and values but do not match these top-down approaches with bottom-up, grass roots creativity development.

To match the mission and vision from the top, individuals and teams need to be supported and trained to develop their creativity skills. In a recent research report, we have highlighted 25 ways that governments (and companies) can develop the culture, leadership and supporting practices that will build a creative climate. The key is to understand that it is a mix of different strategies that will develop a creative organization – there is no single quick-fix.

Dr Mark Batey is a creativity, innovation and leadership specialist at The University of Manchester.

Please browse through our website to know more about the courses that we offer.