I read somewhere that the best test for creativity in business was simply to ask “are you creative?” So I tried it. And for the majority of people it seemingly proved true. The people that we all see as creative (designers, PowerPoint gurus, out of the box thinkers) said yes; and the planners, project managers, sales people said no. So I naively believed it to be true.
Then a few recent articles got me thinking more clearly. Namely Sir Ken Robinson’s speech at TED and Mike Wagner’s post on drawing a picture. These guys really cemented something that my 2 year old daughter teaches me every time I watch her play. We’re all creative. We all have boundless imaginations. We always have. Unfortunately our educational system has progressively worked that aspect our being out of us since about the third grade. No educational system on the planet puts as much emphasis on creativity as they do logic. Think about the number of math and science classes you took versus the arts and humanities. Not that logic is bad. In fact, it’s a critical element of who we are. It’s just over balanced compared to creativity.
I believe the lack of creativity is slowly killing business. It’s what’s driving everything to a commodity price-driven market. Without creative thinking how will the engineering team discover the next breakthrough product? How will the marketing team break out and stand above a crowded market place. Creativity isn’t solely the realm of designers and ad agencies. That’s what I love about Mike Wagner’s post. He asks the people in his seminar to draw a picture. Doesn’t matter what – just draw what comes to mind. Initially most people struggle with it. Imagine your finance person on this task – they’ll hate it. And why not, we’ve had decades of structured learning that tells us to ignore our creative side and to only focus on the logical. Mike tells a great story of a woman beginning to weep when she discovered she was just as creative now as when she was a little girl.
Creativity isn’t just associated with art. It does not equal wild and crazy. It doesn’t equal foolishness. When you hear “out of the box thinking”; that’s the call to creativity. It’s coming up with a new approach. It’s daring to think differently. After all, isn’t that what we’re paid to do? If everyone has the same view, the same ideas, the same approach, the same results then why are all of us still here?
To succeed in business is to be creative in your role (obviously Sarbanes-Oxley looks down at creative financial reporting – and for good reason). Growth in business demands creativity. It is what will separate you from the competition. As humans we’re trained to only notice what’s different in our environment, in other words, being different is the best way to raise awareness.
The lack of creativity across the board is hurting your brand. It’s hurting your profitability. It’s hurting your employees. Creativity isn’t a special gift – we’re all born with it. It never leaves, it’s just hiding. Look for ways you can let the two year old inside come out and play.
Nick is the co-author of "The Age of Conversation", an Expert Blogger for Fast Company magazine, and authors an AdAge Power150 blog on the topic of marketing and branding.
Download his free report, "7 Principles of Attracting More Clients," at www.nick-rice.com