Creativity and Work

Article excerpt

Creativity and Work

Once thought to be a favored and fevered state known only to artists and Einsteins, creativity today is regarded as a practical workplace tool. As a way of using the mind to improve ideas, it is turning up in the content of training programs across the country. Companies use creativity training for a broad range of purposes from simple problem solving to achieving major change. And individuals are using creativity techniques to rethink their jobs and lives and how to connect the two.

This month's "Four by Four" contributors were asked to comment on creativity and work and to recommend ways of being more creative at work. Their different approaches to the topic show that creativity at work involves much more than the ability to do things in imaginative or original ways. For these experts, creativity is a deliberate process, even a way of life.

All four of this month's experts know the creative process firsthand. Two are painters, one is a composer, and the fourth is the author of a bestseller (The Creative Edge). But in spite of having creativity in common, they have very individual systems for applying it at work.

For William Miller, author of The Creative Edge, creativity is a matter of deciding how to apply discretionary energy to work. Miller's approach is that of a guide. His practical view is that anyone can be creative, from anywhere in the corporate hierarchy, as an individual or as part of a team. He specializes in combining a personal approach to creativity with a systematic approach to organizational innovation.

For Robert Fritz, creativity is the path of least resistance. That's the title of his latest book, published in paperback last month by Ballantine. His "technology for creating" is a clear system for bringing results into being. He attacks the notion that creativity is just problem solving--a technique he sees being falsely sold to organizations under the name of creativity. He promotes the creative tradition as it has been practiced in the arts for hundreds of years.

For David M. Campbell, a painter and professor of art turned executive developer, creativity is a set of skills for visualizing the context or the "why" of critical business issues. Campbell, who has a PhD in perception, approaches creativity the same way the brain does: by organizing information into patterns that make sense of our world. In his visual demonstration workshops, people learn through reproducing simple models, to rethink the patterns of their companies and their work.

For Bonnie Durrance, a producer of multiscreen shows for museums and artists, creativity is being ready when "the envelope comes under the door." A specialist in producing shows with high creative expectations and short deadlines, her recommendations cover ways to work effectively with your muse as well your clients.

We're beginning to feel a resurgence of "I can make a difference." For most people the important pieces of that feeling are "what are my values or what is it about me that can make a difference" and "how can I put that into work?" To make a difference you have to do something that expresses your uniqueness.

One of the limitations that we put on creativity in organizations is to classify it as a thinking skill. My experience and research have led me to define creativity in the corporation as however we bring uniqueness and freshness into our work. That could be a new product or a new way of doing work but it could also be the way we handle relationships or deal with our physical work environment. It could be the way we produce an event such as a training program. A broad definition of creativity allows more people to play.

I've identified four styles of how people foster creativity and change in their lives and their work. My classification of innovation leadership styles is based on research from the Stanford Research Institute, combined with research from England on creativity styles, and knowledge of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. …