Exploiting Your Creative Resources

Article excerpt

Innovation. It's a cornerstone of any successful business -- the skill that makes the difference between adapting to a changing market or joining the ranks of the obsolete.

But innovation requires creativity. And that's a problem for many businesses where the industrial model, which says there's a set way to respond to each specific problem, is still king.

So how can companies encourage worker creativity? That's where Kathy Goff, founder of McGoff Creativity, thinks she can help. Goff, a creativity consultant, has developed a test that can identify a worker's creative abilities and help remold the company structure to take advantage of those strengths through development of creative talent.

Goff insists that everyone has a creative streak.

"Everyone has creativity; it's a part of everybody's life because everybody has to figure out answers to problems that you've never faced before," she said. "And when you have to do that you have to be creative."

Goff, joined by co-author Dr. E. Paul Torrence of the University of Georgia, has developed a creativity test that can identify four components of a test subject's creative ability: fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration.

"To our knowledge, it's the only creativity assessment for adults that's on the market," Goff said.

The Scholastic Testing Service publishes the test.

Once the test has identified the components of a person's creativity and the degree of ability in each area, that employee can be grouped with people whose strengths complement his or her own, making better use of the company's talent pool, Goff said.

In addition, Goff provides a compact disk of activities that help employees develop the four components of their creativity. Those activities can be conducted at an individual's own pace.

To aid the process, Goff also conducts workshops that help foster the creative process in a company. Those sessions help participants experience the skills of personal and collective creativity through hands-on experience, Goff said. The sessions also focus on the development of business strategies that encourage creativity.

The McGoff Creativity packet, which includes a book and compact disc, costs $150, with one packet provided per person. That cost includes the expense of scoring the tests.

The price of Goff's workshops varies based on the length of the workshop and the number of people involved.

The test itself, which involves three activities, can be completed in as little as nine minutes, Goff said. Scholastic can grade and return the test within a week to 10 days.

The time involved in the total process varies from company to company, depending on the amount of training desired and the number of employees involved. Goff said that within three eight-hour training periods, she can "significantly impact" the creativity of company workers.

Goff said her service helps business owners foster a more "tolerant" atmosphere for creative people, helping those entrepreneurs determine "ways that people with creative ideas can contribute."

"Businesses, they're interested in creativity but they really don't know how to go about it," she said.

By providing tests that clarify creative ability, Goff said, "it becomes a lot more clear as to what's needed for people in order to do creative kinds of things."

An important component in nurturing creativity in the workplace is to increase the rewards for creativity while limiting the penalties, Goff said.

"There's a lot of failure involved in being creative. But that failure, if it's gonna be penalized, people aren't gonna do it," she said. "So we have to figure out a way so that taking chances and taking risks can be rewarded."

She said businesses should offer bonuses, time off or other benefits to employees who develop creative solutions to problems. …