Many organisations shy away from activities related to creativity because it can often feel difficult to pin down. Often, many associate being creative with working in the arts or picture a free-spirited, ripped-jean wearing millennial daydreaming their way through the day, but this isn’t necessarily an accurate representation of what creativity means.
These misconceptions contribute to an unwillingness to engage with creativity as you would any other element of your organisation. If you wanted to work on building productivity, you wouldn’t do so without key performance indicators (KPIs) and keeping track of how many manpower hours were invested in a specific outcome. If you wanted to manage a new project, you wouldn’t do so without assigning responsibilities, setting deadlines and employing methods for tracking progress.
Although creativity arguably presents different challenges, there is no reason that it should be treated differently from other organisational processes like those mentioned above. By seeking a better way to define, encourage and ultimately measure creativity, organisations can begin to deconstruct the myth that creativity isn’t for everyone.
1. FIND A DEFINITION THAT WORKS FOR YOU
While standard dictionary definitions define creativity as ‘the use of imagination or original ideas to create something,’ finding a definition that suits the needs of your organisation is integral before starting out encouraging and measuring creativity.
According to Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, psychologist and author of The Talent Delusion, creativity, like talent, is context-dependent. While most people believe the simple solution to instilling creativity in your organisation is simply to employ creative people, the question of which type of creative people your organisation needs is trickier.
Chamorro-Premuzic points to footballer Lionel Messi as an example, explaining that while he has won many titles with his club Barcelona, he hasn’t won a single trophy with his home team Argentina. What this shows, according to Chamorro-Premuzic, is that often people’s talents, personalities and skills are better suited to one kind of organisation than another.
The same can be said of knowing what kind of creativity you need for your organisation to succeed. Do you need someone to generate ideas for the rest of your team to work through? Do you need someone whose strength is problem solving and who is able to think outside the box to find creative solutions? Answering these questions, before moving on to the next steps of encouraging and measuring creativity, is vital if you are to make creativity work for you.
2. ACTIVELY ENCOURAGE CREATIVITY
Encouraging creativity can sometimes feel like a full time job in itself, but with some training for your team you can ensure that this doesn’t fall by the wayside when things get busy.
There are a number of ways you can encourage creativity. Marketing Donut has provided a helpful list, one of which is providing training for your team members in key problem solving skills such as lateral thinking. The idea of cross-fertilisation is also encouraged, in which team members are given the opportunity to undertake short-term job swaps and shadow in-house roles. This can be used as a means of introducing them to fresh perspectives and allowing them to understand the business more holistically.
For Management Today, when it comes to encouraging creativity ‘a central element to this is removing fear and empowering people to experiment.’ The article uses Edwin Catmull, the brains behind Pixar, as an example, noting that he ‘puts huge emphasis on developing a culture of candour so that staff can be open and honest with each other.’ By creating a regular peer review session focused on creative work in progress, ‘with rules to ensure that direct, constructive feedback is given’, each team member received useful feedback and the space to ‘find solutions themselves.’
3. USE EXISTING TECHNIQUES AS MEASUREMENT
According to Harvard Business Review (HBR) ‘at least part of the explanation for [the lack of engagement with creative thinking] is that people feel powerless when it comes to creativity. It’s not something they can really control or measure. And because of that, they feel that they can’t really manage it.’
Yet HBR argues this is not in fact the case. We know that creativity can be measured thanks to the work of Jonathan Plucker, a psychologist from Indiana University, who built on the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT). The TTCT tested individuals on their divergent thinking and problem solving skills based on four criteria, including the total number of interpretable and relevant ideas generated, the statistical rarity of the responses and the amount of detail in these responses. Matching the results of a 1972 TTCT test, conducted with a group of children, to the same people’s creative achievements as adults (through outputs like patents pended, articles published and awards), Plucker found the correlation to be three times stronger than the correlation between childhood IQ and adult creative output.
HBR argues that such research proves we have the tools needed to measure creativity, and that ‘the TTCT methodology can be adapted to assess the level of perceived creativity in a product or a process.’ With this in mind, HBR believes ‘we have the technology to find the linkages between creativity in persons, processes, or products and ‘hard’ business-related outcomes,’ if only we choose to do so. This requires a change in attitude to creativity, and a willingness to treat it as any other competency in your organisation.
By finding ways to define, encourage and measure creativity based on the needs of each organisation, as opposed to relying on outdated blanket terms that lack nuance, we can begin to deconstruct the myths surrounding creativity that leave many scratching their heads about where to start. If you’re looking for some support when starting out on your creativity journey, take a look at our workshops here.
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