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The Intelligence of Being Creative

creativity, company, workplace, talent, intelligence creative

It’s war out there.

The combatants: personnel executives. The battle field: local and international companies. The object of discord: creative geniuses. Yes, there’s a new kind of war being fought and organizations everywhere has a name for it: war for talents.

Companies are competing in a world of economic and technological change that is moving faster than ever. The ability to adapt and to make decisions quickly in situations of high uncertainty is critical. To succeed, they urgently need people who are creative. But too often, they can’t find these elusive, gifted people.

Beyond the traditional setup

The problem is part of a global, creative crisis. In the book Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative (Capstone Publishing, 2001) by Dr. Ken Robinson, the author explains that creativity is not limited to advertising but must be recognized and nurtured across every organization if it is to achieve its fullest potential.

The book also offers answers to three questions that are now vitally important for all companies:

Why is it essential to promote creativity?
Why is it necessary to develop creativity?
What is involved in promoting creativity?

Most companies keep their creatives in a separate department and this is especially seen in advertising agencies. They’re the people who wear jeans because they feel they are more comfortable with it. They’re the ones who come in late because they assert that they should not be restricted by regular office hours. Most importantly, they are the ones who are paid more and are given greater reign over their actions.

It is crucial for companies to look and act beyond this traditional setup. They must remember that everyone has creative capacities and these are the most important resource that they can have. Therefore, harnessing creativity among employees calls for a culture of innovation across the whole organization and not only in the creative department.

Churning out un-creatives

But first, what is creativity really? According to Dr. Robinson, it is the process of generating ideas that are original and of value in their line of work. If we’re serious about developing creativity, the first step is to recognize its diversity and individuality. An accountant can be creative. A secretary can be creative. Yes, oh yes…an office messenger can be creative.

The dilemma that companies are in can be traced to the problem that originates from our schools and universities: blind obsession with academic prowess. Our educational institutions keep churning out diplomas and sending graduates to the battlegrounds. And companies willingly take them in with the hope that the infusion of new blood will translate to winning the war (read: business success).

But university or college degrees are not designed to make people creative. They are designed to do other things and they often do them well. For this, degrees are not bad per se, in fact they are necessary to prepare future workers for needed skills in the office or field. The flaw lies on the lack of program that would identify and reward creativity. This culture prevalent in the educational system spills over to the corporate world.

Preoccupation with academic ability has led to an incalculable waste of human talent and resources. People with strong academic abilities often fail to discover their other strengths while those of lesser academic ability may have other potent capacities that lie dormant. All these because of a disjointed educational system and manpower management.

Find your medium

The plain fact is that human intelligence is complex and multifaceted. No amount of education can truly maximize its potential. The least a school or company can do is nurture and utilize a person’s natural abilities to a competent level. But why stop there? Why not go for that creative level—where sparks fly and ideas are born to fuel the company? Who knows, history may also be in the making.

Obviously, creativity doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is only possible where human intelligence is actively engaged and it doesn’t matter what line of work you’re in. Real creativity comes from finding your medium. When people find their medium, they can discover their creative strengths. If this isn’t the case, would we hear familiar complaints like: “I hate my job!”, “My company doesn’t know what I can do best.” or “Why should I put in more hours?!”?

Alas, highly able and creative people can be turned away from companies or lost in them because their qualifications tell the wrong story. Indeed, many people work with their minds in neutral mode because their real abilities aren’t engaged by the work they do or by the roles they’re given.

Guideposts for harnessing creativity

Identifying creative talents is not simply a matter of conducting a formal test. There are no general rules that provide a reliable picture of a person’s creativity. The range and subtlety of individual creative ability combined with the many factors that motivate or suppress it mean inevitably that any formal test can give only the roughest guide.

There is no substitute for putting people in situations where their abilities can be at their peak performances or where hidden talents are brought to the fore. To harness creativity, there are three priorities that companies should take in consideration: facilitate the culture, blur boundaries, and loosen expectations.

Facilitating the “Culture”

Training individuals is not enough. Many employees have been sent on two- or three-day courses to develop their skills in various ways. These experiences can be very worthwhile and enjoyable for employees. They may even find themselves wanting to take that nagging MBA. But more often than not, they come back to the same job and find the company unchanged.

Developing a culture of creativity involves more than motivating employees. It means energizing the whole organization. There are several ways to facilitate a culture of creativity and one of the best (but the hardest to implement) is to provide the employees with financial security. A happy earner is a productive worker.

Blurring boundaries

Creative insights often occur by making connections between ideas that were previously unconnected. Indeed, creativity is also defined as the joining together of seemingly unrelated ideas to create a fresh and original insight and hopefully a solution to a problem.

The best creative teams are therefore often a combination of specialists in different fields or departments. By bringing down the walls that kept them apart and prevented dynamic communication, the company is paving the way for a truly free interaction where employees can learn new things from each other. This can be done by creating focused project teams to encourage experimentation and exchange of ideas.

Loosening expectations

Free flow of ideas is the basic building block of creativity. This happens most effectively in an atmosphere where the risk is encouraged and where failure is seen as part of the process of success. There’s nothing more effective in stifling creativity than frowning on the smallest mistake.

This happens because of the tendency of companies to “short-termism”, meaning setting out business goals which must be achieved in a given short period of time. As businesses compete in increasingly aggressive markets, budgets for experimental research and blue skies thinking and long-range development are being slashed in the interest of immediate returns and instant results. The effect is drying up the wellsprings of creativity on which long-term success ultimately depends.

While common sense suggests that to win the “war for talents” is to rob the competitors of resources (creative manpower), a better strategy is to recognize the abundance of untapped potential within the company. Human talent is not in short supply, the more companies realize this simple truth, the better off they will be. The limitations are in how we acknowledge and develop it. In the future as in the past, the company that make the most of their people and reward them will attract people who will make most of the company and reward it with business success.
Published: 2006-04-15
Author: Royce Ambrocio

About the author or the publisher
The author has been writing professionally for 10 years now across various industries: TV, print, advertising, and online commerce. He has done scripts for TV, feature articles in magazines and newspapers and copywriting for consumer, tranport and service companies.

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