“The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”
- Albert Einstein
Creativity can be defined as ‘the ability to produce work that is both novel and appropriate’ (Sternburg, 2006). By its very nature an innovative organisation is seeking to develop something ‘new’ and the challenge for every company globally is to be ‘ahead of the game’. Innovative products are the key to keeping a business or organisation fresh and at the core of this lies creative design and thinking. This is why a company may actively hunt out creatively- thinking people or those who can solve existing problems in a novel way, in the hope that these skills are transferrable in their line of business. “Creativity” and “innovation” are often used interchangeably for that reason, but are two separate concepts. Innovation relates to "a new idea, creative thoughts, new imaginations in form of device or method" (Miriam-Webster, 2016). Innovation is application of better solutions that meet new needs or provide better outcomes for existing needs (Maranville, 1992).
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In 1974, E.Paul Torrance produced the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT), to assess creative ability and talent in a person. These tests remain to this day, the most widely used valuation of creativity, and are employed in recruitment processes of many organisations. These tests were split into two subsets- Figural (TTCT-F) and Verbal (TTCT-V). In the TTCT-F the responses are sketched and made up of three activities; constructing a picture, completing a partially drawn picture and repeated figures. In the case of form A, these repeated figures are lines while in form B they are circles. It was found that TTCT-F is the most frequently used assessment of creativity (Plucker,Renzulli, 1999), while also being the most accurate predictor of creative thinking following a meta-analysis study (Kim, 2008b). TTCT-V responses are comprised of six activities. The candidate is given a picture and he or she must respond to the picture orally or through writing. The candidates’ responses are scored on the basis of;
‘Fluency’ is quantified by the number of relevant ideas to the picture drawn. ‘Originality’ corresponds to how unusual or abstract the ideas invented are, while ‘Flexibility’ relates to how varied the responses are (Kim, 2006a).
Creatively minded people have the ability to see the bigger picture and can draw connections between events or trends that seem unrelated. This is great for would-be employer as these individuals may identify ‘gaps’ in the market for certain products or be able to spot trends in sales before their competitors. Creative persons are often more motivated by their work, creating a busy, encouraging environment. This can have a positive effect on other employees making them work ‘better’ or more effectively.
However, creativity can have its negative aspects. Many businesses can find the more creative-thinkers harder to manage due to their innate desire not to conform. Creative individuals find it difficult to suppress irrelevant thoughts and inappropriate ideas. They also tend to have poorer control of impulses and are said to be more narcissistic than their colleagues, thus making management and cooperation within a business more challenging (Chamorro-Premuzic, 2020).
In addition, it is true a large correlation exists between creativity and mood disorders, specifically manic-depressive disorder (also known as bipolar disorder) and major depressive disorder (MDD).This theory was explored in Kay Redfield Jamison’s work ‘Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament’. The book comprises of summaries of the studies carried out on the mood-disorder prevalence in famously creative writers, poets, artists and composers. One such example is the writer Ernest Hemingway who committed suicide following electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or electrotherapy. For those affected with such mental disorders, the busy and often stressful work environments may not be ideal possibly negatively affecting and obstruct the production of innovative and creative ideas as suggested by psychologist Robert Epstein (Epstein,2000)
Despite their flaws, creative persons are highly desirable within industry specifically in the innovation departments. It has been theorised that creativity can be influenced by the person’s environment (Sternburg, 1988). A bad working environment will not stimulate creative ideas. This means that when launching novel products within the company, an individual can also be influenced by a range of circumstances, especially a company’s work ethic or policies. In recent times, there is a drive to foster creativity in the workplace. A variety of techniques have been proposed by researchers within the psychology and cognitive fields. Some of these include;
- Establishing purpose and intention
- Encouraging acquisitions of domain-specific knowledge
- Building basic skills
- Teaching techniques and strategies for facilitating creative performance
- Stimulating and rewarding curiosity and exploration
- Building motivation, especially internal motivation
- Promoting supportable beliefs about creativity
- Encouraging confidence and a willingness to take risks
- Providing opportunities for choice and discovery
- Focusing on mastery and self-competition
- Developing self-management (metacognitive skills)
- Providing balance (Nickerson,1999)
Creativity is what fuels big ideas and tests employees’ way of thinking, while introducing new business opportunities. The ability to think creatively is vital in any innovative business in terms of staying competitive and prolonging longevity of the company. There are challenges to employing creatively minded individuals however; the positives largely outweigh the negative aspects. Creativity and imagination must be promoted from an early age and throughout education in order to cultivate these fresh, ‘out-of-the-box’ ideas in adult life.
Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2020) The Dark Side of Creativity, Harvard Business Review, Available at: https://hbr.org/2015/11/the-dark-side-of-creativity [Accessed 12 Feb. 2020].
Epstein, R. (2000).’The Big Book of Creativity games.’ New York: McGraw-Hill
Kim, K. H. (2006a). Can we trust creativity tests? A review of The Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT). Creativity Research Journal, 18, 3-14.
Kim, K. H. (2008b). Meta-analyses of the relationship of creative achievement to both IQ and divergent thinking test scores. Journal of Creative Behavior, 42, 106-130
Maranville, S. (1992). "Entrepreneurship in the Business Curriculum". Journal of Education for Business. 68: 27–31.
Nickerson, R.S (1999) ‘Enhancing creativity’. In R.J. Sternburg (ed.) Handbook of Creativity, Cambridge University Press
Plucker, J. A., &Renzulli, J. S. (1999). Psychometric approaches to the study of human creativity. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), Handbook of creativity (pp. 35-61). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Sternburg, R.J (1988) ‘Mental self-government: A theory of intellectual styles and their development’, Human Development, 31, 197-224
Sternburg, R.J (2006) ‘The Nature of Creativity’, Creativity Research Journal, 87-98
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