The importance of creativity at work

Creativity at work gave us Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Steve Jobs’ iPhone, and Melanie Perkins’ free-to-use online design platform Canva.  

For us lesser mortals, such creative genius seems beyond reach. Yet we also overlook the fact that Leonardo da Vinci had many failed inventions, Steve Jobs’ Apple III was a failure, and the many rejections Melanie Perkins’ had to overcome before finally securing funding for her early-stage design start-up.  

As Seth Godin rightly defines it, “Creativity is failing repeatedly until you get something right.”

Meantime creativity continues to grow in relevance. It is described as a soft skill, a life skill, a leadership skill, and the ability to generate ideas and solutions that are original, novel, and useful. Creativity is so highly valued that it is regarded as the most in-demand skill needed by companies in these times.

With creativity fast becoming a ‘must-have’, it is a skill all workers need to learn to cultivate over time. To achieve this goal, it helps to break down creativity into different elements.

Robert Sternberg describes 5 components of creativity:

Expertise – this translates into having a well-developed knowledge base, which allows you to question why you do tasks in certain ways, why specific procedures are followed.

Imaginative thinking skills – the ability to make connections between different ideas and use those connections to visualize different perspectives and solve problems.

Venturesome personality - not being afraid of taking risks or deterred by obstacles, or to try different ways of doing things after observing the world around you.

Intrinsic motivation – enjoying the challenge of testing ideas to see if they work, and not being deterred by failure, but to continue finding the daily motivation to work on a problem, by adjusting and rethinking ideas until a solution is found.

Creative environment – refers to an environment that sparks support and creative ideas.  A space that promotes teamwork and networking with people from different backgrounds to inspire creative thinking.

The latter component is an organisation’s responsibility.  The first four will enable any individual seeking to become creative to look at things from a unique perspective, to find patterns, to make connections, and to find opportunities.

Granted, there is risk involved with being creative, but with the right motivation, the creative will want to try things that have not been done before.

Improving creativity at an individual level

For workers who are still dubious about how they can become more imaginative, venturesome, and motivated, the following are some tips for improving creativity skills in the workplace at an individual level:

1.       Work with different teams and don't limit yourself to being around only those you are more familiar with.

2.       Question the way you normally do things and see if they can be done differently or more efficiently.

3.       Read, write, and draw diagrams – expertise develops as you widen your horizons with newer perspectives.

4.       Implement changes to your lifestyle and environment – listen to music, sleep more, exercise, meditate, change your desk if possible.  

Erich Fromm defines creativity as requiring the courage to let go of certainties. Lifestyle changes are the first tentative steps in this direction.

Improving creativity at an organisational level

It is an organisation’s responsibility to foster a creative environment and implement organisational techniques to enhance the creativity of its employees. These are just 4 ways that this can be done:

1.       Promote brainstorming and idea elicitation – What better way is there to enable organisations to generate more and better ideas to tackle particular problems or meet particular challenges?  Welcome all ideas and suggestions and never say no.

2.       Have creative organizational structures in place – Not only should workers be encouraged to be creative but corresponding organisational structures should also be in place. Leadership should be democratic and participative. Job descriptions should encourage creativity, and management should strive to be less hierarchical.

3.       Recruiting for creativity – Selection processes assess prospective employees for creativity. 

4.       Team diversity sought – For the right idea, the right people and the right chemistry are essential.  

The right people are those who bring different perspectives, insights, and learning to a team. The right chemistry is achieved by ensuring that the team is performing well collectively, bringing together each individual's talents within the team.

Reaching the same heights of creativity as Vinci, Jobs, and Perkins may not be possible for all workers and in all places of work, but considering the current urgency to promote creativity in the workplace, the measures described above will create the right conditions for the first seeds of creativity to be sown in a soil that is fertile enough to allow them to germinate.

If you're looking for a place of work that promotes creativity in the workplace, search with us at Ceek! We match employers and employees based on values as well as skills, qualifications, and experience. If you're an employer, looking for creative thinkers to boost your organisation, get in touch with us here at Ceek to see how we can help your organisation grow.