People believe funny things about creativity. That it’s the province of artists and geniuses. That you’re either born with it or you’re not. That creative people work alone. That creativity can’t be taught; only envied.
One definition of creativity calls it “the awareness, observation, imagination, conceptualization, and rearrangement of existing elements to generate new ideas.”
Ug — thesis-speak.
Creativity is just doing something that hasn’t been done before.
There are creative people in comedy. Medical research. Music. Drug discovery. Writing. Tuning cellos. Making bread. Teaching toddlers.
Diplomat Richard Holbrooke had creativity in spades.
How Do You Recognize Creative People?
How do you recognize creative people? They’re the. Who are always doodling. The ones doing things other people consider silly or pointless.
Most of them get such a kick out of what they do they’d do it for free.
Of course, being creative doesn’t guarantee success, and creativity has its costs. You have to be prepared to fail before you succeed. You have to be prepared for people to laugh.
Creativity is risky – your idea may go nowhere if not enough people see value in it. (Even Alexander Graham Bell had trouble selling the telephone.)
Some Have Blind Spots
And creative people can have blind spots.
Mark Twain, perhaps the best writer America has ever produced, was such a dunce when it came to get-rich-quick schemes that he lost money in health food supplements and mens’ suspenders that were supposed to adjust themselves.
He passed on a chance to invest in the newly patented telephone, but threw $300,000 at a typesetting machine. It failed, superseded by the Linotype, and 10 years after he published Huck Finn he had to declare bankruptcy.
Is There Corporate Creativity?
Can people be creative in a company, or on a team? Companies like Google obviously think so. Google spends billions encouraging engineers be creative — and keeping them. Companies have set up internal “skunk works,” and have whole departments thinking up team building exercises.
A few workplaces actively encourage people to play, since play nurtures the improvisation it takes to innovate. I visited MIT’s Media Lab one day and saw a roomful of geeks building who knows what with Legos.
That’s all well and good, you say, but I sit in a cubicle all day writing code [or press releases], and when I’m not doing that I’m in endless meetings. Plus, my boss has the imagination of a gopher. Try being creative here.
Outlets For The Creative Urge
Millions in boring jobs find ways to be creative outside of work: playing in rock bands, cooking, or coaching kids soccer teams.
On the job, Seth Godin advises us to ask what we face are constraints — things that can’t be changed — or challenges — things we can work around. Creative people find ways to solve the challenges.
We can’t all write symphonies. But we can all develop ways to create. In fact, it’s essential to staying healthy. And when we do, said the ever-quotable Einstein, “Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.”
Do you consider yourself creative? Does your workplace encourage creativity? Comment below. If you liked this post, subscribe via RSS or Email – and click one of the links below.