Recent research and articles in the media have suggested that creativity is essential in the workplace.  It forms the basis for the number one strategic aim for companies the world over and is in crisis in our classrooms.  Yet, despite these stories, you might be left with the impression that little is being done to identify, assess or develop creative capacity.  Sadly, you would probably be right.

A recent survey of over 1500 CEO's from more than 60 countries and 30 industries has found that the most important trait for leaders now and in the future is creativity.  Creativity will allow companies to navigate through increasing complexity, invite disruptive innovation and adapt business models to new consumers and markets.  Another global survey has found that creativity and innovation are the number one strategic imperative of businesses.  Lastly, and perhaps of the greatest importance is the finding that creativity in our children is in decline. We are facing a Creativity Crisis.

In short...  CEO's believe creativity is essential. Organizations wish to focus on innovation, but this most crucial of human resources, creativity, is in an ever-dwindling supply.  However, creativity is not just essential for business, but for all of us in our everyday lives.  From finding new and useful ways of solving simple problems through to stretching our budgets whilst we face economic uncertainty.

I believe the time has come for us to take action.  To address the crisis and bring creativity to the fore once again.

But how?

I cannot possibly provide the solutions in a single blog post, but here are my top 5 suggestions for starters.  I would invite you all to comment and make suggestions so we can do something about the Creativity Crisis.  After all, the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

1.  Demystify the concept of creativity

Creativity is not just about great inventions, magnificent theories or the Arts.  It is not simply about painting, playing the banjo or wearing unusual clothing.  It is the process by which we find new and useful ways of doing things.  It is something that we all do everyday and is (or should be) part of all our jobs.

2.  Understand that it is not about how creative you are, but how you are creative.

We have a tendency to think of creative capacity as a binary state - you either have it or you don't.  Not true.  Some people may have a greater propensity towards originality, but we can all find new and useful ways of doing things.  In that spirit, it is time for us to understand how we approach being creative.  Self-awareness, either through self-reflection or the use of a psychometric measure can provide us with insight.  Once we can understand our natural style, strengths and weaknesses we can look to improve our creativity.  If you were going to make yourself a better tennis player, you would start with a diagnosis of your serve, forehand and backhand.  Then design a development programme that made the most of your strengths and addressed your shortcomings.  Coaching creativity should be no different.

3.  Start early

The process of understanding our natural approaches to being creative should start at school.  We should be challenged on the way we produce ideas, our approaches to incubating and cogitating about problems, the extent to which we are curious and ask questions and our comfort with the toleration of uncertainty (after all the world is a very uncertain place).  We should be prompted to explore what motivates us and where our passions lies.  Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we should be strongly encouraged to build our confidence in being creative.  Be it how we approach a challenge with creativity in mind, how we share ideas with one another or how we learn to put our ideas into practice.  For this shift in emphasis, we also need to move away from multiple-choice tests, the simple regurgitation of facts and short-answer essay questions.

4.  Recruit for creativity

In the the selection and recruitment process for organizations, I have repeatedly seen a drive to identify the most intelligent or the most efficient people.  Whilst these aptitudes are indubitably important.  We rarely seem to focus on finding creative people.  The research clearly demonstrates that the most intelligent people will not necessarily be the most creative.  Yet, at university and in the workplace this is what we focus on.

5.  Make creativity part of 'the way we do things around here'

There is often a tendency within companies to add the word "creativity" or "innovation" into the mission statement or the corporate values, but then go no further.  To maximise creativity at work we need to ensure the DNA of the company is aligned around the concept.  From mission and values, to selection, induction, development & training, reward & remuneration, ceremonies, rituals, the organizational structure, the physical layout of buildings and offices through to the corporate culture within which everything unfolds.  How often have you been encouraged to 'be creative', but are then only provided with praise or reward if everything works out perfectly first time?

If creativity is finding new and useful ways of working, then I do not believe there is a single company, industry or country that should not want to capitalise on our creative capacities.

Clearly we have a long way to go and here are some suggestions as to how we can approach the Creativity Crisis.

Now it is time for you to get creative...  What would you suggest?

Mark Batey CPsychol. PhD

is a Creativity Specialist at Manchester Business School, UK

For more insight and discussion... Join the Psychology of Creativity LinkedIn group

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