What is Organisational Creativity and How Valuable is it to Your Organisation? (Part 1)

When someone says creativity, what do you think of first? Do you immediately think of artists, musicians, dancers, or writers?  If you were asked what you thought about the role of creativity in your organisation, would it fill you with anticipation or fill you with dread?  Do you have creativity as a core competency? Do you only associate it with start-ups and your ‘design’ teams?  What if someone suggested creativity could have a key role in your boardroom?

If that’s a stretch, try thinking about it from a slightly different angle. How do you intend to grow and remain competitive in an ever evolving, increasingly volatile, and rapidly accelerating world? Would you consider using creativity to help you achieve and retain a competitive edge?

Part of the answer to that question probably depends on how you define creativity in an organisational setting.

When first embarking on this blog, we investigated the work of academic researchers on creativity including,  Dr. Teresa Amabile of Harvard University and Dr. Robert Sternberg of Cornell University. We combined this with our own experiences of working with leaders and teams and concluded that those leaders and teams that encourage and value creativity are more successful when faced with increasingly complex and uncertain times.

However, we found that some of the business executives that we talked to struggled with the concept of creativity becoming key to business success. Some thought we were talking about innovation, others thought creativity was just for designers. We also found that many people in business have an unconscious bias against creativity according to the research of Dr. Jennifer Mueller of the University of San Diego.

Clearly, we have more to do to help organisations understand what today’s definition of creativity really means. For the purpose of this blog series, we like to refer to a simple definition of creativity as, “the production of ideas or outcomes that are both novel and appropriate to some goal.” In addition we particularly like Gartner's definition of innovation as the, “implementation of ideas that create business value” and finally we will talk about Organisational Creativity as ‘creativity for everyone in the workplace.’

Creativity = production of novel and useful ideas

Innovation = ideas + execution (e.g. creativity + execution)

Research from The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2020 creativity will be the 3rd most important job skill after critical thinking and complex problem solving. Also, they suggest that to compete you will need to be innovative.  Innovation requires ideas, and ideas are born from creativity.  Without ideas innovation cannot be achieved.  You might have process improvements or next generation products, but you will not truly innovate and compete without ideas and ideas can no longer be limited to a small group of ‘creatives and researchers’ as has historically been the case.

As we live through the 4th industrial revolution, more and more organisations are investing heavily in R&D and innovation.  Some are purchasing ideas and innovation through start-ups, freelancers and consultancies.  On the flip side, some are not investing in new ideas or innovation at all and remain focussed on the analytical side of the P&L. Unfortunately, they will not survive.

Organisational Survival = Organisational Creativity + Innovation

Thinking about how to bring this to life, research points us to being more creative when around creative people.  With this in mind, how will you identify where creativity sits within your organisation so that you can unlock it to better flow? A few ideas:

  • Start by asking your people where they perceive your creativity to sit, and what they think could be holding it back from being valued across the organisation? With the acceleration of workforce analytics you could go further and dig into the data.
  • Once you have identified your blockers, you can work on how to unleash creativity to funnel your innovation initiatives, organisational effectiveness, and growth strategy. Through this simple exercise you could realise what a gold mine of opportunities you’ve had tucked away incubating for some time.  If you believe that you are already doing this, take the time to ask yourself if you are being fully inclusive of all of your workforce who want to be involved.

In our next blog of this series we explore how to get your organisation ready to embrace organisational creativity.