“Creativity enables a culture of innovation”
Sir Ken Robinson, 2011
While my interests are focused on building personal creative capacity and the individual and workplace factors that influence these, it is useful to go back to first principles.
I agree with the notion that creativity is understood to be on a spectrum that begins with imagination as it progresses to innovation.
In rethinking the importance of creativity, Robinson (2011) notes it’s important to be clear about creativity and these related ideas. “Imagination … is the process of bringing to mind things that are not present to our senses; creativity …is the process of developing original ideas that have value; and innovation … is the process of putting new ideas into practice”.
Giugni (2001) reiterates the importance in the business sector claiming “more and more, imagination and creativity are becoming critical for business success… it is only those businesses which encourage creativity, and which can take advantage of it better than their competitors, that will survive… return on investment will result from nurturing imagination and creativity”.
So what is creativity?
While the processes and activities of creativity and innovation are similar they do require an understanding of different approaches. Amabile (1997) defines creativity as a process that can be developed and managed with the aim to generate products, services and solutions. Shalley and Gilson (2004) note that innovation refers to the implementation of ideas, whereas creativity may examine unknown areas to find unique problem solving approaches or novel ways of performing a task and link ideas from multiple sources. Amabile (2004) reinforces the need to commit adequate attention to creativity given it is an essential first step to the innovation process. Many studies don’t distinguish between idea generation and implementation and how these ideas can be realised. Baer (2012) notes the conversion of ideas to actual innovations is one of the central problems in the research on innovation and that the factors that can shape the relationship between creativity and idea implementation still remain largely unknown.
What creativity is not
A growing chorus are demystifying how companies can generate new and creative ideas that will assist to solve the complex problems facing our society. Campbell’s (1960) historic evolutionary model of creativity argued that it wasn’t a mysterious process performed by only brilliant individuals (Shalley and Zhou, 2008). Both Ashton (2015) and Burkus (2014) recount examples of historic heroic myths that have conveniently shaped and limited the way we think about creativity, adding our attachment to these myths hinders our creative potential. Burkus (2014) concludes that we’re all creative, but that creativity is a complex and multidisciplinary process and that the secret to innovation lies in the ability to effectively navigate the creative process.