Thursday, September 28, 2006

Busting the myths surrounding business creativity

Myth #1 Creativity Comes From Creative Types

The fact is, nearly all the research in this field shows that anyone with normal intelligence is capable of doing some creative work. Creativity depends on a number of things: experience, including knowledge and technical skills; talent; an ability to think in new ways; and the capacity to push through uncreative dry spells. Intrinsic motivation -- people who are turned on by their work often work creatively -- is especially critical.

Myth #2 Money Is a Creativity Motivator

Research shows that people put far more value on a work environment where creativity is supported, valued, and recognised. People want the opportunity to deeply engage in their work and make real progress. It is therefore critical for managers to match people to projects not only on the basis of their experience but also in terms of where their interests lie. People are most creative when they care about their work and they are being stretched.

Myth #3 Time Pressure Fuels Creativity

People are least creative when they are racing the clock. Actually, you may find that there are 'after effects' -- when people are working under great pressure, their creativity is likely to go down not only on that day but the following day or two days also. Time pressure stifles creativity because people can't deeply engage with the problem. Creativity requires an incubation period; people need time to soak in a problem and let the ideas bubble up.

Myth #4 Fear Forces Breakthroughs

A US research project coded 12,000 diary entries for the degree of fear, anxiety, sadness, anger, joy, and love that people were experiencing on a given day. They found that creativity is positively associated with joy and love and negatively associated with anger, fear, and anxiety. The entries showed that people are happiest when they come up with a creative idea, but they're more likely to have a breakthrough if they were happy the day before. When people are excited about their work, there's a better chance that they'll make a cognitive association that incubates overnight and shows up as a creative idea the next day. One day's happiness often predicts the next day's creativity!

Myth #5 Competition Beats Collaboration

Creativity takes a hit when people in a work group compete instead of collaborate. The most creative teams are those that have the confidence to share and debate ideas. But when people compete for recognition, they stop sharing information. And that's destructive because nobody in an organisation has all of the information required to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.

Myth #6 A Streamlined Organisation Is a Creative Organisation

Creativity suffers greatly during a downsizing or restructuring. But it's often worse than many of us realise. A 6,000-person division of a global electronics company experienced a 25% downsizing, which lasted a painful 18 months. Every single one of the stimuli of creativity in the work environment was significantly reduced. Anticipation of the downsizing was worse than the downsizing itself -- people's fear of the unknown led them to basically disengage from the work. More troubling was the fact that five months after the downsizing, creativity was still significantly reduced.

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