The Great Disconnect Between Creativity and Application
By Jeffrey Baumgartner
CEO: We need to hire creative people.
Jeffrey: That's great! But, why?
CEO: They are the future of our organisation!
Jeffrey: Brilliant! But, why are they so important to your future?
CEO: They have creative ideas
Jeffrey: So I've heard. But why do you need their creative ideas?
CEO: Because the business world is changing fast. We need creative people!
Jeffrey: Indeed it is, but why exactly do you need creative people.
CEO: [Dramatically looks at watch] Oh my gosh! Look at the time. I've gotta run. It's been great talking to you!
And this, dearest reader, is a big problem with creativity in the business and businesslike world today. Bosses exclaim they need creative people, but but they are not clear about exactly why they are needed. They insist their businesses must be more creative, but are unable to explain how or by what process. It is as if they believe creativity is a magic potion that will make the company grow, keep the employees happy and ensure shareholders are rolling in money, happily ever after.
This is a commonplace problem with buzzwords. We get so caught up in the buzz, we fail to think about the application. So, let's change that. Let's consider the application of creativity in terms of process and people.
The creative processes in many organisations fail to address the application of creativity. Brainstorms are about generating lots of ideas rather than actually solving problems. Idea management implementations are usually designed to capture and imprison ideas rather than apply those ideas. Crowdsourcing platforms simply invite the public to suggest even more ideas with even less thought to application. In fact, if you want a useful crowdsourcing platform, do not ask the public to suggest ideas for you to implement; invite them to suggest ideas that they can implement themselves.
Likewise hiring creative employees because you need creative employees, but then failing to direct them to goals towards which they should apply that creativity is like hiring athletes and then expecting them to sit behind desks staring at computer screens because some business guru said businesses should hire athletes. It is a waste and sure path to frustration for the employees and their managers.
Creativity needs a purpose. It needs to be applied to something.
Do not hire creative people because, by golly, you need creative people. Hire creative people to apply their creativity towards specific and realistic goals. Focus on the goals and problems that demand creative action rather than the creativity itself. Then hire people who can use their creativity to help you achieve those goals in novel ways.
Need to improve a product? Do not waste time with a brainstorm that will leave you with 100s of ideas and the same product. Tell your creative people to redesign the product and give them materials or toys or pens and paper or whatever they need to redesign. Tell them how crazy they can get and let them do it!
Do you want to deliver phenomenal customer service? Hire an ex-art teacher who spent a year living in Tibet, who acts in the local theatre group as a pastime and who spews out crazy-creative ideas during her job interview. She'll come up with all kinds of ways to make your customer service is legendary − if you let her. And you must let her.
Are you involved in a complex negotiation that is not quite working because there is too much distance between your terms and the other party's? Have your creative thinkers devise an alternative win-win proposal that makes everyone happy. Then propose it.
That, my friend, is the trick. You do not hire accountants because you need people who are good with numbers. You hire them to do accounting. You do not hire sales people because you need people with great sales skills. You hire them to sell. So, do not hire creative people because you need creativity. Hire them to be creative. Specifically creative.
Then, when you need creative new products, services, negotiation strategies or anything else, do not just seek ideas. Seek the applications. Once this becomes habit, you will find that your organisation becomes increasingly creative and innovative. Ideas will no longer be imprisoned in idea management software databases, but will be free to improve every facet of your organisation!
If you are not sure how to move forward with my suggestion of applying creativity, I have another suggestion: apply a little creativity to devise ways to apply creativity.
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