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April 20, 2014

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Creativity in the Workplace

Creativity is a powerful business tool. That was the premise of a workshop entitled “Creative Courage” that I attended last week. The workshop, given by Alex Raffi, creative director of Imagine Marketing, reminded the attendees how important creativity is within the workplace.

“We don’t grow into our creativity, we grow out of it,” Raffi contends. “We are all born creative, but over time our creativity is replaced by left-brain thinking, as we move through school and into the workplace.” For instance, think about the creativity of children. They continually express themselves in the best ways they know, through drawing and coloring. Raffi suggests that, as employers, we need to create an environment conducive to creativity; one that is supportive of the creative process and is continually positive and complimentary.

Over my career in business I’ve found that creativity is a powerful tool and is one of the differentiators of my company. Following are a few points taken from Raffi’s talk:

Creativity takes work. Many people think that creative people have special gifts. I contend that while that may be true in some cases, most creative people are creative because they work hard at being creative. When I was in architecture school I recall being taught the process of design. One of my professors told me something that stills hold true: school is where one learns how to tap into his creativity; it is a place where one develops the work ethic that ensures creativity. I’ve found over my career that the harder I’ve worked, the more creative I’ve become. Creativity is just like any other skill--it must be nurtured and practiced.

Creativity isn’t magic. Raffi told the workshop attendees about how some of his clients think his design work is magic. Contrary to what you might think, Raffi is actually a bit offended by that statement because it discounts how much time and effort goes into developing something creative. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book “Outliers,” suggests there is a “10,000-hour rule,” where any idea or skill takes 10,000 hours to be mastered. Those who put in the time practicing their craft will make the creative process seem like magic.

Creativity isn’t just about art. When people think about creativity, many only think that it applies to artists or musicians. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Creativity can be applied to every profession or business. Think of creativity as problem solving and you’ll understand how it can apply to your business. It takes creativity to figure out the best ways to treat your clients and solve their needs. It takes creativity to design the best way to get your services to the marketplace. It takes creativity to design the best business model to satisfy the needs of your business.

Build the right environment for creativity. Creativity occurs most often in supportive and nurturing environments. A business environment that is open to ideas, one in which no idea is a bad idea and where positive reinforcement is provided, is a melting pot for creativity. I’ve been in many brainstorming and creative meetings in which one negative person can take the whole group down and squelch ideas before they can emerge. Conversely, I’ve participated in meetings in which one person’s enthusiasm can carry the whole group and shift the conversation to a place where new and exciting ideas are discovered. Imagine a business environment that is as exciting as the latter – it is probably a great place to work. Create the right environment for creativity.

Raffi ended his talk by telling the audience to believe in the richness and capacity of all people to achieve high levels of creativity. Good advice indeed!

Until next time...

Craig

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