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Organising Business Creativity: Blog 1 of 5
Do you think you are creative? If you think you are not, then think again. Do you believe that you are simply not creative (by nature) or that you haven’t yet practiced enough creativity to be labeled as a creative person? The concept of having to be born creative is somewhat widespread. After all, who are we to think we could ever compare to talents such as Mozart or that one musically talented classmate? Now, if you have always regarded yourself as the creative type, then congratulations! But if you have not, then let me forward you a message by the famous choreographer Twyla Tharp: “Get over yourself. The best creativity is the result of habit and hard work. And luck, of course” (Coutu, 2008).
The quote by Twyla Tharp was taken from an interview she had with HBR senior editor Diane Coutu. In their conversation Tharp emphasizes the importance of having habits to foster change. For example, you might try to copy what others have done, but to truly learn you must not take others’ solutions but rather their problems. There is no need to hesitate because of lack of originality as every artist is different and unique with their own values, backgrounds, and beliefs. As such, working with the same problem does not induce any lack of originality. Even smaller habits can foster creativity. Tharp gave the example of simply reading the word before or after the one you actually wanted to look up in a dictionary. Honest curiosity can give any person a natural boost in creative growth. (Coutu, 2008)
Surprisingly though, trying too hard to be creative might backfire. This relates to how the brain functions: “Trying to force an insight can actually prevent the insight” (Lehrer, 2008). Usually, the intuition might be that when faced with a difficult problem, one should focus with all its might on that problem. However, “this clenched state of mind may inhibit the sort of creative connections that lead to sudden breakthroughs” (Lehrer, 2008). In other words, next time you try to be creative in your work and you are stuck, just relax, free your mind temporarily by doing a different activity.
Truly, creativity should not be limited to the artists’ world as one might initially assume. Everyone can benefit from the “magic” of creativity, whether you are in business or any other area. Certainly, one might say that in a business setting efficiency is what really matters, what business leader needs creativity anyways? That doesn’t bring in any profit, now does it?
On the contrary, several studies show the effectiveness of creativity — and closely linked to it, curiosity — in businesses. According to Gino’s (2018) HBR article, he found the following in a study:
When we are curious, we view tough situations more creatively. Studies have found that curiosity is associated with less defensive reactions to stress and less aggressive reactions to provocation. We also perform better when we’re curious.
So how exactly do we achieve a work environment that supports curiosity? Gino (Gino, 2018) laid out 5 strategies that will help leaders shape a workplace that strengthens the curiosity of employees, including hiring for curiosity, modeling inquisitiveness, emphasizing learning goals, letting employees explore and broaden their interests, and finally, have “Why?” “What if…?” and “How might we…?” days.
Well, did I invigorate your curiosity yet? If so, feel free to read Gino’s HBR article (see references) for more details on these strategies.
Coutu, D. (2008). Creativity Step by Step. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2008/04/creativity-step-by-step
Gino, F. (2018). The Business Case for Curiosity. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2018/09/the-business-case-for-curiosity
Lehrer, J. (2008, July 21). The Eureka Hunt. The New Yorker. Retrieved from https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/07/28/the-eureka-hunt
This is part of a blog series on “Organising Business Creativity”. It is a course I am currently attending as an exchange student at the triple-accredited Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki, Finland. As I go through the various topics of the course, I will write short blogs on them while referencing at least three of the assigned readings. Enjoy!