Outside of generating ideas, a surprising number of people have admitted to me over the years they didn’t know why they’d need to be creative in the workplace. One person in particular said she had zero interest or any day-to-day need for creativity. This last point was amazing because she’s also one of the most creative thinkers I know.
I suppose it’s not surprising. For instance, being creative has historically described someone who’s subversive or rebellious. The creative thinker is the person who falls outside of the traditional, normal or accepted path. Moreover, for many cultures, creativity (commonly referred to as being different) is an unwelcome attribute for a variety of political and societal reasons. And finally, I know many people who believe being creative is incompatible with being professional.
Times are changing, rapidly and happily. In 2010, IBM released its Global CEO Study that quantified for the first time that chief executives worldwide believe creativity is the #1 skill needed by senior executives to successfully navigate an increasing complex world.
Regardless of the industry or position, people use their creative thinking skills whenever they want to change the status quo. It may be to simplify a process, create a new product or use, or be more efficient. Without creativity, nothing would change, ever.
Here are four specific examples of how creativity is integral to skills beyond brainstorming.
Strategic planning involves investigating all of the ways an organization might grow in a particular industry or category, or transition into new areas. Researching and developing any possible plans of action demands creativity, particularly in ways which are new, different or unusual. To paraphrase Albert Einstein’s famous quote, “You can’t expect new solutions from doing the same thing and over.” One of my favorite books on strategy is The Mind of the Strategist: The Art of Japanese Business by .
2. Branding and Message Development
Every good corporate spokesperson knows this mantra, if not be heart, then by intuition: Know what you say, not Say what you know. Deciding what you’re going to say requires the speaker to not just develop their messages via creativity, but also adapt and position them differently depending upon the audience. Similarly, branding or re-branding an organization or product means investigating all of its potential positions when compared with its existing or potential competition, with message development to follow. In addition, positioning a company or service also means creating compelling messages which resonate with its target audiences, their influencers and the media.
A good negotiator understands they need to have a range of options between what is needed versus what is wanted to be successful. Creativity allows the negotiator to develop those options in advance of the meeting with the other side. It’s preferable to brainstorm options in advance as it’s often difficult to be creative during the intensity of the negotiation. I’ve written more about creativity and negotiation. If interested, try Managing Conflict. At the same time, the ideal book for your library is Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, by , William L. Ury and Bruce Patton.
4. Risk and Crisis Management
A seasoned communicators considers all worst case scenarios for risk, issues and crisis management. The phrase ‘What if…?‘ is the same question used in many brainstorms. Good crisis plans think through every possible catastrophe in advance because – like negotiating – one’s creativity disintegrates in tense situations. In their article Preparing for Evil for the Harvard Business Review (April 2003), authors Ian I. Mitroff and Murat C. Alpaslan outline how the best companies prevent and contain crisis and issues, often using creativity.
What other activities or events do you use your creativity at work?