Top 12 Common Misconceptions about creativity

Applied in Business

Innovation, creativity … we keep saying that innovation and creativity increase productivity and business competitiveness. Yet, many companies still struggle to apply this concept in method and outcome, in both the medium and long-term. They also seem confronted with a range of ideas and prejudices, compared to what “creative “really means.

So, let’s demystify creativity by reviewing some of the most common beliefs on creativity as well as some of the prejudices and half-truths.

 # 1: Creativity means having an artistic talent or consists in a leisure activity

Many people believe that being creative is to know how to paint, write a novel, compose music … We often associate the notion of creativity with leisure activities such as scrapbook, adult colouring, pearls and all kinds of DIY activities.

However, approaching creativity only in terms of creative hobby or artistic talent is a very simplistic view.

Therefore, does that mean I can expect to use or develop my creativity if I am not a musician or a writer, a theatre director or a designer? Can a technician be creative? Can a doctor be creative? Or a politician?  Can ordinary people be creative?

Contrary to common beliefs, creativity is involved in all levels and aspects of society: social, cultural, educational, environmental, political, artistic, scientific. It’s the same in business: creativity is involved in research, strategy, product / service design, technical or commercial development, recruitment, management …

# 2: Creativity is taking risks (and it’s not for today)

Creativity is associated with risk-taking, with big changes. Seen the human being’s resistance to change, creativity is frightening and negative connotations are attributed to it.

“Nothing is permanent, except the change”. Héraclite d’Ephèse

I would say that creativity is the art of continuous improvement. The risk would be to combat change (which operates anyway).

Creativity is actually necessary to cope with change vs. being its cause. It also represents a problem-solving approach, it helps to come up with solutions to help companies grappling with the economic crisis or to increase the productivity of a team, product or service.

Finally, I would like to quote Mark Zuckerberg:

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

 # 3: Creative people are messy

There are media (e.g. Cosmopolitan France, Capital) that continue to fuel ideas such as “Having a messy desk makes you ‘more creative’” or Capital where we learn that “mess” is an indicator for “strong, productive consciousness”.

The truth is … no one can know for sure. The human mind and its mysteries are way too complex, even for the scientific community.

The studies conducted by psychological scientist Kathleen Vohs at the University of Minnesota shows that disorderly environments seem to encourage creativity. However, Vohs also notes that the relationship between the disorder and creativity is not a cause and effect relationship. Einstein too seems to agree when he says: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

In absolute terms, chaos does not exist; it is just a reformulation of the order, but this is another story.

What is important to keep in mind is actually that it’s only if you have a natural tendency to disorder and you repress it that you may also suppress your global imagination and creative capacities.

 # 4: Creative people are somehow irresponsible and flippant (meaning non-efficient)

In the minds of many people, creativity is associated with the world of art, crafts, cooking, improvisation, and somehow a lack of professionalism.

Being creative can go together with a flippant behavior, being irresponsible or non-efficient and, ultimately, damaging to the employees and the organization.

Don’t we easily say of someone who lack rigor that he/she is a … creative?

The truth is that creative people come with real clarity on goals and an ability to work that usually surpass the average productivity of a company’s employees. The main reason is that creative people are intrinsically motivated. Psychologists have shown that creative people find their energy in challenging activities, which might explain their effort and persistence to seek new ideas and solutions and create.

With regards to how organize creative are in their work, “creative people” have a tendency to procrastinate. However, be sure that they will always meet the deadline. It’s just that they will do probably 90% of their work the night before (which confirms their ability to work under pressure, to multi-task and to juggle tight deadlines).

 #5: “Creativity is innovation.” And innovation can only be “technological”.

Two misconceptions at once.

“Creativity is innovation.” Do not mix creativity and innovation even if one is dependent on the other.

Creativity is the process of creating innovation, the process that led to the innovative idea. It is the art of questioning the existing and searching for new ideas. Innovation is the implementation of these new ideas.

The two concepts are complementary and lead to what we qualify as “innovative “. And this, in any field of human endeavor.

“Innovation can only be technological “

The media keep talking about technological innovation, rarely addressing social innovation, educational, legal, cultural, environmental innovation.

In business, creativity may also be extended to other areas: bring a new design for an existing product, create new applications, come up with a new way of seeing the customer …. Finally, you can innovate at every level of the company: to manage, recruit, to sell or to produce!

# 6: Creativity is “hype” and it is difficult to measure its value

For ordinary people and those who are not interested in creativity, “being creative” remains a blurred notion, therefore not a credible one but rather inaccessible and difficult to put into practice. And yet … what should be done when the old recipes are no longer able to prepare good cakes? Because at some point, all businesses will need to find new and original solutions to differentiate themselves.

In fact, it not the creativity per se which is profitable to the company. What brings value, it’s the creativity seen as a response to a problem, as a tool for problem solving, for innovation, as a work method for helping a team dealing with change (or to unlock crisis situations), as a tool to formulate comprehensive solutions to create new products, brands, services…

Being “creative” is being even more productive. Being creative means being results-driven; it means being a problem-solver and be focused on the generation of ideas that make the difference and create value.

In order to determine its value, a company should verify, by evaluating the progress and feeding the process, that solutions have been found through concrete proposals within a given period.

And this assessment must be carried out in parallel with the implementation of the creativity, not as a separate process from the main business of the company, but as an ongoing process.

# 7: Creativity cannot thrive without drugs and alcohol

Baudelaire, Balzac, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Francis Bacon, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Les Beatles….

Rockers, writers, great artists … but also drug users and heavy drinkers? It’s almost a cliché: the artist using the drug to unleash his creativity.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the United States, also found that a certain blood alcohol level boost employees’ creativity. Moreover, based on this study, a Danish Marketing agency worked to engineer a beer that claims to enable the average person to reach the “creative peak”. They even name it The Problem Solver.

Without going into the details, I invite you meditate on the real “why” hidden behind the consumption of illicit substances. Is it only to boost their creativity? Does that mean that all creative people are heavy drinkers or drug addicts lacking inspiration? As if there were no other ways to stimulate creativity? Can we imagine that progress and human evolution have been built on absinthe, hashish, opium, LSD, cocaine, alcohol …?

The answer is, of course, not. The psychoactive substances, by definition, create altered states of consciousness and these states are actually the ones that are considered as being conducive to creativity. But that does not mean they always stimulate creativity (they can also act against it), nor that this is the only reason people consume them or that it is the only way to achieve these states. Read more on drugs and creativity. 

# 8: Creativity is opposed to the analytical, converging, “normative” mind

This idea suggests that “creativity” and “norms” can’t go together. We often associate creativity to the right, intuitive and diverging brain, to the ” out-of-bounds ” in opposition to the left, analytical and “normative» brain.

However, the structured creativity techniques include two phases: a first phase of “divergence” corresponding to the playful stimulation and the generation of new ideas and a phase of “convergence”” corresponding to more logical approaches to filter the ideas of the first phase and come up with relevant solutions.

# 9: Ideas just happen

We imagine that for creative people, ideas gush naturally and effortlessly … or by chance.

No, it is not that simple and ideas doesn’t just happen.

“In the fields of observation chance favors only the prepared mind.” Louis Pasteur

To appear, the ideas need not only a “fertile ” and prepared “land” but also a mind capable, to link ideas and, above all, which knows how to sort the good ones from the wrong ones – in order to respond to the initial needs.

Finally, one should be careful not to confuse ” serendipity ” and ” creativity».

The serendipity is the art of discovering by luck things that are not looked for (e.g. the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus) and it is a complementary resource to creativity.

# 10: Creatives have their heads in the clouds

Creative people are sensitive people who observe and analyse anything that goes on around them.

Einstein said “If I had one hour to save the world, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute to find solutions. “

This quote reveals the importance of clearly defining the problem before seeking solutions. How many times we rush to find solutions to a problem …that is not the “problem”? Defining the real “problem” requires patience, awareness, questioning, openness and expanding the reference framework.

# 11: Creative people are night owls

An Italian team of Milan Catholic University found that people experiencing delayed bedtime are more likely to think creatively than early risers.

However, staying active late at night is part of the so-called “new” behaviors, possible only since the arrival of candles and electricity.

On the other hand, even the real night owls go to bed at fairly reasonable hours when subjected to various constraints such as having children, having to arrive at work at 9am, take flight at 5am….

Mason Currey, author of Daily Rituals: How Artists Work  shows that there is no one “right ” way to do it. There are great creative minds who got up at four in the morning and others who slept at least until noon.

# 12: If you’re creative in one area you’re necessarily creative in all the other areas

Maybe. But today there is not enough facts to support the idea that there is a ” firewall” between different forms of creativity or, on the contrary, to say that someone who is creative in one field (painting, for example) would be necessarily creative in any other field (mathematics, music, cooking …).

Studies show that it takes an immersion of a certain duration in a given field before someone can become “creative” in that particular field which means that the weight of the experience and the mastery of the existing concepts are significant.

Since the 1980s, researchers believe that creativity is multidimensional, emanating from a combination of several types of factors.

Today, the dominant model postulates the existence of four separate types of resources necessary to the emergence of creative productions: cognitive factors (cognitive abilities), “conative ” factors (personality traits, motivation), emotional factors and the environment.

What about you? What kind of creative are you?

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