Innovation and creativity, everyone says, is key to our nation’s success in the marketplace. While working through some new stuff on creativity and innovation, I stumbled, once more, across Robert Sternberg and Todd Lubart’s analysis of the resources for creativity. It has the intriguing title, Buy Low and Sell High: An Investment Approach to Creativity.
The resources are a reminder of what it takes to get a leg up on creativity. More significantly and perhaps more useful, the resources are especially programmed for succeeding as a worker in today’s business world.
1. Intelligence. This is not a reference to your IQ, but your processes for planning, monitoring and evaluating your thinking. As Jonah Lehrer writes in a superb blog, it’s more than a matter of gut feel, it’s reflecting on your decision process itself.
2. Knowledge. Almost tongue-in-cheek, the writers say that “advancing knowledge beyond where it is requires knowing where it is.” I suspect that the biggest, hugest, most terrible weakness of Googling for information is that you don’t go through the painful work of digging it out by yourself in books, articles, conversations and reflection. Just the process of digging out knowledge makes it possible to find out where the knowledge is, something that Googling can never replace.
3. Thinking styles. Styles are proclivities or tendencies in the way we think. Not abilities. Creative folk not only just plain like novelty, but they also like to see problems in new ways, undertake new challenges and just plain put together things in their own ways. As Carol Dweck would say, they take an incremental view of life and intelligence. They’re fluid and changeable and get satisfaction from learning, and seeing opportunities to get better.
4. Personality. There are a huge number of studies about the personality attributes of creative folk. The attributes overlap, and the include a tolerance of ambiguity, willingness to overcome obstacles, willingness to grow, the willingness to take sensible (interesting adjective) risks, and belief in one’s ability to correct mistakes.
5. Motivation. Again and again, researchers have found that people do their most creative work when their motivation is task-focused rather than goal-focused, and internally driven rather than externally driven.
6. Environment. Without a supportive organizational environment, all these resources are liable to come to nothing. It's important to note that the organization can support creativity by helping spark creative ideas, by supporting these ideas, and by serving as a basis for assessing and correcting these ideas as they are developed.
You’ll notice that these resources overlap. And because there are so many resources, creativity is not as common as we would like. Still, when people in business recognize that creativity is revealed just as much in new business processes as in new products (think iPad), there’s a lot of creativity going on out there, and a lot more space for creators.