1.1 What is creativity?
What did you do creatively this week?
Did you use a new recipe when you cooked a meal, or invented a new recipe?
Did you take a different[BW(1] route to work, or cycled rather than driving?
Did you, as a leader, take decisions which were different to previous ones?
All of these are examples of displaying creativity. So, what is this thing called creativity?
It may be helpful firstly to define being creative.
One definition from the Collins English dictionary offers having the ability to create, characterised by originality of thought; having or showing imagination, characterized by sophisticated bending of the rules or conventions.
In this section we will encourage you to reflect upon different ways in which people display creativity, much as in the examples above. We’ll look at adaptive creativity (which could be said to be about doing the same thing differently) compared to innovative creativity (which is about doing different things).
Before we go any further it’s also important to talk about being creative versus being logical. Throughout this book we encourage you to think and act differently, try new ways of working, listen to your intuition and play with new ideas. It’s often a play between the rational and the intuitive.
As a final word in this section, we emphasise the playfulness that enables creativity to happen. As we will see later in the book, play is essential in order to develop a looseness and a flexible approach that allows creativity to happen.
1.2 Different types of creativity (adaptive v innovative)
A firm belief we hold is that everyone has the capacity to be creative. Everyone expresses creativity in their own way. It’s important to look for ways in which you can or do display your own creativity.
Michael Kirton developed an adaption/innovation theory to explain these differences in style. The theory is based upon two assumptions. The first is that creativity, decision making and problem solving are outcomes of the same brain function. The second assumption is that everyone is able to solve problems, take decisions and be creative. What differs is their style.
To use a cooking metaphor, some people are creative by taking a recipe, and changing or adapting it to suit their situation. They are called adaptors and work within existing structures, whereas other people are innovative and would be more inclined to design a whole menu from scratch, something that’s a step outside of the usual structure. A contrast we could see as being either in-the-box or out-of-the- box thinking. Both are creative. There will be times when an adaptor approach is needed, or at other times, the innovator approach.
Kirton developed an instrument, KAI, to measure and define where someone falls on the spectrum of adaptor to innovator. It has proven useful in pulling together teams for work on creative projects. As with all differences in style, conflict can arise between people at either end of the spectrum. Adaptors may see innovators as too risky, argumentative, not focused, whereas adaptors may be seen as too methodical, and rule bound. However, as we see later in building teams to become creative teams, both styles are needed for diversity of thought and balance.
The idea of encouraging out-of-the-box ideas and working at the innovator end of the spectrum led to a surge of blue-sky thinking initiatives across organisations. Blue-sky thinking is a metaphor for opening up to totally new ideas. While it’s not clear where the term originated, it was fashionable in the early 2000s and did lead to some interesting collaborations between global organisations, universities, and research centres to open up new approaches. On an everyday level, the adaptor type of approach may be more useful, that is working with what we already have and adapting the situation to develop our ideas for improvement. Continuous improvement, an idea that developed out of the Japanese Kaizen Concept, comes into this category.
The Kaizen Concept is a philosophy of continuous improvement of working practices that underlies total quality management and just-in-time business techniques.
However, as we can see when we propose a creative problem solving process in Part 5, the more open innovator approach is extremely useful in tackling problems that are complex and have not been resolved easily in the past.
An alternative way of looking at these differences in being creative is to consider the reasons why creativity may be encouraged in organisations. This assumes an environment where creativity is encouraged, and this is not always the case – as we have discovered in our research and from our experience.
1.3 When and where to be creative
Creativity can happen anywhere and at any time.
However, as we see later in this book, preparing the ground to enable creativity is a valuable role for you as a leader. In doing this you might reflect upon the diverse ways and the places, both physical and in time, which can enable creativity.
As we saw in Part 1.1, there are several types of creativity or different ways of being creative. Many people have creative interests which they may leave behind when they enter the work environment. Others find ways, however small, to display creativity in their everyday life at work as well as at home. You only need to observe the differences people make to their workspaces.
Rare are the jobs which specifically require creativity as a skill. However, a creative- thinking or ‘acting differently’ mindset can be valuable in different scenarios in the workplace.
Some of these moments are listed below, (this list is not exhaustive):
● When complex problems arise and require a different approach.
● When innovative ideas are needed because the old ones are no longer producing good results.
● When the market demands new thinking, for example when tastes change or technology changes. At this point an organisation will need to be innovative and new ideas should be encouraged from all parts of the organisation.
● When teams and organisations need inspiration for their future direction. We’ll discuss visioning in Part 5.5, which may be helpful to explore in this type of situation.
So, where can you be creative? Again, our answer would be - anywhere.
However, we discuss space and creativity in Part 4.3 with some suggestions of how some spaces may be more conducive to creativity.
Often the best places to be creative are not everyday work spaces.
Changing your environment by going off site or moving into another more relaxed space, taking a walk, and playing sport are examples people have given as places where their ideas come from. As Sarah, one of our interviewees said:
Sports facilities allow people more freedom to take time out, meet, network, share ideas etc. People re-enter their working spaces often with new ideas.
As a leader you can change the physical space where your team works and provide dedicated time to explore new ideas. Make sure you capture these ideas, which could initially be messy, so that they can be revisited in the future. There are many idea capture systems available, from hand scribbled or more formal notes, cameras, video recorders, proprietary knowledge capture systems (such as Bright Idea, IdeaDrop or Viima), to scribbling on a whiteboard.
Having looked at the different types of creativity and when it can happen we’re now going to examine how our minds work and how we can develop a more open approach which will help us to become more creative.