I loved this Harvard Business Review white paper by Teresa Amabile titled, “In Pursuit of Everyday Creativity”. From a business context, we’re constantly focused on creativity and innovation. We place value on it.
My takeaway from the white paper is that we tend to label people as “creative” versus looking at a creative process that anyone could use successfully. It also raised some questions about how we view creativity. For example:
How do people learn a creative process? I’ve heard of “creativity” training, but do those programs outline a creative process or just dive into creative activities? Both are important. But I can see organizations that adopt a creative process also being open to the outcomes of that creative process. Most creative processes have a:
- preparation step,
- ideation step, and a
- implementation step.
These three steps are very similar to most business strategies. The preparation step might mirror the assessment or analysis phase in many business models. Ideation would be similar to brainstorming or problem-solving. And implementation would be same, maybe with the addition of a debrief.
When do employees learn it? Many organizations look for employees to demonstrate creativity in the hiring process, so is the assumption that individuals will come to the company with knowledge about creativity on Day One? Or can employees learn a creativity model during orientation and onboarding?
Maybe it’s a little bit of both. New hires might come to the company with some creative experiences, then learn the company’s creative process during orientation and onboarding. Not only does that provide employees with a framework, but it also sends the message that the company values being creative so much that they have adopted a process to encourage it.
How can managers support it? And this is probably the most important question. Once the organization buys-into a creative process, and educates employees on how to use it, then what activities can managers do to support the process and the outcomes that are a result of using the process.
The worst thing the company can do is tell candidates that creativity is important during interviews, promote a creative process during onboarding, and then, not support it in the daily operation. Managers need to be given the tools to encourage creativity. In addition, they need to be trained on how to deal with the terrific (and less than terrific) ideas that come out of the creativity process.
If organizations want to encourage creativity at every level of the business, they must figure out how to put some structure around it. I don’t view that as counterintuitive. The structure isn’t around the ideas, results, and outcomes. It’s around the process. Every employee that follows the process won’t have the same outcome. And that’s what creativity is all about, right?16