A Regular Column by Anthony D. Fredericks
Creativity as a Corporate Goal
Many business leaders subscribe to a belief that in order to stay competitive in an ever-changing world, they must embrace creativity and innovation as primary goals of an organization. A creative environment engenders new ideas, products, and approaches that can solve problems and offer goods and services that meet the immediate needs of a sometimes fickle buying public. To support that perception, IBM conducted a Global CEO Study several years ago. 1,541 chief executives, general managers, and public-sector leaders across thirty-three industries and sixty countries around the globe were surveyed. Approximately 60 percent of those executives cited creativity as the most important leadership attribute needed for future success.
Yet, in spite of an overwhelming embrace of creativity as a significant factor in the success of a business or organization, many companies have practices and principles in place that actually crush the creative spirit of their employees and seriously hamper the generation of new ideas and dynamic change. Indeed, there is a plethora of tales in which well-respected firms actively work against creative expression on an almost daily basis. In short, far too many businesses “talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk.”
In his seminal book, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation Steven Johnson makes a compelling case, not just for the generation of creative ideas, but also for the habitats that stimulate, foster, and enhance creativity in the first place. It is his contention that specific types of environments are necessary in order for creativity to prosper. These environments, according to Johnson, may encompass diverse locations including the office, nature, the home, or through an interaction with media. He caps his thesis with a most profound thought, “On a basic level, it is true that ideas happen inside minds, but those minds are invariably connected to external networks [physical environments] that shape the flow of information and inspiration out of which great ideas are fashioned.”
How’s your work environment?
[ ] Creatively supportive
[ ] A creative desert
Dr. Anthony D. Fredericks is an award-winning author of more than 170 books, including the highly anticipated From Fizzle to Sizzle: The Hidden Forces Crushing Your Creativity and How You Can Overcome Them as well as five other Blue River Press titles (e.g. Ace Your Teacher Interview – 3rd Ed.). He also pens a regular blog for Psychology Today.com (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/contributors/anthony-d-fredericks-edd)
A Regular Column by Anthony D. Fredericks
Brainstorming is NOT Creative
It probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that many organizations, when faced with a challenge, brainstorm it to death. “Let’s all get together in the Conference Room and we’ll throw a bunch of ideas up on the whiteboard and we should have this thing hammered out by lunchtime!” The prevalent thinking is that a bunch of people tossing random ideas at one another will eventually discover an idea that works.
Indeed, brainstorming seems to be the default answer to any organizational issue. Other creative endeavors are eschewed in favor of a strategy that has been celebrated for several decades. “If it’s been around for that long,” the thinking goes, “then it must be good.”
One researcher looked into the real effects of brainstorming on creative thinking and found that, rather than leading to a wealth of new ideas, brainstorming often narrows the focus of a group to just one, non-optimal idea. He found that it was common for members of a group to become fixated with the ideas of others, and for the group to unconsciously coalesce and conform to a single idea; rather than exploring a range of ideas.
Other experts have also underscored brainstorming’s lack of effectiveness as a creative endeavor. For example, in any group situation, there is a hierarchy. That is, some people in the group are perceived to have more “power” than others. Junior members are seen as less powerful and less influential than older, more established, members. This power differential results in select members generating a disproportionate amount of ideas, based solely on their social standing. “The more assured members of the group assert their ideas first and then those less confident agree, even if they might have equally sound ideas.”
Brainstorming also places arbitrary constraints on the generation of ideas. As we know, ideas come at odd times and in odd places – not always during a regularly scheduled meeting in Room 103 at 3:30 on Tuesday afternoons. R. Keith Sawyer, a professor of psychology at Washington University says, “Brainstorming often…violates what we know about the generation of creative thoughts – simply because creativity is not a linear process: it’s adding ideas, subtracting ideas, combining ideas together, and slicing ideas up and putting them back together in new patterns or configurations.”
The bottom line: Use brainstorming with caution. It’s not everything it’s cracked up to be!
Dr. Anthony D. Fredericks is an award-winning author of more than 170 books, including From Fizzle to Sizzle: The Hidden Forces Crushing Your Creativity and How You Can Overcome Them as well as five other Blue River Press titles (e.g. Writing Children’s Books). He also pens a regular blog for Psychology Today.com (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/ contributors/anthony-d-fredericks-edd)
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