In an attempt to gain a competitive
advantage, organizations are now focusing on enhancing their employees creativity,
and not merely developing their technical competencies and skills. In a changing
world and economy, the role of creativity in the workplace is becoming ever more
prominent. However, a recent report by the
Confederation of British Industry found that not enough firms are fully exploiting
the business ideas of their employees and are not making the most of their skills.
Whilst firms may be encouraging creativity, the implementation and management
of the ideas generated is lacking. Consequently, many companies are deemed to
be falling short of their potential, creating an 'innovation gap'.
Organizations are finding that, as markets become saturated and competition
gets stronger, it is increasingly necessary to find novel or innovative approaches
to business problems and issues. They may look for this creativity in their
staff or may even recruit new, more creative employees. This can help both the
marketing of the organization by being seen to be creative or 'cutting edge',
and it can improve productivity and efficiency by solving current problems or
Of course, the concept of creativity is an illusive one. How can one hope
to enhance creativity if it is not first defined and measured? This article
will provide an overview of the concept and ways in which it may be measured
and enhanced in the workplace.
There are many aspects to creativity, but one definition could include 'the
ability to see existing objects or processes and combine them in different ways
for new purposes or to solve existing issues'. Therefore, a simple definition
of creativity could be 'the action of combining previously uncombined elements'.
From art, music and invention to household chores, this is part of the nature
of being creative. Another way of approaching the concept of creativity is by
seeing it as a process of exploring the way things are interrelated.
'Creativity is the ability to generate novel and useful ideas
and solutions to everyday problems and challenges'
Creative thought can be divided into two types of reasoning:
Both abilities are required for creative output. Divergent thinking is essential
to the novelty of creative products whereas convergent thinking is fundamental
to the appropriateness.
- Divergent thinking: the intellectual ability to think of many original, diverse, and elaborate ideas.
- Convergent thinking: the intellectual ability to logically evaluate, critique and choose the best idea from a selection of ideas.
The concept of creativity may be delineated into three dimensions; the person, the product and the process.
- there are many ways to measure or infer creativeness directly from an individual.
Personality Measures - Looking at certain personality traits or characteristics
associated with a creative mind, e.g. intelligence, confidence, wit, originality,
informality and tolerance to ambiguity. However, psychologists have been trying
to find the 'one' personality profile of the creative person for many years without
any real solid evidence.
Biographical Inventories - The use of biographical data. For example, linking family and educational history to determine the potential
sources of an individual's creativity, personal interests or hobbies that may
indicate a creative mind, or even personal relationships.
Creative Ability - The direct measurement of creativeness by testing an individual with various established
tests. For example, the 'unusual uses' test, and other exercises in creative thinking
Product-based - a more objective measure involving the assessment
of an individuals previous work for creativity and innovation.
Process-based - an examination of the creative processes employed by an individual to come up
with solutions to problems or design novel products (e.g. feelings experienced
before/during/after the innovation).
All people have the
potential to be creative but those who are recognised as being creative have an
certain awareness or insight that others don't. Without the abilities needed to
be creative, it is highly unlikely that someone will solve a creative problem.
However, just because an individual has an ability to do something does not necessarily
mean that they will do it. It is for this reason that employers resort to various
techniques to enhance their employees' creativity.
Organizational techniques to enhance the creativity of employees:
Idea Elicitation Techniques - To enable
individuals in organizations to generate more and better new ideas to tackle
particular problems or meet particular challenges.
Brainstorming. By removing 'evaluation apprehension', the fear that a new idea will be met with derision
or hostility, one can eliminate one of the most significant blocks to creativity.
This practice is based on two key principles:
Deferment of Judgement - resisting
any kind of comment or criticism of ideas until the end of the session no matter
how strongly you may feel. The aim is to get as many suggestions 'out' as possible
before judging or trying to refine them.
Quantity Breeds Quality - encourage individuals
to say whatever comes in to their mind no matter how silly or absurd they think
the idea is. Again, the aim is to get as many ideas as possible.
There are four
rules which must be adhered to when conducting a brainstorming session:
is ruled out - no matter how strange the idea
Freewheeling is welcomed - let imagination
run as free as possible
Quantity is wanted - generate as many ideas as possible
Combination & improvement sought - building on ideas of other members
Other Idea elicitation techniques
Checklists - checklists are a simple and often useful
method of spurring thought about problems in a different way
- like checklists, listing the attributes of an issue can help focus the mind
and explore the problem at hand
Forced relationships - exploring the ways unrelated
objects or ideas may be related to come up with novel solutions
Online Tools -
there are many websites on the internet offering idea generation tools to help
guide the mind through a particular problem. These tools may be entirely web-based,
or may be in the form of downloadable software.
Creativity Training - training
an individual or group with the skills required for successful creative performance
Consultancies and training centres can be used by sending employees on Creative
Problem Solving (CPS) programmes. Many advocate a 5-stage problem solving process
consisting of Fact finding, Problem finding, Idea finding, Solution finding, and
Selecting for Creativity - By using assessment and selection
techniques to recruit creative individuals, an organisation can slowly establish
a more creative workforce. Examples of common techniques include personality &
biographical measures: Personality tests - trait measures, attitude & interest
inventories. Cattell's 16PF and OPQ (Occupational Personality Questionnaire) but
faking is a problem and traits are complex. Biographical Inventories - biodata.
Domain specific. Pattern of specific creative behaviors in past. Bad for school
leavers/young people. Assessing creative products - by looking at samples of previous
work, you may ascertain a certain level of creativity prior to making a hiring
Creativity & Organisational Characteristics - the structure, climate
& culture of an organisation are important factors when it comes to facilitating
creativity. Examples of such characteristics are: Leadership style - should ideally
be participative, democratic and non-authoritarian. Job characteristics - desirable
characteristics of the job include discretion and autonomy. Structure - a non-hierarchical,
flat organizational structure with permeable boundaries is most conducive to creativity
and innovation. Climate - should be supportive of risk-taking, playful with ideas
and tolerant of debate. Culture - should be liberal with the acceptance of non-traditional
thinking and a relatively low emphasis on rules. The new millennium promises to
bring more change, more complexity, and more competition. As a result, organizational
creativity and innovation will become a required operational discipline and organisations
will have to learn how to manager and enhance the creativity of their most valuable
assets - their employees.