Creativity has been called the “secret sauce” of personal growth and organizational success. And in today’s organizations the demand for more creativity is greater than ever. But what exactly is creativity? And is it possible for people to improve their creative talents? We recently interviewed Dr. Lynne Levesque, a creativity expert and author of Breakthrough Creativity and the Breakthrough Creativity Profile, about developing creativity in the workplace.
Q: How do you define creativity?
A: I believe we are all creative. But popular definitions of creativity such as “brainstorming,” “the generation of big ideas,” “creating groundbreaking innovations,” “genius,” and “artist” miss the mark. That’s because these descriptions don’t recognize the incremental, but equally significant, contributions made by building on what others have done. They also dismiss the everyday type of creativity that occurs through learning new skills, exercising imagination, and solving problems. Many of these definitions don’t recognize that creativity is more than coming up with ideas; it’s also about doing something with those ideas!
Creativity is an ability individuals possess and can further develop. Innovation, on the other hand, is an organization’s ability to capitalize on the creativity of its employees to produce new and different value to stakeholders.
So assuming we are all creative, we need an inclusive definition of creativity—one that recognizes the many different ways people can be creative. After extensive research and study, I settled on the following definition: Creativity is the ability to produce different and valuable results.
Q: Are some people more creative than others?
A: Yes. Some people have more gifts than others and they possess a greater capacity to apply them in different ways. But most often it’s a question of how much we work to develop our creativity. Anyone can become more creative. It starts with identifying personal creative strengths, working to develop them, and then learning how to tap into other talents when needed.
Q: Why is creativity important to today’s organizations?
A: In a world full of change, volatility, and globalization, creativity is in high demand. In fact, a 2010 study of IBM CEOs identified creativity as the most important capacity required for tomorrow’s leaders. It’s the skill they need to think differently about business models, execute strategic planning, and deliver new value to stakeholders. Leaders need to be open to new ideas and comfortable with experimenting, taking risks, shedding long-held beliefs, and about changing the way they lead and communicate. Leaders gain power when they recognize how they are creative—and know what they need to do to improve their creative talents.
Q: What are the benefits of integrating creativity into an organization’s staff, management, and culture?
A: Organizations that integrate and develop creativity reap significant results. Their employees possess self-confidence, flexibility, and resilience. Teams achieve better results through creative problem solving, retention rates improve, and the benefits of diversity are realized. Leaders who are open to new ideas are able to encourage balanced risk taking and they’re equipped to re-invent their management styles to engage with a new generation of employees, new types of partners, and customers.
Q: Is it possible for people to become “more creative”?
A: Absolutely. As I mentioned earlier, everyone is born with the potential to be creative. It’s really a question of recognizing that there are many different ways to be creative, identifying our own creative strengths, and then working to develop them further. Growth of creativity also means figuring out a personal process for generating creative ideas, knowing what to do with them, and learning to overcome obstacles such as the fear of failure and the need to be perfect. It also requires a knowledge base that provides an appropriate understanding of challenges and possible solutions without becoming blind to new ways of thinking. And finally, the ability to find passion offers the power to deliver creative results and make creative contributions.
Q: What are the “creative talents”?
A: Each creative talent (there are eight of them) produces different creative results and offers distinct contributions to creative performance. The talents result from integrating the inclusive breakthrough creativity approach with Carl Jung’s theory of personality differences.
Q: How can creativity benefit teams?
A: The Breakthrough Creativity framework allows teams to recognize and appreciate the different creative strengths each member brings to their challenge. It helps them to overcome the obstacles that arise from working together and allows them all to develop their creativity to produce greater creative performance.
Q: How can trainers build creative competency in leaders?
A: A development tool such as the Breakthrough Creativity Profile is an excellent starting point. The assessment creates an awareness of creative strengths as well as opportunities for personal development and an appreciation for the creative differences that exist among individuals. From there, trainers can integrate the knowledge of creative differences and approaches into topics such as strategic planning, decision making, and innovation.
Q: Carl Jung’s personality theory is the foundation of the Breakthrough Creativity Profile. How does personality relate to creativity?
A: Carl Jung’s personality theory is complex. The foundation of the Breakthrough Creativity Profile is his Theory of Psychological Types, and more specifically, the personality differences that result from the various ways individuals take in and process data, which shapes our creative results and contributions.
Q: What’s the difference between Data-Collecting and Decision-Making creative talents?
A: The Data-Collecting talents—Adventurer, Navigator, Explorer and Visionary—are preferences for perceiving different kinds of data. For example, Adventurers and Navigators see data as specific and concrete, and they view data in a linear fashion. Explorers and Visionaries view data as concepts and trends, and they see it in an intuitive, holistic fashion.
The Decision-Making talents—Pilot, Inventor, Diplomat, and Poet—are preferences for doing something with the data we see. Pilots and Inventors apply logic and objective analysis to data to determine what is to be done with it when making decisions, creating strategies, and developing models. Diplomats and Poets set data in the context of the individuals and values involved as they figure out what results they will produce and contributions they will make.
Q: Who is the target audience for the Breakthrough Creativity Profile, and what are some of the most effective applications of the Profile?
A: The Breakthrough Creativity Profile is appropriate for individuals at any organizational level who need to enhance their talents and produce more creative results. It is especially useful for professionals whose principal work involves the frequent need for creative solutions, such as customer service, research and development, marketing, product development, sales teams, and leaders. But it’s really a valuable resource for anyone who needs to solve problems, generate new ideas, improve processes, or ensure long-term career success.
The combination self-assessment and training workshop has many different uses and applications. It can be particularly helpful for individuals wishing to improve their problem solving, creative thinking, and leadership skills. The Breakthrough Creativity Profile is also very useful for teams that need to enhance their creative performance.
Q: How have you used the Breakthrough Creativity Profile to improve creativity among individuals in organizations?
A: I have used the Breakthrough Creativity Profile in a number of ways. It has been the basis for workshops to improve individual creativity and to launch innovation and action-learning teams. I have used it in leadership development forums to heighten self-awareness, particularly around creative strengths and challenges. I have also used it in strategic leadership courses in master’s degree programs as a way for students to better understand how individual preferences affect their creative responses to strategic-planning and decision-making challenges.
About the Author
Lynne C. Levesque, Ed. D. is an expert in the field of creativity and leadership with over 20 years of experience consulting, training, and researching. She is the author of Breakthrough Creativity: Achieving Top Performance Using the Eight Creative Talents (Davies-Black: June, 2001), as well as numerous articles and Harvard Business School cases for the Harvard Business Review and the Sloan Management Review. Lynne holds an M.B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley and an Ed.D. in Creativity from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.