Busting the Five Myths of Creativity

Mention the word creativity, and people begin to squirm in their chairs. The very thought can prompt anxiety, fear, and doubt — even in the most accomplished professionals.

At the same time, we know that innovation is mission-critical in these disruptive times. As many competitive advantages of the past have become automated or outsourced, creative problem solving and inventive thinking have become essential to driving growth and sustainable success. The COVID crisis has forced us all to adapt to changing conditions, making it increasingly clear that we can no longer simply rely on the models of the past and expect the same results.

Recognizing the need for creativity isn’t a groundbreaking concept, but how do we cultivate this valuable resource and deploy it in order to drive meaningful results? What’s getting in our way? By exposing the five biggest misconceptions about creativity, we can bust the myths and get on with harnessing our most powerful and productive thinking.

MYTH 1: Creativity is only needed at the top

TRUTH: Creativity is no longer just for the C-suite. To win in these challenging times, creativity must be a core priority at all levels of the org-chart. In fact, a key leadership responsibility is to help everyday people become everyday innovators. You don’t need to be wearing a lab coat or a fancy suit to be an effective innovator. The dormant creative capacity of your entire workforce may be the most powerful asset at your disposal. To that end, encourage your full team to look for small, daily creative opportunities (micro-innovations) which are low-risk and can be highly-effective.

MYTH 2: It only counts if it’s gigantic

TRUTH: While massive innovations grab media headlines, small innovations are responsible for 77% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product according to recent research from Harvard University. The big ideas may be sexy, but the underappreciated small ideas are the ones that drive consistent results.

Instead of shooting for a $10 billion IPO or a Nobel Prize, the most prolific innovators focus instead on Big Little Breakthroughs – small creative acts that unlock massive rewards over time. By building a daily habit of creativity, organizations not only enjoy a high volume of small wins, but daily practice is the fastest route to discover the massive breakthroughs we seek.

MYTH 3: It’s not my job

TRUTH: Your role has nothing to do with your creativity. There are professional musicians in major symphonies that are great technicians but don’t use an ounce of creativity. There are also statisticians that are brilliantly creative. Don’t let labels or job titles limit your imaginative potential. Today, creativity is everyone’s job. It is no longer just something those “artsy people” do. There isn’t a job function that can’t benefit from creative problem solving, inventive thinking, or simply finding a better way.

MYTH 4: Creativity is a born talent, not a learned skill

TRUTH: The research is crystal clear that as human beings, we all have tremendous creative capacity.  We are hard-wired to be creative, yet many of us haven’t fully developed these skills. Importantly, your level of creativity isn’t fixed at birth. Instead, think of creativity as an expandable muscle. You don’t become a champion bodybuilder without hitting the gym. Similarly, to build creative capacity requires some practice and focus. There is an overwhelming amount of scientific research confirming that you can grow your creativity at any age. Every one of us can expand our creative abilities with the right mindset and tactics.

MYTH 5: My technical skills and experience are enough

TRUTH: Maybe in the past, but definitely not today or in the future. Unorthodox approaches, original thought and imagination have become the building blocks for career advancement and efficacy.  According to the Future of Jobs report from the World Economic Forum, four of the top five most-needed skills in the workforce are directly tied to creativity. The report cites ‘innovation and analytical skills’, ‘complex problem-solving’, ‘critical thinking and analysis’, and ‘creativity, originality and initiative’ as positions 1, 3, 4, and 5, respectively.

The difference between getting a promotion, making the sale, delivering on expectations, raising capital, or fulfilling your calling lies in your ability to embrace and nurture your creative potential.

As we enter a new era riddled with uncertainty, complexity, speed, and ruthless competition, busting the myths and building our creative skillset is crucial for both survival and success. The stakes are higher than ever, but so is the opportunity. It’s time to seize it, one Big Little Breakthrough at a time.