Getting Cosy with Creativity – with Aran Rees

interview

When I talk to people about creativity it can be like playing whack-a-mole with myths and misunderstandings. If you stick with this column in the coming weeks and months we’ll address many of these I’m sure, but to handle this topic, recruiting for creativity, we need to dig into a handful of them.

Before you go shopping, check what’s already in the fridge

This is a classic false sense of scarcity problem. We assume that our employees lack the ability to be creative and that we, as leaders, lack the ability to help them to grow.

We assume that our employees lack the ability to be creative

I’ll be honest with you, I look forward to the day when I come across a team or business that is actually short of spare creativity because it is already using the creative potential of everyone on hand.

Similarly, it would be extraordinary to find a leadership team so steeped in deep understanding of creativity and applying strong, coaching-centric leadership to enable creativity, that they genuinely could not do any more.

Myth: creativity is a rare skill

Myth: the ability to grow creativity is beyond the average leader

The water makes the fish, the fish don’t make the water

People aren’t creative or uncreative. What separates those who express creativity from those who don’t isn’t ability but how they relate to creativity. Relationships with creativity, like all relationships, doesn’t begin and end inside us, it’s affected by everything around us too.

People aren’t creative or uncreative.

With this in mind, hiring someone who is “creative” and sticking her into an environment that is not and expecting the environment to change is like putting a fish into a bowl and expecting water to appear.

In fact, if we consider the evolution of life on Earth, we can see that it is the water that makes the fish. So not only would recruiting the creative übermensch be a waste of money, it would also be a waste of talent since that person would fail to deliver what you need without the supportive environment that is a pre-requisite.

Myth: creativity, you either have it or you don’t

Creativity isn’t the point

It may be strange for a man who makes his living in the area of creativity, writing about creativity on a website devoted to creativity to say that creativity is, in many senses, not the point, but here we are.

Very recently I spoke with someone who had conducted a survey in a large media business and found that the majority of people in the company wanted to “be more creative”. This, of course, is admirable, but then if we look a little further we can see that there’s subtext that needs examination. What exactly is it that they mean when they say they want to “be more creative”?

Creativity is what happens when people are empowered, enabled and engaged

My definition states that creativity is the art of solving problems under conditions of uncertainty. But when we know what the problem is that we want to solve, do we think “yay, a chance to be creative!” or do we address the problem? My feelings are that when people say they want to be more creative what they’re really asking for is to be empowered to solve meaningful problems.

Creativity is what happens when people are empowered, enabled and engaged with solving meaningful problems under conditions of uncertainty (which is, essentially, most of what life is). Rather than worrying about creativity perhaps my client might have asked about how best to empower his employees to solve problems.

Myth: creativity makes everything better, even if we don’t know what’s wrong

In summary

Unless you’re one of those rare and special unicorns who is already using the creative potential of all your people, having already built an environment that brings out the creative genius in all of us and has clarity on all the goals and problems to be solved in the business then don’t try to recruit for creativity.

You don’t need to and it won’t work.

Don't try to recruit for creativity. You don't need to and it won't work.Click To Tweet

Instead, remember the myths and unlearn them. You have to know and believe that:

  • Everyone is a potential creative genius and you can and should do so much more to support them to express it
  • Having a strong relationship with creativity at an institutional level is more important that hiring apparently creative people (trust me, you can’t tell by their choice of facial hair and glasses)
  • Creativity can’t solve your problems if you don’t know what they are to begin with, when people demand more creativity, first find out what it is they want to change

None of this is to say that you shouldn’t look for creativity in job applicants. My argument is that we should first look for creativity in everyone and if we don’t see it, remember that this doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

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Getting Cosy with Creativity - with Aran Rees When I talk to people about creativity it can be like playing whack-a-mole with myths and misunderstandings. If you stick with this column in the coming weeks and months we'll address many of these I'm sure, but to handle this topic, recruiting...
Aran Rees
Founder and Coach at Sabre Tooth Panda
Aran is a creativity coach, facilitator and communicator, founder of Sabre Tooth Panda and creator of No Wrong Answers: the hypothetical quiz. He believes that expressing creativity is all about how you and those around you relate to creativity both at an emotional and intellectual level. He helps his clients to get cosy with creativity to solve big problems and have more fun.