1.1 Creative people
Activity 1 Source of ideas
Where do new ideas come from?
In business and management, some of the most influential theories about creativity are the belief that some individuals are creative and others are not, the importance of thinking ‘outside the box’, the role of luck, having an open culture and removing blocks to innovation. As we shall see, research suggests that experience, networking and collaboration are equally critical factors in creative endeavour.
To be in a position to draw out creativity in the workforce, you need some idea of what conditions favour creativity. An examination of the various explanations put forward shows that historically these have changed considerably over time (Henry, 1994).
Traditionally creativity was seen as unfathomable and, like intuition, seemed so mysterious that possessing it was attributed to an act of grace (Claxton, 2005). In many parts of the world creativity is still associated with divine inspiration. An alternative perspective assumes creativity results from serendipitous good fortune; a case of being in the right place at the right time (Henry, 2001).
In the 1950s creativity was often thought to be an ability possessed only by the gifted few; in the 1960s it was often associated with skills of mental flexibility that could be learnt. In the 1970s the role of relevant experience was more fully appreciated by researchers, and in the 1980s, attention was drawn to the key role of intrinsic motivation (doing things because you want to). These theories focus on creativity at the level of the individual; more recently managers and researchers have turned their attention to the part played by the social context. In the 1990s organisations paid more attention to the effect that work culture and environment have on the potential for creativity on people in organisations. In the current millennium the focus has shifted towards understanding creativity as an emergent phenomenon that builds on what has gone before and arises from ongoing interactions, a perspective that considers the part social context plays in the genesis of ideas (Henry, 1994). We will consider the implications of each of these theories.