Creativity and innovation
Creativity and innovation

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Creativity and innovation

1.1.1 Ability

Activity 2 Creative people

Think of one or more people you believe to be creative. What sort of people are they and how do they set about their work?

Discussion

Creative people are often seen as independent, single-minded and determined in their main interest, verging on the obsessional in some cases, and sometimes as difficult people to work with. They are often flexible as to how they set about things, making good use of the people and resources available to them. The engineer developing Post-it® pads, for example, made a machine in his garage at home to adhere the not very sticky glue to squares of paper when told by superiors this was not possible.

Early psychological research on creativity focused a lot of effort on identifying what abilities are involved in creativity. Guildford (1959) concluded that originality, flexibility, idea fluency, problem sensitivity (sophisticated understanding of the problem area) and redefinitional skills (the ability to view issues from different angles and reframe them) were all critical to creative performance. Perkins’ (1981) studies stressed the importance of intrinsic motivation, sensitivity to form (deep knowledge of and sensitivity to an area of work), a capacity for objectivity, the ability to take risks, mental mobility (including tolerance for ambiguity), and problem-finding skills. A number of other studies have come to similar conclusions about creative abilities regardless of the domain they are studying. One common finding is that creative people seem to possess problem-finding abilities – the art of recognising the important question. They are also able to tolerate ambiguity better than less creative people so can avoid premature closure (not settling on a solution too soon before more useful ways forward have been considered).

Some people assume that creativity is a trait possessed by the gifted few but not others. In this view, Fleming’s discovery of penicillin was not accidental but a reflection of his exceptional creative ability. A consequence of this perspective is that managers are best advised to identify who are the creative and innovative staff. Research suggests that in certain areas the calibre of staff is important – companies do well to seek out the best exploratory scientists, for example. A number of successful informational technology (IT) companies, including Google, also make a point of recruiting the very brightest enthusiasts in their field.

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