Years ago, at my very first real job, there was one particular person who was known to be Creative. She was the go-to person for ideas, big and small. She led all the brainstorms, complete with tables full of idea starters. She could give you five taglines on a moment’s notice. She could take a half-formed, poorly articulated idea and turn it into a knockout. I was regularly impressed, often amazed. Her whole job was built around thinking in color where others saw only black and white.
Ever since then, I’ve noticed that being creative is a quality that’s assigned to certain people at any business, and once it’s assigned, it’s assumed. There are people who are Creative, and then there’s everybody else.
Except that this model won’t work in a business that intends to be visionary, ground-breaking, innovative. Traditionally, we think of our creative teammates as being designers or writers. But what about the rest of us? In business development, in information technology, in project management, in strategy, in delivery: every single person must learn to think creatively and to solve problems in unexpected ways. Never having done something before shouldn’t mean that we can’t do it. It should mean that we’re delighted and energized by the opportunity to forge a new path.
But how? If you are a person who lives outside the traditional Creative groups, can you learn this skill?
Andy Shaindlin, of alumnifutures.com, gave a lunchtime keynote at the CASE 8 conference today, focusing on creativity and leadership. While I enjoyed the first 90% of the speech, it was the last 10% that really caught my attention. Specifically: can one learn to be more creative? I’ve always wondered about this, and apparently the answer is yes. Research has shown (and I’m paraphrasing like mad here) that when subjects are actually instructed to be creative or be innovative in problem solving, they are. As simple as that. If we make creativity a required part of our business, we’re more likely to get it. And it should be a requirement, for every single person meaningfully engaged in a forward-thinking business, whether it’s a digital marketing agency or a university or a bank or a farm.
I wonder if if follows that we can instruct ourselves to be more creative. If I say to myself, with each new challenge: “Katie, think outside box,” then will I? I think it’s worth a try. For me, and for you as well. We should all be thinking in color.