Public interest in creativity continues to surge. A study of CEOs released in May cited creativity as the “most crucial factor for future success,” while a Newsweek article on the “crisis of creativity” this past summer raised alarm bells with its finding that measured creativity scores among Americans are plummeting. What are the latest findings about creativity and what can businesses do to enhance it?
Scientists are working hard to nail down what creativity is from a neuroscientific standpoint, charting the parts of the brain involved in creative thinking processes. But they’re also attempting to look for connections between creativity, personality traits and behaviors. One recent study has suggested that imagining yourself as a child can enhance creativity. Another has linked sadness to creativity. And another, research suggesting that creative people have more sex.
So what can business do to amp up the creative juices? Pump money into wellness programs. Enhance empathy in the workplace. Let employees take ninety-minute naps. Foster competition among work groups. Switch up the people on your teams. And encourage your people to avoid information overload.
Some possibilities suggested by the research are counter-intuitive. According to one study, distractible people tended to perform better at creative tasks. So should we hire more people with ADD tendencies? Research also found that certain kinds of workers become more creative when confronted by displays of anger from bosses. So should we encourage bosses to let it fly more often or in certain situations?
It’s also important to remember that research is ongoing, so some of the current findings might not yield clear conclusions. One study found that “happy extroverts” tended to be more creative. How does that square with the study linking sadness with creativity? And faced with a choice between a new hire who is a happy extrovert and another who seems more prone to sadness, whom should we hire?
One thing is clear: Firms need to be far bolder and more aggressive about upgrading and enhancing their creative processes. At the Council’s recent Critical Issues Forum, a panel of CMOs and corporate communications officers from AT&T, IKEA, Heineken, American Express and Monster Worldwide all agreed that they are always seeking creative ideas for their brands, and they are open to hearing it from any and all of their agency partners. Following the panel, new business guru Robb High encouraged public relations firms to be less timid about proposing big creative ideas to their clients. I’ll add: do it with flair.
Creativity entrepreneur Will Burns, founder of the ideation firm Ideasicle, notes that Fortune 500 clients have never been smarter and more educated. “They’re seeing all the cool things that other brands are doing and wondering why they’re not getting these ideas.” To thrive in today’s creativity-driven marketplace, PR firms need to step up their in-house creative processes and find new ways to deliver innovative thinking to clients at the speed of light. Remember those days when we spent two to three weeks concepting a campaign? We don’t have that kind of time anymore. Any way you slice it, the same-old approach to nurturing and structuring our creative workplaces isn’t enough in today’s environment.