Six Myths–and the Real Facts About Creativity

The real facts about creativity are especially good facts.  They’re good not merely because they enlighten us about creativity, but also because most of the better paying jobs in the years to come will have creative and innovative dimensions to them.  A number of scientists have documented the fact that creativity is at its heart a highly collaborative competency, not the lone genius in his/her workroom.  David Sawyer, one of the leaders in the field of creativity research and on the faculty of Washington University has published 10 books and more than 50 scholarly articles in the field.  His book, Group Genius, is packed with important implications of creativity research for individuals, organizations, the Web, the economy and much more. A unifying idea throughout all his research which debunks society’s closely held myths—even seemingly solitary artistic pursuits, involves improvisation, collaboration and communication.In an interview of Sawyer, which appeared in the Wash U Alumni news, Sawyer described his work and the conventional wisdom surrounding creativity.  Here is a selected set of myths followed by highly condensed facts to chew on, in Sawyer’s own words:Creativity comes from the unconscious.  (“It is mostly conscious, hard work.”)Children are more creative than adults.  (“Children aren’t as creative as we think they are.”)Creativity represents the individual’s inner spirit.  (The works represent “the characteristic markers of our culture and time period.”)Creativity is spontaneous inspiration.  (Formal training and conscious deliberation are essential.”)Creativity is the same thing as originality.  (“All creativity includes elements of imitation and tradition.  There is no such thing as a completely novel work.”)Fine art is more creative than craft.  (“Our culture is biased toward creative products that have no function other than pleasure.  But this division is culturally and historically relative.”)In business we tend to think of beautiful designs such as architectural masterpieces or Apple Ipods as the creative.  The fact of the matter, however, is that though business always needs creative masterpieces such as the two above, business needs far more creativity and innovation in mobilizing talent, allocating resources, developing processes and building strategies.  It’s important to notice, as Sawyers indicates in the last myth, that the bias toward creative products is only one piece of the creative pie.  Business has just as many creative needs in the highly competitive areas of service, manufacturing and people processes.Do you think about creativity in those terms?
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