The cornerstone of innovation is creativity. A lack of creativity means you can only continue to improve the methods that are in place. This is linear thinking, unlikely to result in any sort of transformation. Without creativity, you have no new experiences and no new ideas to be potential game-changers.
If you wish to transform your organization, you need an environment where new ideas flow and creativity thrives. You can unleash creativity in your organization by applying the science of creativity and taking advantage of its fundamental characteristics.
The first thing to understand is that what we think of as creativity is the combination of two independent components, “creative potential” and “creative achievement.”
Creative potential is an individual’s ability to generate something new and novel. Creative achievement is the ability to follow through on the creative urge and to implement the idea. Both are required for innovation. Without the idea, you have nothing to implement, and without follow-through, you have daydreams.
People often considered the greatest innovators, like Jobs, Musk, Da Vinci, or others, are successful because they possess both these abilities in spades. But there is no rule stating that both these components need to be present in the same mind. You, too, can create something just as impactful and transformative as they have. But you need to assemble and curate these components of creativity and provide an environment where they can work well together. And that is where most organizations fall short.
For instance, an individual who is excellent in an execution capacity (someone with high creative achievement skills) may not be successful when placed in a situation that requires creative potential. However, pairing this person with someone who has high creative potential may lead to better results.
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Creating creativity means you have to combine both creative potential and creative achievement in the right way.
You don’t need to be a genius:
The greatest innovators in the world have been known to have exceptionally high IQs and often are considered geniuses. But you don’t need to be a genius. If creating transformational innovation requires that you have access to people like Einstein, you should give up now because it will be nearly impossible to find those incredibly rare and gifted minds. However, there are ways to encourage average smart people, such as those in your workforce, to create innovations that can be just as transformative.
Research into creativity shows that there is a positive correlation between intelligence and creative potential. This means that a person who is more intelligent is likely to be more creative, because creativity is a complex task that draws on the brain processes that are also related to IQ.
However, this correlation vanishes after a threshold (at an approximate IQ level of 120). After that point, how smart the person is, has no clear link to their creativity. While an IQ of 120 is reasonably high—considered by experts as the cusp between high-average and superior—it is by no means near the genius-level IQs we often associate with brilliant innovators.
And while intelligence (up to the 120 IQ threshold) is correlated with creative potential, there is no evidence linking intelligence to creative achievement. This means that follow-through is possible across a wide range of intellectual abilities and does not relate to intelligence at all.
In a practical setting, this suggests that, although creativity is a complex task, it can be unleashed within the normal range of intellectual prowess found within your organization. You have all the elements to achieve any level of transformation that you desire, but they must be assembled effectively to cultivate creativity and exist in an environment where creativity is given the best chance of success.
Identifying the most creative people in your organization
Once you understand the components of creativity, you need to identify the people who are best suited to develop creative innovations. A common misconception is that creativity comes from the “creative types,” such as designers, artists, or people in your company who look a certain way, dress a certain way, or communicate in a certain way.
Research in the area shows that creativity is most likely to come from people who have deep domain knowledge. The most significant innovations have come from people who truly understand their discipline (if you don’t understand your domain, you are not likely to create new value in it). Additionally, the most “creative” people are the ones who are independent, unafraid to take risks, are intrinsically motivated, have self-discipline, and have an openness to ambiguity and new perspectives.
Many people in your organization possess these traits, but they may not consider themselves to be creative. Identify these traits to find the people who can take creativity to a new level. Provide them with a positive and collaborative environment that offers the freedom to operate independently and the organizational support to be creative and develop new ideas.
You can create creativity by assembling the right people working in the right environment. And when you do so, the results will be breathtaking.