While top business and political leaders recognise the importance of creativity and innovation as the key drivers of economic growth and prosperity — Barack Obama even called innovation ‘the currency of the 21st century’ — they also recognise that successful innovation demands creative workforce.
Creative employees ‘is the number one organisation practice for successful innovation’ says the Business Council. Creative skill is now a top skill companies seek in employees. Abstract thinking has become a far bigger part of job tasks than a generation ago. Academic qualifications are no longer enough.
Yet, most businesses report having difficulties recruiting employees with the creative skill. School leavers are ‘deficient’ and only 20 per cent of college graduates display strong creativity. A lack of creative executives poses one of the most important barriers to innovation (Business Council, Conference Board). Recruiting creative employees has become ‘a primary concern’ for businesses. About 75 per cent of Africa-based chief executives cite that the lack of creative ‘talent’ threatens their companies’ growth and even survival (Ernst &Young, and PwC).
When asked, business leaders describe ‘creative employees’ as those able to ‘see the problems that no one else sees’ and to generate new ideas that solve them. They note the ability to connect knowledge across disciplines and form new combinations and patterns of behaviour. Curiosity, risk-taking, and the capacities to think divergently (generating multiple solutions to a problem), and communicating new ideas with impact are also considered as part of the creativity skill set.
According to research, creativity is determined by personality, motivation and confidence. Creative people are more open and flexible. Highly self-motivated, sufficient and dedicated to hard work, they enjoy tackling problems. “There is no more joy than proving that a thing is impossible and then showing how it can be done,” said English scientist and inventor Sir Barnes Wallis.
Creative people are polymath and have various interests. Independent in judgement, they can hold many different ideas at the same time, allowing them to attain a richer synthesis of thoughts. They are highly observant, intuitive and confident not only to produce ideas but to share and implement them. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, creative people don’t adapt themselves to the world, they adapt the world to themselves.
The success of innovation depends on creative thinkers at all levels of a company. To ascertain creativity of potential employees, companies may use profile tests, as well as face-to-face interviews that assess how creatively applicants respond to hypothetical scenarios. Once hired, employers evaluate creativity of their employees. On-the-job creativity training and mentoring by creativity consultants (and even artists) can be very effective.
Creative people are rarely motivated by money alone. Therefore, employers who wish to retain their creative workforce should motivate them with a good recognition system, encourage taking risks and provide freedom to work in the areas of interests with stimulating colleagues.
Alla Tkachuk founded Mobile Art School in Kenya. Become ‘Kenya Patron of the Arts’, contact Alla for more information on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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