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A Crisis of Creativity in the Workplace

A Crisis of Creativity in the Workplace

Sharlyn Lauby | HR Bartender

A sign in the Washington DC airport captured my attention. It said innovation is the key to solving the health care crisis. The ad was for an insurance company that was promoting the fact they’re working on innovative solutions toward health care. Nice!

But the message made me wonder. Are organizations really ready for innovation? And if they are — don’t we need creative people to fuel the innovation train? Whenever I have these philosophical moments, I rely on the dictionary to help me clarify my thoughts. According to Merriam-Webster,

Innovation is the introduction of something new. A new idea, method or device.
Creativity is the ability to produce through imaginative skill (rather than imitate).

In pondering the two definitions, it seems to me that we need to have a certain amount of creativity in order to have innovation. Here’s my reasoning.

• If you create something new, then chances are it took some creativity.
• If you didn’t create something new, then it’s not innovation. That’s imitation.

So if the sign in the airport is right and innovation is the key to solving the health care crisis (or any crisis for that matter) then, where’s this innovation going to come from?

In my town, school budgets are facing drastic cuts and teachers are being furloughed. Subjects like art, music and physical education are being removed from curricula to save costs. I saw an episode of Top Chef (I know, reality TV — don’t judge me) where I heard schools are given approx. $2 per child to prepare a nutritious school lunch. Is that even possible?

It left me empty handed. Where does a person learn creativity? And, can you be creative if your stomach is growling?

A recent article in Newsweek says CEOs identified creativity as the numero uno leadership competency of the future. The same article cited a study from the College of William & Mary saying creativity scores have significantly declined in the last decade. We have to allow time for creativity — in both the education arena as well as the corporate world. Being able to develop some level of creativity will allow innovation to occur. The innovation we need to build the future.

Zen Habits published a post called “The No. 1 Habit of Highly Creative People.” They say it’s solitude. What do you say? Where do you get your creative energy? Leave me a note in the comments.

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