Any number of case studies can be cited as evidence that innovation and creativity are crucial to business success. Yet results from the European Innovation Scoreboard (EIS) suggest that many countries have much to do before they can be described as ‘innovative’.
So a real problem facing European organisations is that they just can’t recruit enough of those special ‘creative’ people -- right? I’m not so sure. I’d suggest that the statistics say rather more about the way we tap into the innovation within our people than it does about any lack of potential creativity. And the real issue lies with our perception of creative thinking…
The problem can be traced back to 1981 when Professors Sperry and Ornstein told the world that human beings are of two minds. Their landmark “left brain, right brain” experiments showed that the two hemispheres of the brain are dominant in specific functions – left for logical and right for creative.
But an undeserved legacy of Sperry and Ornstein is a belief amongst the business community that ‘right-brain’ creative thinking is a gift that few of us are graced with. The reality is very different. Whilst their work showed that each side of the brain is dominant in specific functions, it also showed they are skilled in ALL functions and that analytical and creative thinking are complementary skills available to and accessible by all of us. Indeed it is simply our misconception that there is a gap between them that very often hinders our ability to be creative or innovative.
The business environment tends to perpetuate the myth that creative or innovative thinking is for the chosen few. In our information-overloaded lives we tend to ask our people to use the logical, analytical and rational ‘left-brain’ labelled functions. And from childhood we are taught to create lists, to prioritise by numbering, to join the dots, to think ‘logically’, to focus on results, to seek an outcome, to follow the sequence, to take linear notes… the list goes on.
It’s also a fact that, for many of us, it’s not often that we are asked, allow ourselves -- or are allowed by our work situation -- to think creatively. And when we are, it’s no surprise that many of us feel that this is something out of the ordinary and perhaps beyond our grasp.
I believe that creativity and inclusion go hand-in-hand because it is flexibility and creativity that make possible inclusive ways of working. So what are inclusive ways of working? Well first and foremost it’s not everyone doing the same thing in the same way. Of course, there are behaviours that help guide our actions, but inclusion comes about through acceptance of diversity and non-conformity. If we are afraid or unable to be different, to relate our work in our own way, then we will be less able and willing to appreciate and develop the abilities of the people around us.
The challenge I’m giving myself – and you -- is to take a creative or innovative approach to situations both at work and at home. That doesn’t just mean being different, but being different and better……so let’s mind the gap