What comes to mind when you think of creativity?

Does it evoke images of a solitary artist, author or musician painstakingly bent over their work? … or does it conjure up words like ‘imagination’, ‘eccentricity’ or ‘risk taking’?

Perceptions of creativity may vary, but there is little doubt about its utility. Creativity frequently ranks highly in polls asking organisations to identify the most important skills for current and future employees.

The need for creativity in the business world is driven by the priority companies place on innovation. Our previous white paper on resistance to organisational change shows how adaptability and successful change, often instigated by creative employees, can be the difference between flourishing and declining – take a look at the success and failure of Netflix and Blockbuster for an illustration of creativity and innovation in practice.

In the world of work, two points can be made about successful creative processes:

1. They begin with new ideas, but must end with an output;
2. They are rarely a solitary endeavour.

Creativity & Action

By its very nature, being creative implies that something is being created. The creative process must begin with originality, imagination and risk taking, but many describing themselves as creative focus more on the ‘ideas’ part of the equation than on any end product.

The case for utility is made in our recent white paper on risk and creativity, which found that self-identified creativity amongst the more daring Excitable Risk Type was more than three times greater than in any other Risk Type in our sample of creative professionals. Creativity was also found to relate to spontaneity, greater curiosity and reduced apprehensiveness.

These characteristics appear to have benefitted participants in their careers. Yet there may come a point in the creative process where reliance on these tendencies reaches a point of diminishing returns and may even become counterproductive, either when creativity is expressed solely as eccentric individuality or when creative ideas fail to progress through to the delivery of specific outputs.

Creativity & Teamwork

In the world of work, a creative process will often involve teams rather than individuals. Not only does this increase the importance of delegation, collaboration, communication and teamwork, but it also requires recognition of how individual team members impact upon the creative process.

A creative brief spotlights a group’s most creative members, but when it comes to moving from ideas to outputs, ‘less imaginative’ team members are the likely driving force in completing the creative process. They may punctuate ideas with additional questions, like: ‘who will lead this?’; ‘how long will this take?’; ‘who needs to be involved?’; ‘how much will it cost?’; and ‘will it provide good value for money?’.

However, the combination of these approaches to the creative process may give rise to intra-team conflict, with the ‘creative’ members perceiving these interjections with a mixture of annoyance and exasperation. The general rule is that Risk Type diversity broadens the scope and vision of the team, yet the same differences can also induce tensions and conflict if not everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet, as it were. This highlights the importance for project managers to establish a common goal and mutual respect for the contributions of different Risk Types to the creative process.

Moving Creative Processes Forwards

This is where psychometrics like the Risk Type Compass can be invaluable to creative teams. The Risk Type Compass helps individuals and project managers to understand their underlying personality dynamics in a team setting, recognising what may be contributing to conflict, disagreement and pushback.

The Risk Type Compass Team Report Scattergram shows how the Risk Type Compass can illustrate the dispositional tendencies within a group of individuals. This can be used to facilitate a discussion with the group about how they see these differences playing out in their team work. This output, and the considerable detail that underpins it, can be a god-send to practitioners tasked with assembling and managing teams where different but complementary talents are required.

When used effectively, a trained practitioner can use this information in partnership with teams to exploit strengths, account for potential weaknesses and, ultimately, improve collaboration.

About the Author: Dr Simon Toms

Simon is a Consultant Psychologist with Psychological Consultancy Ltd, where he is involved in numerous Research & Development projects in the field of personality assessments. He is a Chartered Psychologist (CPsychol) and Associate Fellow (AFBPsS) with the British Psychological Society, a Chartered Scientist (CSci) with the Science Council, and an International Affiliate with the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP).

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