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Chris Dunmire : Creativity & Innovation: Myths of Creativity Blasted

Creativity & Innovation in the Workplace: Six Myths of Creativity Blasted

By Chris Dunmire

If I was still punching a time clock as a cubical dweller, I would print hundreds of copies of this article by Bill Breen and stuff it into every manager's mailbox I could find. Attached would be a big yellow Post-it note with the message:

Attention: Managers —
Creativity Quashing

Bill Breen's article, The 6 Myths of Creativity (Fast Company, December 2004) discusses the findings of a study by Harvard Business School's Professor Teresa Amabile taglined "A new study will change how you generate ideas and decide who's really creative in your company."

Regarding the study, the article notes:

"Amabile, who heads the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School and is the only tenured professor at a top B-school to devote her entire research program to the study of creativity, is one of the country's foremost explorers of business innovation.

"Eight years ago, Amabile took her research to a daring new level. Working with a team of PhDs, graduate students, and managers from various companies, she collected nearly 12,000 daily journal entries from 238 people working on creative projects in seven companies in the consumer products, high-tech, and chemical industries. ..."

Not surprising, the study is "already overturning some long-held beliefs about innovation in the workplace" and blasts away at some of the common "myths" that continue to run rampant in businesses today that result in untapped resources, mismatched responsibilities, and overly-competitive, stressed-out employees.

What are the six myths? You can read them in their entirety in the article, but a quick rundown is:

  1. Creativity Comes From Creative Types
  2. Money Is a Creativity Motivator
  3. Time Pressure Fuels Creativity
  4. Fear Forces Breakthroughs
  5. Competition Beats Collaboration
  6. A Streamlined Organization Is a Creative Organization

For more than 18 years I've held various positions at over a dozen large and small companies. At this point I can say with certainty that business owners (and managers) who pay attention to studies like this one will have happier, more productive employees, and those who don't will struggle with higher turnover rates and lower employee morale. Eventually, it all funnels down to the bottom line.

Because I'm a working "creative" by choice, I understand the flip side to this very well. I know how it feels to thrive in my job because of being empowered with responsibility and rewarded for my creative efforts. On the other hand, I've resigned from positions at companies who treated employees like chattel with overly-stressful office environments non-conducive to creativity and innovative thinking. Experiencing both sides of the coin arms a person with perspective and more power when it comes to choosing their next job.

Breen's article and Amabile's underlying study is gold to any business who wants to progress and stay competitive. Only a foolish organization would ignore its findings. •

© Chris Dunmire 2005. All rights reserved.

About Chris Dunmire

Chris is a deeply engaged creative spirit, lover of wit, words, and wisdom, and the driving force behind the award-winning Creativity Portal® Web site. [...]

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