Studying Workplace Creativity

from Creativity 101 by James C. Kaufman, PhD

Posted 6/1/09 | Updated 5/6/23

Another big area is creativity in the workplace. Much of the body of research and writing in this area is legitimate and insightful, and I will discuss it in detail. Some of the work in this area, however, is simply pop psychology.

Being practical and applied is absolutely a good thing, but some of these approaches sacrifice any semblance of scientific validity and are light years away from empirical evidence. Most of the books on business creativity that you may find remaindered at bookstores are not necessarily foolproof. If learning to be a creative worker or leader was as easy as reading a book and realizing, "Hey, I just need to look at things differently sometimes," then everyone would be creative and live happily ever after — and every company would be an innovation engine.

Perhaps the biggest reason why creativity can feel like an unwanted Windows upgrade is that many people don't know exactly what creativity is. Ask a classroom full of students to tell you their definitions of creativity, and you'll get a lot of responses like thinking outside the box. Yes, without question, but what, exactly, does that mean? One of the first goals of this book is to clarify the many different meanings of creativity.

It's not surprising that most people don't have a strong grasp of what it means to study creativity. If you look at the people who do study creativity, they are scattered across many different areas. Some are cognitive psychologists, others are in education. Some are in business; some are starting to pop up in neuroscience. It's hard to get a consistent agreement about a topic across psychology; it is even more difficult to get such a disparate group of thinkers to come together across fields.

Some people think of being creative the way they do about using public transportation — it's great that other people do it, but they don't want to do it themselves. Or others may think of it in the same way as being a vegetarian — a perfectly noble endeavor, but not something they could handle doing.

Or, perhaps, it's simply something completely alien. "I'm not creative," they say. And these same people may then miraculously balance the family budget with innovative money management strategies, or keep a small child entertained for hours with made-up songs, or build a fence designed to keep a high-strung beagle in the yard.

©2009 James C. Kaufman. All rights reserved.

Creativity 101

This series is based on "Defining Creativity" from Creativity 101 by James C. Kaufman, PhD. Excerpts reprinted with permission of Springer Publishing Company www.springerpub.com.

James C. Kaufman is a Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut. ...