“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up” (attributed to Pablo Picasso).
Creativity is an essential but underdeveloped competency in today’s workplace. LinkedIn Learning named creativity the No. 1 soft skill needed by companies in 2019. Yet, we often hear people say, “Oh, I’m not an artist; I’m not creative.” With a workforce swallowed by self-doubt, how can organizations expect employees to develop a creative competency? Here are five tips for employees.
1. Redefine Creativity
Creativity is more than talent, craftsmanship or artistic technique. Stefan Mumaw, a LinkedIn Learning instructor and six-time author, defines creativity as “problem-solving with relevance and novelty.” Creativity is the capacity for potential and an active pursuit of possibility. All of us are capable of creativity when we consider it in terms of willingness to produce good work.
2. Surrender the Fear
To embrace creativity, you have to surrender the fear of being bad at it. Brainstorming is often the first step for organizations to generate new ideas. Fear and insecurity can paralyze an employee from offering a “bad” idea. Disempowering their fear transforms work into productivity. Productive work naturally leads to discovery and possibilities. Creativity thrives in fear-free discovery.
3. Engage With Stories
Creativity requires a willingness to discover inspiration and opportunity around you, which starts with open-ended questions that generate curiosity. Learn the personal stories of the people around you. Discover the histories of important places and organizations. Curiosity will lead you out of your comfort zone and into new ways of thinking.
Madeline L’Engle, author of the children’s classic “A Wrinkle in Time,” wrote in “Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art” that once artists find freedom, they are able to be “full of questions, [to cry out those questions] in great angst, [to discover] rainbow answers in the darkness, and then [rush] to canvas or paper.”
The more stories you gather, the more inspiration you will find to identify problems and create relevant solutions.
4. Explore and Play
Once you’re free of fear and immersed in the stories around you, you have to re-learn to play. Julia Cameron, author of “The Artist’s Way,” writes, “Creativity lives in paradox; serious art is born from serious play.” Incorporating opportunities to use color, open work spaces and unrestricted amounts of time can give you a sense of childlike play in your work.
5. Build a Creative Culture
Practicing creative competency alone isn’t enough. It is important for organizations to establish a creative culture to reinforce employees’ pursuits of creativity. Tailor job characteristics, organizational support systems and work contexts to instill, reward and develop a creative competency. Adapt a tailored approach to accommodate individual values while promoting a collective pursuit of creativity. This creative culture will enhance an individual’s motivation, sense of psychological safety and overall job satisfaction.
The responsibility to develop a creative competency is shared by both the individual and the organization. In 2019, it is more imperative than ever before to invest in creative professional development and workplace design in order to remain competitive. With implications for job performance, retention, recruitment and innovation, an investment in creativity is well worth it.