abstract art, a systems view

Creativity at work?

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Is there really room for creativity in the workplace? I don’t mean art in the workplace…

…though I think that would make an interesting study.

I mean creative thinking. Whilst that term probably needs some definition I am going to leave that difficult task for another time and assume we share a general understanding of  it.

In large companies especially, creativity is needed (W.Edwards Deming said “it is necessary to innovate”) and often it is verbally encouraged. But then, at the same time, any behaviour that might approach the creative also tends to be stifled.

One way of stifling something is to claim to be managing it. I note that Talent Management is a euphemism for the squandering of talent and Performance Management guarantees that the performance of any organisation will be sub-optimised.

It is almost as if the more that an idea gets talked about the less  it is likely to be experienced. For example, we hear so much about “communities” (the HR community, the Learning & Development community, the artistic community, the gay community, the local community, etc) precisely at a time when our experience of community is virtually non-existent. It must be a virtual community!

Recently, a friend was telling me how in their workplace the job purpose of the Quality Manager seemed to be to prevent quality.

One Response

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  1. Creativity is needed and desired in the workplace, but even so it is rare. Designing… anything, is creative. Creativity has to be applied to the work, so maybe ‘innovation’ is a better word. So it is needed and hired for, and as you noted a lot of lip service is paid to it, but it is still rare. Because, imo, especially in larger companies, it falls victim to political competition, mainly of peers, and immediate management. That is how it gets stifled. Creativity and innovation does better in smaller companies and start-ups both a) because it is needed even more — it’s seen as more than necessary, it’s essential for survival — and b) there are fewer people out to stifle, twist, belittle, and steal credit for it. Precisely because there are fewer people to begin with in smaller companies.

    I work in software and have given this very question a lot of thought over the years. This is one of the reasons I prefer smaller companies. Google is a good example of when a start-up does extraordinarily well and quickly grows into a huge company. They know how important creativity is, and so they have (apparently successfully) built a corporate culture that really does encourage and foster creativity, instead of paying lip service while stomping it into the ground.


    November 15, 2011 at 2:26 am

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