Are You Part of the Creative Class?

by Idris Mootee

Are You Part of the Creative Class?Many people overstate their creative capability, but don’t worry, there are many ways to join the creative class.

I have done about two dozen of interviews for new recruits the last two weeks in SF. 80% of them told me that they are very creative, and the other 20% didn’t mention that at all. I guess half of that 20% felt that there was no need to bring up that point as it is almost a given and the other half pretty much given up trying to convince me that they are a creative type. I think most people overstated their creative capability. Everyone thinks they have ideas. Who doesn’t? And who is not creative? And what is a creative type?

Is creativity a skill that you can learn, a talent that comes with one naturally or a mindset that can be cultivated? Thinking that one is very creative is as bad as thinking one is not creative at all. A lot of people overestimated their creative capability and thinking that if they can pump with a lot of crazy ideas, they are capable of solving complex wicked problems. Then there are those who need to think and think a lot and believing that’s the opposite of creativity. It is just a different kind of thinking styles.

No question creativity is very important these days and B-Schools are not doing enough to teach that while D-schools are doing too much. Being creative doesn’t mean you don’t wear a suit (as long as it is not a cheap one). Being creative does not mean you don’t have a strong business mind (such as having MBAs). Being creative doesn’t mean you have to be an artist, designer or a crazy scientist. Being creative doesn’t mean you hear a strange voice of inspiration after midnight. Being creative doesn’t mean you cannot be perfectly happy with a standard $8 haircut. And you don’t have to dress in black and probably the turtle neck T-shirt. But ideally you should be using a MacBook and not a PC.

So what makes a person creative? Throughout history, we have always regarded artists, musicians, poets, film makers and other creative professions as somehow different from (and mysteriously so) the average person. There have been several myths as to the precise nature of the creative ‘X factor’. But don’t believe what you read.

Creativity often perceived as illogical, that’s not necessarily the case. I believe in the power of creative logic (or strategic creativity), applied creativity for specific purpose versus pure creativity for personal expressions. Both are two very different things. And people mixed creativity with art. You can be creative but not artistic or you can be artistic and not creative. Or you can be both.

If you ask ten people to define love or lust you will get a hundred different answers, for such an experience is not deduced logically. That is creativity in its raw form. Strategic creativity is not the same; it is a mindset, a process and a toolkit. We can experience creativity but there is no process to being creative, but we can also develop creativity with a process supported by enough stimuli, data and sense-making.

Want an example? Creativity can be boosted through the use of storytelling. Stories have forever given been cultural threads, help make sense of things and what’s going on in the world. Learn to listen to people’s stories you can become more creative. That’s a skill you can learn in studying social anthropology.

Creativity can be the real enemy of creativity. Because it tries to contain itself in its simplest form. It can be dangerous when added even with a tiny dosage of ego. Thinking is not the enemy of creativity. Creativity can be trained though concrete experiences and abstract conceptualization, and those are two very different approaches, almost like creative doing and creative thinking, one is reflective observation and the other one is active experimentation. There are many paths to join the creative class. Membership is open.

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Idris MooteeIdris Mootee is the CEO of idea couture, a strategic innovation and experience design firm. He is the author of four books, tens of published articles, and a frequent speaker at business conferences and executive retreats.

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  1. I think there is a lot of smoke surrounding what it means to be creative. It gets confused with inspiration – the idea that a fully realized concept comes to you in a flash, as opposed to having to methodically build it out. It gets confused with originality – while originality is of course desirable, it takes fully functioning creativity to create something unoriginal – and that may be someone you want on your team, if as a whole there is a flow of original ideas or modifications. If they can create something unoriginal, they can likely create something original, given the right ideas, and such a person will have a better sense of what is possible than someone with great ideas but little experience in execution (execution = creating those ideas) People who think they have great ideas – and that that’s valuable – probably live in a bubble unless they can point to a portfolio of actualized projects.
    Finally, I think this all points to the fact that many view creativity as a yes/no concept, instead of a skill that you can work on. Perhaps on the lower levels, copying a painting at the museum – surely, not an original thing to do, but I think it also demonstrates creative art skills. Surely more valuable than having a brilliant image stuck in your head.

  2. Nice article Branden. I think creativity in business can be simply defined as being able to find different solutions to business problems. To be able to arrive at different solutions you have to ask different questions or use different approaches. This applies to all business functions, whether you are in supply Chain or in product development. Of course, most of us deal with innovation to drive growth in products and services so our focus is on driving consumer solutions. Being an artist myself, I’d say that for artists, poets, etc tend to the right side of the brain tends to dominate, which is a side that tends to see things in less structured and analytical ways. I believe that finding the right organizational balance of left and right brain thinking, can lead to great innovations that deliver business results.

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