IW500: Ken Robinson Lays Out 3 Misconceptions About Creativity

Leaders who buy into these have a ready-made excuse for not honing employees' creative capabilities.

Chris Murphy, Editor, InformationWeek

September 13, 2011

3 Min Read

My Mistake: 10 CIOs Share Do-Over Worthy Moments

My Mistake: 10 CIOs Share Do-Over Worthy Moments

Slideshow: My Mistake: 10 CIOs Share Do-Over Worthy Moments (click image for larger view and for slideshow)

Sir Ken Robinson, as a speaker and writer, often explores the threats to creativity--from standardized tests in schools to corporate cultures that don't reward creative thinking. Robinson, in one of the keynote speeches at this week's InformationWeek 500 conference, laid out three misconceptions about "creativity" that can keep employees from driving new and valuable ideas for their companies.

One misconception is that only special people are creative, and most people aren't capable of unique ideas. "If you're a human being, it comes with the kit," Robinson said. Instead, companies should involve everyone in innovation, not leave it to the "creatives" or a specific innovation group.

The second is that creativity is limited to areas such as the arts, design, or marketing, when in fact it can thrive in any area, and is every bit as prevalent in business disciplines. "All the really great companies recognize that creativity is interdisciplinary," he said.

The last misconception is that people either are creative or they're not, and there's nothing that can be done about it. Instead, Robinson argued that organizations can nurture people's creative abilities--or stifle them. "Many of us have been educated out of our creative confidence," said Robinson.

Robinson challenged IT leaders to focus on whether their organization's culture supports creativity, and whether everyone feels that it's part of their jobs. Leaders need to build systematic programs focused on creativity and innovation, and train people in the processes of creative thinking. One way to do that is to make sure that teams spend time focused on creative work, not just banging out projects. Most new ideas stem not from the lone genius in a room, but in teams focused together on working out problems.

Robinson offers his definition of creativity as "original ideas that have value." He said innovation is the next stage, that of implementing the best of the creative ideas. "Innovation is what we're all impressed with in business, but you can't get straight to it," he said.

Robinson's misconceptions offer something of a ready-made excuse for business leaders--buy into them, and leaders are off the hook for developing a culture that pushes everyone to think about new and better approaches to their discipline in a company. Instead, leaders need to take on this cultural challenge and "put creativity at the center of strategy," Robinson said.

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About the Author(s)

Chris Murphy

Editor, InformationWeek

Chris Murphy is editor of InformationWeek and co-chair of the InformationWeek Conference. He has been covering technology leadership and CIO strategy issues for InformationWeek since 1999. Before that, he was editor of the Budapest Business Journal, a business newspaper in Hungary; and a daily newspaper reporter in Michigan, where he covered everything from crime to the car industry. Murphy studied economics and journalism at Michigan State University, has an M.B.A. from the University of Virginia, and has passed the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exams.

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