By Lara Zwiebel
Creativity is conscious. That is something I did not realize before studying creative thinking and problem solving. As an artist and an advertising major, I often tell people I am a natural creative, and while it is true that I may be more inclined to think creatively, it is impossible to be creative without effort. Studying creativity has shown me that anyone can learn the art with a lot of effort.
My two roommates major in nursing and international business. I had a conversation with Caroline (the international business major) yesterday about how she did not deem herself “creative.” In fact, she said:
“Obviously your major is creative and you as a person are too. Julia (our other roommate) may not be creative in her nursing career, but at home she is still very creative. I am simply not creative anytime.”
The thing is that Caroline had to be creative at nearly every stage of her college career to accomplish a degree in international business at UofSC – the #1 IB School in the nation. It’s just that creativity takes a lot of different forms. Today, I am excited to dive into the world of business (one very different than my own) and the positive effect of creativity in a business environment.
One of the first things I learned about creativity was the art of brainstorming. It seems like an easy task, but it turns out there are a lot of professionals who have spent time studying to figure out the best way to do it. Picture this: Caroline is in a conference room in New York City, and her team is addressing how to pitch to a potential client.
Did you know that not everyone should be at the conference table? After learning about her colleagues, Caroline should identify those that will contribute to a positive pitch. For example, she should leave the non-participants, close-minded individuals, and maybe even her boss out of the room during the first round of brainstorming.
Her team’s next step should be guided by Osborn’s 1939 theory on brainstorming. In the beginning, no one’s ideas are dumb ideas. It is far too easy to get distracted by critiquing an idea and explaining why it couldn’t work before the idea is even complete. Stop saying “that won’t work” right away. I catch myself doing this all the time – even internally. Someone says something I do not like, and I automatically block my brain from considering the idea. Truth is, this very idea could be one that I piggyback off of to create something genius.
Beyond brainstorming, there are a lot of methods to generate creativity, or in this case, a creative pitch. Have you heard of SCAMPER? A quick Google search will lead you to its method of madness, which involves questioning the substitution, combination, adaptation or modification of any idea/problem to create a grand idea. How could a past pitch be modified to contribute to this new one?
This summer, I worked for a startup and was quickly introduced to the world of business. Every time my team came to a problem, we would chat about it and then decide we were just going to wait for a lightbulb moment. We would have to do our own work. While this might be true in some cases, and intubation is real, it also would have been beneficial to go down SCAMPER’s checklist of questions to avoid our own stress and waste of time.
One of the most important business and life lessons studying creativity has revealed is the importance of asking questions. This could be in the form of SCAMPER or asking “why” five times while trying to solve a problem. Even in the simplest of forms, questioning leads to discoveries, answers and self-betterment. Side note: my grandfather, who has spent the past 20 years consulting and devoting his time to leadership development, believes questioning to be one of his top 10 rules of life. I think the best leaders and professionals would agree with him.
There is a difference between artistic and creative, and I think the comparison often makes it difficult for non-artistic (say business-minded) individuals (like Caroline) to put effort into being creative. The following traits are those of a creative thinker: flexible, courageous, curious, imaginative, proactive, independent. So, who would not want to be creative? It really isn’t even a want, but a need if you wish to succeed.
A businesswoman must be flexible with a busy schedule, courageous enough to pitch to clients, curious about new prospects, imaginative about the future of their career and proactive to stay on top of competition. Caroline does all of these things. She is creative. And with a little more study into the methods of creativity and problem solving, she can be even more successful.