Creativity Fact or Fiction

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Christopher Richards

Sep 18, 2006, 1:06:04 AM9/18/06

There is much talk about the need for creativity in business. Is this lip
service? In my experience, creativity is talked about by middle managers in
corporations, but these people are the least likely to understand what
creativity is- or engage in it.

Ashley Montague once said that the mark of an educated person is to rise
above the limitations of the educational system (he was teaching doctors).
Higher education in the US can produce institutionalized minds. I say this
because it seems that so much higher (business) education is a series of
hoops to jump through. Corrine Maier's book Hello Laziness suggests that why
business likes MBA's is not that they have intrinsic knowledge, but that
they are compliant: they will work long hours and have demonstrated
persistence (and in some cases financial hardship). In other words, they
won't rock the boat.

I recently had a conversation with a business school professor at Berkeley
who teaches MBA's. His frustration is that they just want tools to do a job
that is clearly defined. This won't help them anticipate what is coming
next, or stimulate them to create new products and services. The real world
is not like the static world of academia. The world is chaotic. In school,
one is praised for, pleasing the teacher, not making mistakes; for getting
to the "right" answer quickly. This is not how it is in the real world. We
learn from mistakes. A culture of fear kills creativity. Large corporations
are political minefields. There are those just waiting for someone to do
something (perceived as) foolish.

It takes courage to make mistakes, or even to look at what others think is a
mistake and reframe it. Rather than an education that tries to fit everyone
into the same box, one that encourages experimentation and tolerates failure
must be prerequisites for creativity.

Rollo May wrote, The Courage to Create. The blank sheet of paper; the white
canvas; the expectant audience at the start of a performance can be
terrifying. But some businesses (and consultants) are both innovative and
creative (two different things). Is creativity only seen in small companies?
Does creativity come from the margin of the business world, or is there a
place for it inside the corporate box?

Your thoughts welcome. Thanks.

writer/sales and marketing consultant

Tech 22 22

Sep 20, 2006, 10:32:13 PM9/20/06

"There is much talk about the need for creativity in business. Is this
lip service? In my experience, creativity is talked about by middle
managers in corporations, but these people are the least likely to
understand what creativity is- or engage in it."...

Well some corporate structures are more horizontal that others, and some
more specialized, both breed innovative thinking.

But It's mostly lip service, Mainly because the workforce is not taught
to think innovatively, but to follow directions. So it's mainly just a
feel-good soundbite. We are taught by the society (and news media) to
focus on the negative. Managers carry that into the work place, so
people live in fear.

As a result, pure innovation rarely ever happens unless the company is
in crisis... then they usually have their finest hour ;).

(Until the ruling boards are reformed, polarize and stagnate as they go
through their life-cycle, grow fat & lazy, and see anything new as a
threat to the status quo, and shut down the innovation, strangling R&D
and killing the companies true potential).

Also, more women in professional positions tends to spur innovation in
some types of business.


Christopher Richards

Oct 14, 2006, 12:12:46 AM10/14/06

"Tech 22 22" <> wrote in message

> Also, more women in professional positions tends to spur innovation in
> some types of business.
> ~zion


That is an interesting idea. Can you say more about that please?

Since posting my original questions, I have made some progress with new
content for my presentation next month. A creative process tends to take on
a life of its own. I am developing four stages of adoption. My talk's
subject is Adapt or Die and aimed at business consultants. Stage two is
about incubating an idea. It may seem that a new idea just flashes into your
mind, but that idea grows in fertile ground. Years ago, I was taught in
sales training that everything should be done with a sense of urgency: a
kind of action without thinking. This might be true when objectives are
clearly defined, but I like an environment where they are not. It is the
creative space in which new ideas arise.

My sense is that those that generate ideas, and those that implement them,
live in completely different worlds.


Oct 14, 2006, 3:50:36 PM10/14/06

Christopher Richards wrote:
> There is much talk about the need for creativity in
> business. Is this lip service?

Of course it is. Creativity can be described as going outside
existing protocols. The majority of business functions,
however, depend on strictly following existing protocols.
One obvious example is accounting; it is for a good reason
that "creative accounting" has become a pejorative.
Operations tend to have very little tolerance for creativity
as well; how creative can (and should) one be when
operating, say, an oil refinery or a nuclear power plant?

Creativity does have its place in business, but it is usually
limited to strategy formulation and product development.
There are businesses where creativity is a part of the
production process (music, motion pictures, etc.), but
those are few and far between... There are instances
where creativity can help better organize a particular
business function, but those quickly become best
practices anyway...

> Corrine Maier's book Hello Laziness suggests that why
> business likes MBA's is not that they have intrinsic
> knowledge, but that they are compliant

"Business" does not "like MBA's"; rather, managers like to
hire people who went to the same schools they did or, failing
that, people who went to reputable schools... Education, as
Nobel-winning economist Michael Spence pointed out, is
merely a signal that a prospective employee sends out to
prospective employers.

> I recently had a conversation with a business school
> professor at Berkeley who teaches MBA's. His frustration
> is that they just want tools to do a job that is clearly defined.

Of course. That's why they went to get an MBA rather than
a PhD in art history...

> This won't help them anticipate what is coming next,

Very few of today's MBA students will ever be in a position
where such anticipation (beyond obvious things like "if a
worker quits today, we'll need to find a replacement
tomorrow") is required.

> or stimulate them to create new products and services.

And how many of those products and services will be accepted
anyway? The world is filled with examples of new products and
services that looked great in market tests but turned out to be
major failures...

> We learn from mistakes.

Yes, but we PROFIT from mistakes made by others...

> A culture of fear kills creativity.

And a culture of responsibility severely limits it. Creativity is
not a goal, it is a means to an end. It is also a convenient
mask often worn by waste, fraud, and ineptitude.

> Large corporations are political minefields.

Yes, but it's important to understand why it is the case. Large
corporations are owned by large groups of shareholders, but
managed by small groups of executives. Executive creativity
can be (and often is) perceived as taking undue risks with
shareholders' money. Executives, whose compensation is
in many cases comes primarily from stock options, like these
undue risks, since their options have no downside (the worst
thing that can happen is options expiring worthless);
shareholders, conversely, face quite a bit of downside, since
they hold the stock, rather than options on it...

> Does creativity come from the margin of the business world,
> or is there a place for it inside the corporate box?

In the end, it boils down to two questions: (1) whose money
are you trying to gamble with? and (2) have the moneymen
agreed to the gamble before you commenced it?


Christopher Richards

Oct 14, 2006, 8:26:52 PM10/14/06

"NC" <> wrote in message

Thank you for your perspective on the limited decision-making territory of
the MBA. Wouldn't you agree that creativity is necessary for business
owners, for sales people? But when it comes to managers they are wrapped on
the knuckles for doing anything that may seem risky. Therefore, it may be a
waste of time talking to such people about trial and error - and learning
from their own mistakes.

Your point about learning from other people's mistakes is well taken. I am
no expert on management, but management training may be at its best when it
demonstrates what not to do. I like the products put out by Video Arts. They
show how not to do customer service. It's very funny, and gets the point
across. Video Arts are being creative.

So creativity becomes an outsourced activity, or in collaboration with the
business owner. I like that.


Oct 16, 2006, 12:29:09 PM10/16/06

Christopher Richards wrote:
> NC,

> Wouldn't you agree that creativity is necessary for business
> owners,

Only if you are trying to start a new industry... How much
creativity should you expect from a person who owns a car
repair place? A dry cleaning business? A bed-and-breakfast?
More specifically, would you want your car mechanic to test
new repair techniques on your car and your dry cleaner, to
try new cleaning compounds on your dress shirts?

> for sales people?

Hell no. Sales people's creativity often takes the form of
hyperbolizing, overpromising, or, in extreme cases, outright
lying to prospects. Marketing people, on the other hand, do
need to be creative, but not in the way artists or writers are
creative; rather, they need to be creative in the way scientists
and engineers can be: design experiments and interpret
empirical data to identify underserved demographics, figure
out cost-effective promotion strategies, etc.

The prime example of such creativity is Gary Loveman, a
Harvard Business School economics professor who started
out consulting for Harrah's Entertainment, then got hired as
their COO, and eventually ascended to the top spot when
Harrah's CEO Phil Satre retired in 2002.


Wayne Sallee

Oct 16, 2006, 7:13:47 PM10/16/06

NC wrote on 10/16/2006 12:29 PM:
> How much
> creativity should you expect from a person who owns a car
> repair place?

Actually if a part can not be replaced without spending a
fortune, then creativity on making it work is great to have.

Wayne Sallee
Wayne's Pets

Nov 13, 2006, 3:52:03 PM11/13/06

Been thinking about this for a while after having been employed by a
large FMCG multinational for years.

Creativity in my world comes mostly from creative agencies who operate
on completely different values. While brand managers like myself manage
budgets and sell "lower-than-expected" volume forecasts, people at
agencies smoke a pipe and come up with brilliant ideas that delight
consumers for years to come. it is then my job to execute their ideas
within the busget that I have to squeeze as much juice as I can from
their potential.

this said, there are some EXTREMELY RARE cases where people in brand
management would come up with their own concepts and ideas, and those
would be commercialized and brought to life in the market. these are
unique and normally do not live long in highly formalized environments
like mine (they go work for Apple, Google or Skype).

I am on the edge of bceoming bored to death with the same old thing
over and over again and I'm ready to start rocking the boat. Let's see
how long I will last ;)


On Sep 18, 8:06 am, "Christopher Richards" <>


Dec 19, 2006, 1:05:05 AM12/19/06

Developing Creativity and Human Resource

What is creativity and why do we need creativity?
Creativity is the source of our success in business. All companies, no
matter how large, were started as a consequence of a creative thought
by its founders. All chief executives or one of their predecessors,
started their company as a result of a creative idea, and the company
growth has continued from subsequent creativity. Company failure may be
due to lack of creativity to solve problems as they arise.

True creative thinking at its best is cognitive thinking. Cognitive
thinking is when you have a thought or an idea that seems to have come
from nowhere. In reality these thoughts do come form somewhere but
certainly not the every day level of the mind - our intellect. It is
our intellect, which has to validate and assess the value of such
thoughts after they have occurred. Cognitive thought is truly creative
as it generally is 'original thought'. Why do we want original
thoughts - simply because they give our company the edge over rivals
- new ideas, new ways of working, new products i.e. new growth for
the company.

The story of Henry Ford having this inspiration to make car transport
easily affordable is legendary. The creative spark made Bill Gates tell
IBM he could develop their data operating systems. Having made that
claim to IBM Gates had to use his intellect to develop how he was going
to achieve this outcome. This became MSDOS and resulted in the
formation of Microsoft, and all that has followed for that iconic

There are very many other famous examples of such history changing
thoughts in all fields of life, all over the world. (If you have your
personal favourite - please send it to me at my contact details

Many inventions developed in this manner. Edison had the concept of an
electric light even though initially he did not know how to achieve his
goal. Some authorities say Edison took over 1000 attempts before
achieving success, developing the light bulb. One of the greatest minds
in history - Albert Einstein developed his theory of relativity from
a 'creative insight, a creative flash' then having to spend along
time using his intellect to work out the mathematics of his insight.
What was Einstein?
Doing when he had his creative flash, his insight that changed modern
science... looking into the flames of a fire!

If you wish to keep your company 'cutting edge', to keep new and
alternative solutions to problems, then you need to continue to develop
creative thinking - expanding your creative consciousness.
What is the source of creativity?
As explained above, our creative thinking is not an intellectual
process, but a process, which is later, validated and developed by the
intellect. Where is the source of our creativity? In the diagram we
can see activity at the top. The wavy line is the interface of our
thoughts and actions. All actions are based on a previous thought. We
think, and then we do (to a greater or lesser extent). However we also
know from our own experience, that the quality of our actions results
form the quality of our thinking.

The surface values of the mind are intellectual thoughts, for most of
us in the West - our workday thinking.

Deeper to the intellect is the field of concepts. Here the thinking is
less precise but broader in depth. The higher you are in management,
the more you also have to access conceptualisation in your working
mind, as your role in the organisation requires a greater overview
along with specifics. This is more the level of ideas and feelings.

Deeper still is what I call the level of creativity and innovation -
original thought or cognition. Mental activity at this level is very
profound and original. This is the level at which Einstein came up with
E=MC2 (but at the level of inspiration not mathematical
intellectualisation). Activity at this level includes a sense of
'knowingness'. "I know I an going to ..." or "I know I must
develop..." or "I know this to be true but now I have to find a way
to prove it." etc. etc. - The person is left with an assuredness and
lack of doubt about the experience. There may be some intellectual
enquiry as to how to achieve the innovative thought (Edison took 1000
attempts). However he persisted because he was driven but a sense of
knowing he was on the right track to something great.
- This is the level of the mind at which the board of directors in a
company need to access, in addition to the higher levels of the mind.

At the base of the diagram is stillness. This is the level from which
thoughts arise into cognition. Whilst almost absentmindedly gazing
into the flames of his fire, Einstein 'let go' of his intellect and
let his mind 'drifted off' into the deeper levels of innovative
thought. This suddenly resulted in his 'eureka experience',
changing the world understanding of physics.

In the diagram, the 'bubbles' arising out of stillness represent
the development of a thought through the various levels before bursting
out into activity. The innovative /original thought - (small bubble)
rises and expands to the light bulb being manufactured (large bubble
breaking through into action), to use the Edison analogy once more. The
bubbles could represent the stages of development in the mind of the
person with regard to his/her creative thinking.

In the business environment careful assessment of all processes as to
how to achieve the goal is very necessary, - the practicalities still
have to be worked out! However it can be clearly seen from the above
examples that a lack of creative thought by personnel in a company will
lead to stagnation of that company and possibly lead to its future

What blocks creativity?
Overload, stress and tension lead to blocks of creativity, although
they may be a stimulus for the need for creativity!

If a company is under major stress - financial crisis, complete
overhaul, aggressive competition/ takeover etc. etc. then the directors
will be under significant pressure to protect their company - that is
their primary function. This pressure will stimulate action by the
board and they will be expected to come up with solutions to the crisis
- they will be expected to develop creative thinking and create new
ways of operating to remedy the situation.

Stimulation is not the same as stress! If the pressures become
excessive for any individual then that persons ability to access deeper
levels of the mind become blocked. Conceptualisation becomes more
difficult and cognitive/deep creative thinking, is not available to
his/her awareness. At this point the individual may start to develop
some anxiety, as they become aware that the very levels of the mind,
which will solve their problem, are no longer accessible. This is also
the point at which colleagues may notice a lack of previous ability.
These factors further increase the stress to the individual - it
becomes a vicious cycle. If the situation is not a sudden acute crisis
but a long term one, health issues may arise to the person/persons
concerned. Any health issue naturally would further interfere with
effective function at work.

How to develop creativity?
Unlike Einstein most of us do not have access to a live flame fire to
gaze into! In order to access the deeper levels of thinking it is
necessary to bypass the intellect. Maybe Einstein was very tired after
burning the 'midnight oil' on his mathematics allowing himself to
mentally drift - who knows? However there are ways to access this
level of the mind, in a structured way, which can be taught. Many
eastern systems of philosophy claim to do this. However for many of us,
the idea of meditation is not business like, and for some not in
harmony with their religious ethos. (This article is not for enquiring
into individual beliefs and ethics so I will not pursue this avenue).

Having a background in body medicine (osteopathy) I realised that using
body physiology awareness techniques, it can be possible to
circumnavigate the intellect and allow the mind to arrive at the level
of cognitive/ original thought. This process is both powerful and
effective on both the levels of mind and body. For the mind it develops
and expands our ability to function at the most profound levels, and on
the level of the body it can reduce and remove stress and tension
promoting healing and better health. This is a 'win/ win situation'
a 'beneficial circle' not a 'vicious circle'. Creativity
increases and stress/ tension is reduced - which further increases
creativity etc. etc.

In the space of a short article it is not possible to describe the
exact details of the process, which I call creative dynamics. This also
needs guidance for its best implementation and effectiveness.
However on a lesser level of effectiveness one tip is to:
- Take some full body stretches followed by 3-4 deep breaths, allowing
the mind to 'let go' of the previous train of thought (very
important). Let the mind wander for a few moments and see where it
the mind to find its own level. Do not rush this stage.
- Note any differences in your thinking and see if any creative
thoughts arise.

If you wish to find out more regarding the more profound creative
dynamics approach to developing and enhancing your creativity and
stress management please contact me via the web site: then follow the links to executive and
management training.

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