What does “creativity in business” really mean?

The word “creativity” tends to have three rather different meanings in a business context. Sometimes it stands for “innovation.” Sometimes it stands for “problem-solving,” Sometimes it stands for “manifesting human potential.” These are three quite different ideas! It’s no wonder that companies are often rather confused about whether they even want “creativity” in their business environment.

For example, do companies really much want their employees who are performing repetitive tasks to “innovate” or to “manifest their potential”? They surely don’t want their employees to manifest their potential if that means that a budding Van Gogh steals time to draw or a budding Beethoven steals time to compose. Very often a company will pay lip service to the idea of creativity while secretly wanting their employees to just do their job.

So a first step for any business that believes it wants “more creativity” in its workplace and its workforce is to think through what exactly it means and what exactly it wants. Does top management want to increase the creativity of its research and development staff, so that more innovation and problem solving occur, while perhaps pointedly stifling the creativity of its clerical staff or its maintenance staff? What do you really want?

Once you understand which employees in your company you hope will become more creative, you can then focus on helping them become more creative. For example, innovation requires that a prospective innovator enter into an easy relationship with mistakes and messes, since the creative process at its best is a trial-and-error affair where some things work and others things do not. Walking the line between encouraging prospective innovators to make all the mistakes and messes they need to make while at the same time monitoring that faulty ideas, procedures and products do not get too far down the pipeline becomes a key management task.

“Creativity in business” is no simple affair. You may want to leap ahead of the competition by virtue of your innovations but to get that competitive advantage you may have to allow your designated innovators more latitude than you would really like. And that’s just one of the tensions and difficulties you’re bound to face as you figure out how to strike a balance between allowing for creativity while at the same time making sure that all of the ordinary tasks of business also get accomplished!


Eric Maisel’s latest book is Life Purpose Boot Camp, available now:



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