For the second year in a row, LinkedIn Learning has listed creativity as the most in-demand soft skill on the job market. What companies need most, according to the analysis, is people who can think creatively in any role or company context, whether they're dealing with software design or spreadsheets.creativly
But this isn't simply about hiring so-called "creatives." Indeed, the idea that a person either has the creative spark or doesn't can hold many companies back and kill innovation. Instead of seeking a few creative individuals who ostensibly work their magic in a silo, you should be thinking about how you can galvanize that mindset within every part of your business.
Paul Robson, president of Adobe EMEA, argues that business leaders "need to think of people as 'pro-creators' and co-creators. Unlocking the ability for everyone in your team to help create, whether that's through technology or collaborative projects, can exponentially accelerate innovation."
Creativity isn't a significant advantage until it permeates an entire company. What organizations really need is leaders who can cultivate a culture of creativity and innovation in their workplaces, and that only happens by encouraging all employees to access and hone their innate creative thinking skills, no matter their roles.
This isn't to say other soft skills like leadership, time management, or communication aren't valuable anymore. Nor is it an argument that all companies need to mimic the disruption mindset of Silicon Valley. But in a marketplace that's driven by innovation, creativity is a necessary fuel. Not only that, but as technology takes over more traditional tasks, the need for more creative skill sets only grows.
Inspiring New Ideas
How can you start fostering a more creative culture at work? Change how you brainstorm solutions. Here are three ways to guide more creative brainstorming sessions at work, whatever your department.
1. Reinvent the wheel's purpose.
Chasing originality won't build creativity into your business. Genuine creativity isn't about having all original ideas; it's about finding new ways to apply existing ones. Artists -- those we uphold as the purveyors of originality -- have been debunking the former idea for ages. As Salvador Dali put it, "Those who do not want to imitate anything produce nothing."
Originality has always been overrated in technology, too. Johannes Gutenberg may have invented the first printing press, but he accomplished that by adapting the wine press technology that already existed.
In other words, don't reinvent the wheel -- repurpose it. Say you have a project management issue on the marketing team. Try reaching out to the software developers to see what platforms they would use to streamline workflows. Is there a way to adapt the technology to meet the marketing department's needs? Encourage people throughout your organization to play with existing ideas, technologies, and products to solve problems. You never know what might spark a creative solution.
2. Combine disparate disciplines.
Disciplinary integration is an essential ingredient for creativity. Unfortunately, in business as in academia, it's more common to see different ideas and disciplines held apart rather than brought together. Consider how we think of art and science. You're either an artist or a scientist -- a graphic designer or a data engineer, perhaps. Certainly not both, right?
Tell that to the folks at Integral Molecular, a biotech company that invites artists to create for months at a time in its labs. The artists make art inspired by microbiology, and the scientists' research benefits from creative inspiration. It's mutually beneficial.
In a business context, one simple way to combine seemingly opposed ideas is through mind mapping. This process involves starting with a central concept and writing out as many connected ideas as you can to create a word web. After brainstorming, observe any interesting idea combinations from various sections of your map. When you engage different parts of your brain through word association and graphical layout, you can unlock creative connections you might not have seen before. This is a process you can use to approach any problem creatively, regardless of the department or project you're dealing with.
3. Take ideas to the extreme.
Don't be afraid of big ideas. Particularly in the brainstorming phase of a project, it's easy to favor efficiency and shrink ideas down to a more manageable size. But this short-circuits creativity and limits your options down the road. "You can always take a great, well-thought-out idea that's ultimately too large and 'value-engineer' it smaller, but you can't take a small idea and make it bigger later," says Duncan Wardle, founder and innovation keynote speaker of iD8 & innov8, a creative consulting company, and former head of innovation and creativity at Disney.
Rather than cushioning your own suggestions or dampening your team's enthusiasm for a new idea, try to get the group to extend an idea to its fullest representation. Trying to earn some customer loyalty? Wardle suggested throwing a party -- but instead of cake and punch, you could have, say, a "Star Wars" theme party with a stormtrooper band.
Create a culture where big ideas are encouraged and embraced. A revolutionary concept might come from the most unexpected suggestion. You can always worry about logistics after you've found the best big idea there is. Perhaps you can't transport attendees to your "Star Wars" bash via X-wing starfighter, but would you have hit upon the party bus with interstellar decor without thinking galactically first?
Creativity may be the hottest skill right now. But if you really want to turn up the innovative heat at your company, don't just add a few creative hires. Kindle creativity everywhere in your organization with smarter problem-solving and innovative brainstorming.