Why is creativity in a corporate environment so scary?

In my last blog, I posed a question I ponder often: Why is creativity in a corporate environment so scary?

In the past few weeks I had some time to think about this further and realised that there are many ideas as to what creativity actually is. To appease to my logical, process oriented side, I decided to go back to the root of the word, yes I consulted a dictionary! Well, not the big bulky one I remember from my childhood, the on-line version.

The definition (courtesy of www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/creativity):


noun cre·a·tiv·i·ty \ˌkrē-(ˌ)ā-ˈti-və-tē, ˌkrē-ə-\

Simple Definition of creativity : the ability to make new things or think of new ideas

Big corporates like the words ‘new’ and ‘ideas’ and yet somehow this is not linked to the word creativity in the standard large corporation. Speak to most board of directors or members of the senior leadership team in any organisation and you are highly likely to get responses like.

“We have the business of business to do, there is no time for creative thinking.”

“I don’t like creative people they mess with the processes I have in place”

“We are a left-brain company, we need facts, logic and processes”

Creativity is often viewed as this thing that is loose and all over the place and without structure or logic. Despite my personality traits of being highly process driven and liking logic, structure and order, I disagree wholeheartedly with this notion. Whilst I like my little boxes neatly lined up, I am front and center of the line-up when it comes to talking about creativity in the workplace.

Creativity is not a set of unstructured random thoughts. In my view is, it is simply a way of looking at a

situation differently. It is the ability to look at a desired outcome holistically and come up with an alternative or alternatives that will result in the same outcome via a different path.

Popular culture (incorrectly in my opinion) seems to pocket people as left-brained (logical, analytical) or right-brained (intuitive, creative) and somehow the ‘right brained’ group has got bad press as seen as rather ‘flighty’. Just look at the value society places on the arts and humanities faculties versus science and business. The left and right brained people approach life differently for sure – but why do we assume that they are mutually independent?

We are told that real work is logic and rigid and if not, then you are a “creative” and should be in advertising or design or something like that… REALLY! Neil De Grasse Tyson (American astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator) sums it up so well:

"Don't call me left brained, right brained. Call me human," "I'm 'brained.' Not right brained or left brained. I have a brain,"

Exactly! To be able to get a balanced perspective when approaching change and challenges we need to hear all the voices in our team – not just the loud team members that speak ‘corporate’ so eloquently.

Good meetings are considered to be those that are “yes” meetings not “well I’ve got a different view” meetings. We have to move out of our comfort zone and yes, that is scary, it scary for everyone, even the “creatives”! Strategic breakaways cost corporates tens of thousands (sometimes hundreds of thousands) – yet all the promise of change and new things, ‘free dialogue’ and ‘out the box thinking’ explored, more often than not, gets left in the corridors of the expensive venue! Back at the office it is life as usual, except now the leadership team all have a new corporate t-shirt or sweatshirt to wear on causal day.

So in summary this is where I believe I have found the core the answer to my question: Why is creativity in a corporate environment so scary? It’s scary because corporates (well their leadership teams!) like things in boxes and the traditional approach is; ‘the business of business is serious and structured’. Many leaders like the way things are, despite the big talk about change, deep down, like most people, leaders are resistant and don’t like change.

Carrying on from this theme of moving out of our comfort zone, in my next blog, I will explore how to create a space that is safe and not so scary, yet allows everyone’s voice to be heard, the ‘box tickers’ and the ‘blue sky thinkers’ included!

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