With the demise of the traditional lifetime employment contract, the burden is increasingly on you to add measurable value to your organization. (For example, 3M became the historical trend-setter for innovation when they required their divisions to generate 25 percent of their sales from new products developed within the preceding five years, and then raised the bar even higher. And more recently, Google introduced the policy of “20% time,” or 1 day a week, for employees to spend exploring & experimenting on their own side projects which might eventually add value to the company).
You can increase your ability to think creatively for developing breakthrough products, systems, and services, by benchmarking the characteristics and processes of successful innovators.
We are all naturally creative to some degree in childhood. Unfortunately, creativity decreases as our education and peer pressures ‘program’ us to share a common perspective, and we become increasingly risk-averse. So, the converse — intentionally questioning and experimenting beyond the bounds of the conventional values and mindsets — is what can preserve and enhance this natural, but mostly latent ability.
Creative people are not necessarily more intelligent, or more highly educated.
In fact, high intelligence can actually restrict creative thinking, if it manifests as an arrogant dismissal of alternative viewpoints. Similarly, higher levels of education often result in stronger programming to follow the rules’. And excessive specialization results in ‘knowing more and more about less and less’.
The more important factors for creative thinking are varied early developmental experiences and extracurricular activities for a richer base of associations, curiosity to seek new experiences and concepts, and self-confidence for taking risks by ‘going against the pack’. Individuals with these characteristics are usually more resourceful and independent — ironically, qualities which are not yet generally appreciated in our prevalent top/down bureaucracies!
* This Blog post is adapted from part of an article by Dr. Eisenberg that was originally published as, “Become a Creative Breakthrough Thinker: Increase Your Value to Your Organization”, in an issue of Today’s Engineer, and is copyrighted by its Publisher – IEEE-USA.