Creativity is one of the key competencies for people at every level of business: this fact is widely acknowledged. So much so that the World Economic Forum ranks creativity as one of the skills in highest demand in the labor market, along with the capacity for analytical thinking, innovation and ongoing learning. Creativity has always been at the center of broad academic and managerial debate, and is often associated with false convictions: it is inborn; it is the exclusive prerogative of young people; it is an individual trait, not a group one; it can’t be subject to organizational restrictions; it must be future focused, it is universally recognized and it means the same thing to everyone.
Creatività in azienda. Strategie e tecniche per produrre idee originali e utili, published in April 2021 for Egea, aims to controvert common beliefs about creativity, and propose concrete actions that companies can take at an individual, team, and organizational level to generate original, constructive ideas.
We asked Beatrice Manzoni to tell us about some of the central points in the book, which she wrote with Federico Magni and Pier Vittorio Mannucci.
What are the most common clichés about creativity? How do these beliefs negatively impact managerial practices and organizational processes in teams?
Often people tend to mistakenly think that creativity is the inventive genius of a single individual; that it’s young people and not older people who are creative; that the more diversity there is in a team, the easier it is for creativity to emerge; that you should stick with the winning team (if that team is highly creative). We too often resort to brainstorming - and do it wrong - to generate ideas; we think out of the box too much and inside the box too little; we believe that everyone measures creativity by the same standards, and that machines can’t be creative. Last of all, we say we want to promote creativity but often in the company we don’t do enough. And what are the results? Many people think that their jobs don’t call for creativity. They don’t have confidence in their ability to contribute creatively to whatever the project, or they don’t feel like they’re put in a position to do so. All this impacts their performance, and in turn organizational performance, and their engagement.
The ambition of the book, which you clearly state in the introduction, is to “redefine the correct confines of creativity.” How do you reconceive creativity?
In the book, we wanted to clarify what it means to be creative - that is, to think up solutions that are new and constructive at the same time – and how creativity relates to other words that it’s often confused with: innovation, curiosity, originality, experimentation. We talk about the most common clichés, and we disprove them in light of extant research. Then we propose concrete actions that can be taken at an individual, team and organizational level that are the best ways to encourage and manage creativity in the company.
What are the main teachings that readers can get from the book?
Readers will find [some of their beliefs] confirmed and others contradicted. They’ll discover that creativity is one of the most important skills today, and that it’s not the exclusive prerogative of people who work in artistic jobs; instead it’s something everyone can do. It can be applied in various organizational contexts. Creativity is not a gift of nature, but it’s something to train and improve with daily practice. People can contribute in different ways to the creative process. And finally, it’s influenced by the context and by the people we interact with.
The book not only offers concrete answers and/or prepackaged formulas for organizations, but also insights and questions for the future. What remains to be discovered about creativity?
We can certainly ask ourselves how the concept of creativity will change with the widespread proliferation of artificial intelligence, and with the transformations in working conditions accelerated by the pandemic. For example: how will we collaborate with our “artificial colleagues”? Does flexible work or remote work encourage or inhibit creativity? And lastly, what will the role of the schools be in teaching young children to be creative?
SDA Bocconi School of Management.