We’re living in a world of political correctness. We’re told that everyone is created equal and innovation articles tell us that everyone can innovate if only we develop the right habits. An industry has grown up to provide us with creativity training. I’ve done some of that and it was rather fun but we must face up to the stark truth. It does not and cannot work.
I wanted to know whether people can be taught to be creative, so I checked the latest research. Bad news. In order to have any original ideas at all requires an above average IQ, meaning that 50% of the population are disqualified. To have a high level of creativity requires an IQ of 120 or more, which means that only 10% of us have a chance. Even of those people, high intelligence alone does not guarantee creativity, you also need a quality called “openness” which is the drive to try new experiences. Plus, they have to work really hard.
That means creativity training is wasted on over 90% of us. Of those who have potential to be creative, they are probably already creating naturally. If you wanted to have an effective training initiative, you would have to select those with both high IQ and openness. The flip side is that creative types can’t take that much credit for what they are doing. Sure, they still have to put in the work, but they were hardwired with that ability, through no act of their own.
We must also remember that creativity is only the first step toward making something worthwhile happen. Creatives are not good at seeing their ideas through to completion and need help from other types to get the job done. We are not created the same but we can all make a contribution using our own unique combination of skills. That’s what teams are for.
Next time you read an article called something like “ten habits of highly creative people” just remember that reading about their habits won’t help. I can read the ten habits of my favorite film star and yet, when I wake up tomorrow, I will be no closer to becoming a star. As long as we cling to falsehoods, progress will remain slow. Only by facing the truth can we build teams around each other’s strengths and take a step forward. If you do want more creativity for your company, then there are other ways to access it including open innovation (external ideas) and making changes to allow your extant innovators to thrive.
by Dr Chris DeArmitt
Dr. DeArmitt has been voted #1 plastics expert by his peers. He consults for the Fortune 500 bringing them revolutionary new materials, problem solving and training services. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and has a multitude of patents, articles, book and encyclopedia chapters to his name.
Recently, he published the acclaimed book Innovation Abyss which explains the real reasons for corporate innovation failure and gives proven methods to achieve 10x better return on innovation investment. He is an award-winning speaker who enjoys helping companies realize their potential. Contact Chris.