Playing with Creativity

October  2010 / 1 1 Comment

When was the last time you thought of something….new? A brilliant thought struck you on the head, a bulb flashed out and you felt like you’re engaging every muscle of your brain?

Creativity is a fashionable but an underdefined word. What is it? The ability to think of new solutions to old problems? The insight that suddenly connects the once unrelated variables? Mental force behind innovation? Probably all of these and many more. It seems logical that creativity would eschew a single definition, because it is a process that is individual to each of us and cannot be put in a form of a universal algorithm.

Google's Offices

Despite that, researchers and businessmen have recently looked into the factors that could increase creativity in the workplace. Would a pay rise suffice to do that? The intuitive answer would be yes, as it would increase employers’ motivation, concentration and thus the probability of reaching unique conclusions. However, let’s not jump to conclusions! A human being is not a machine, and not as logical as he would like to be!

Several case-studies, see video, have shown that monetary rewards are only enhance the performance of repetitive tasks. Why? Probably because money can enhance people’s self-discipline and productivity, but not necessarily their creative thinking. Google’s creative thinking policy is unique: twenty percent of the employers’ time is considered is a fun ‘play time’. Research has shown that during these periods of fun time, employers often come up with the most innovative ideas (such as gmaps!).

Psychology teaches us that insight is the opposite of the trial-and-error approach to solving problems. The idea strikes you all of a sudden, some would say that it comes from your unconscious. It seems that the channel between the conscious and the unconscious sides of mind carries more information when the mind is at rest, or not even thinking about a given problem!

Call Centre

There are other factors that favour creativity as well. One is identification with the company and belief in its mission. In one study, a call centre gave $5000 after their initial 13 week training for people to leave there and then. Why wouldn’t people take the money and leave? Is it because of fear of looking for a new job? There are probably thousand of individual reasons, but the main reason is that people know they will earn more in the long run. So why would a call centre do something like this? The reason, the retention rate at the call centre is the best of all their competitors. Think about it, once someone has refused $5000 to leave, how long do they have to work before it was worth not accepting that $5000? (a good business trick isn’t it?). Overall the call centre is making more profit.

Creativity is a mystery, so we should play with it. Experimenting with flexible hours for the employers and giving them more freedom seems to be an approach that fosters innovative spirit. In the age of technology, where opportunities spread in front of us like a Chinese fan, the need for both creative and critical thinking is more needed than ever. How do we take advantage of all the new applications, social networks etc? In the world flooded by data, the rational analysis is often not enough. The interpretation that follows is crucial to take good business decisions. And insight plays a role in that as well. So think creatively, whatever it means!


  • Jackie

    Once I thought about things like: why such information is for free here? Because when you write a book then at least on selling a book you get a percentage. Thank you and good luck on informing people more about it!