I received a memo a few weeks ago from a client. (in order to ensure my future invoices are paid, said client shall remain anonymous) The memo culminated in a meeting request for all the creative people attached to this department, to meet and decide how to best move forward on a ‘creative property’ the business had.

I hate those kinds of meetings. With much passion. I hate them because in my years of experiencing those types of meetings I find that not a lot that’s useful comes from them. It’s a myth that if you throw all the creative people you know into a room that something wonderfully creative will come out. In fact I’d be prepared to bet nothing wonderfully creative comes from them at all.

I suppose it’s an easy myth to hold as truth if you don’t understand that creativity isn’t just a collection of crazies in a room, doing what they naturally do. While it’s still mostly mystical to me, I do know there’s some process and some science and some intentionality and some common sense that needs to be included in the mix in order to get the most out of it.

I do think that creativity is one of the least understood concepts within a business context. There isn’t a journal I’ve found that will dismiss the important role creativity plays within business, and yet I seldom come across businesses that take creativity seriously enough to put in the hard yards required to ensure it flourishes within their context.

I came across an article by Andy Rutledge (On Creativity) recently, in which he was very clear on creativity as more than simply a form of gifted and natural self expression. I’d certainly never dismiss that definition of creativity, but I do think that once creativity passes into a business context, there’s no more place for airy fairy concepts, at that point, creativity must deliver and deliver effectively.

Creativity is an inborn capacity for thinking differently than most, seeing differently, and making connections and perceiving relationships others miss. But most importantly, it is the ability to then extrapolate contextually useful ways of employing that data: to create something that meets a specific challenge. By this definition, creativity is merely a tool; it does not convey skill. For a dedicated few, though, this inborn capacity is then further augmented by certain disciplines, including:

  • ongoing curiosity,
  • the desire and habit of looking more deeply into things than others care to,
  • the habit of comparing stimulus with result, and
  • a habit for qualitative discrimination.

It is primarily these disciplines that set top creative professionals apart from those who are merely gifted. It is also these disciplines that help shape a designer’s intuitive senses, which are vital to design craft, processes, and overall success. Being merely creatively gifted is no qualification for design expertise, and the idea that creativity is a magic bullet that anyone or any designer may employ to positive effect is a vacuous notion.