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Creativity Comments by Winston J. Brill, Ph.D.

09/01 Creativity Comment

Who’s a “Creative Type”?

Are you especially creative?  How can you decide who is especially creative?  Is there such a thing as a creative personality?

Can you rely on a record of previous creative contributions?  Just remember that many people who have been enormously creative, demonstrated their creativity only for a short time.  For instance, quite a few Nobel Prize winners hadn’t made a significant contribution before or after their one big breakthrough.  A composer may be famous for only one tune.  Does she have a creative personality?  Is she more or less creative than someone who has credit for a vast output of avant-garde musical scores, but very few people have heard any of them? You likely know of businesspeople who, at one time were touted as “great” as they creatively guided their organizations, or departments, to enormous successes--then subsequently ran them downhill.  Are these leaders creative people?

Would you be surprised to know that the bumbling waitress who served you lunch is a very creative artist?  Or that the gas station attendant produces fantastic sculptures through his wood-carving hobby?  Would someone having met Albert Einstein, when he was doing his routine work in the Swiss patent office, have realized the amazing creativity of that man?

My own experiences have taught me that identifying a “creative type” is very difficult.  More often than not, I was surprised by who had the best ideas.  For instance, I needed someone to be responsible for various routine tasks.  The person I hired was very skilled with the work and seemed to enjoy the routine.  It turned out that he had one of the most important ideas.  Several people I hired, who had interesting patents and great recommendations from their previous jobs, did not provide important ideas for my group. 

My study of the human side behind great ideas (Creativity Comment 04/01) showed that many people who, previous to their great idea, were considered by their colleagues as not especially creative.  Many people who were identified as very creative also had great ideas; but many of the highly creatives did not contribute the best ideas.

It sure would be nice if some psychological test were available to indicate the creative potential of an individual.  What a great hiring tool!  But, just thinking about the above observations, it’s no surprise that there’s such neat test.  At least I’ve never seen evidence of a measurement tool that has been proven to show the potential for high creativity in the workplace.

©2006 Winston J. Brill & Associates. All rights reserved.