Creativity at Work – Part Two

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In a new video series, Text 100 seeks to illuminate questions about creativity. Creative professionals give insight into their views, secrets and strategies relating to creativity. The following post is the second part of a three-part article series on creativity at work, trying to answer the following questions: How can everybody be (more) creative? Why is creativity important to work in PR and other areas? How can companies foster innovation?

A mindset, tools and practice… Our first post on creativity at work showed that being more creative is possible, but takes effort. So why should you bother, anyway? Couldn’t you just get away with a more or less intelligent copy-and-paste-strategy?

To a certain extent, you probably could. But there are two main reasons why you should make the effort: The first is a business reason. And the second, a very personal point.

So, starting with business, why is creativity important for your job? Is it just because surveys will invariably put “creative thinking” in the top three of qualities they look for in a PR agency? I’ll be quite frank: yes, of course it is. But this answer does not get to the heart of the matter.

To get things straight: Yes, creativity is important for the success of PR agencies and for everybody working in public relations. A successful PR campaign has to capture the attention of the target audience. Competition in this space is high and the clutter of digital conversations hasn’t made things easier at all. A good PR campaign will therefore build on a “big idea” that acts as framework for the messages you want to reach the target group. The big idea is, in most cases, a convincing story. In our video series, Jörg Lenuweit explains how creativity helps to build a story that works:

A very good PR campaign will even add a number of smaller, yet genuinely creative tactics, that tie in to the overarching story or concept and spark the audience’s attention at various points. This is the only way you can stand out from the crowd. In that sense, as Birgit Heinold explains, creativity is the most important asset for the future of the PR industry:

Thinking more broadly, however, this statement does not only apply to our small world of PR pros. It is not even restrained to the growing world of creative industries. In IBM’s 2010 CEO study, which surveyed more than 1,500 CEOs worldwide, they found that creativity is the factor most needed to successfully navigate an increasingly complex world. Massive shifts to the business world – geographic shifts, industry transformations, volatile customer preferences – require creative approaches for companies to survive. As a consequence, creative thinking is becoming an important leadership quality.

Or maybe, its critical role is just becoming more pronounced. After all, creativity has always been an important entrepreneurial quality. Already in 1942, Joseph Schumpeter popularized the term “creative destruction,” describing how innovation is a key driver of economic growth. Sixty years later, Richard Florida tried to establish a correlation between the concentration of creative professionals and economic growth of a region.

So, in summary, creative thinking is not only the factor that will make your company thrive over competitors. It’s the factor that drives the economy, today more than ever before.

Okay – before you shy away from the responsibility of saving the world by being as creative as you possibly can, let’s get back to the personal level. In fact, you don’t only have to be creative for business and economic reasons. There is a very private, personal aspect to it: Injecting some creativity into your everyday job can make your day more rewarding.

You can read a scientific explanation for that in the book already mentioned in post one: Mihaly Csikszentmihaly’s “Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention.” Flow, according to Csikszentmihaly is a condition of getting lost in your work, fully absorbed by what you do. In this highly concentrated state of mind, people feel relaxed, energized and serene. Just as physical exercise or playing music, creative work can bring people into this state of mind.

If that sounds too academic and serious, just think about the times you’ve enjoyed work the most. Was it when you were executing on ideas thought up by someone else, or when you could let your imagination run wild and use your own creativity? In the end, being creative is serious – seriously fun!