Monday, August 30, 2010

Innovation: The Return of Ytivitaerc

Calvin & Hobbes on creativity
Some argue that we are experiencing a creativity crisis and that American creative ability is declining. According to one study of 1,500 CEOs, creativity the most important "leadership competency" so a decline would have ominous implications for long-term business competitiveness. But is it declining? Take a look at the Torrance test and judge for yourself--the Newsweek explication seems more like a measure of how much time one has previously squandered on doodling, although the full test may have broader scope.

So is creativity in decline? Perhaps not according to Michael Schrage, a research fellow in creativity at MIT's Sloan School:
America has a creativity glut. Over two decades, I've not heard a single venture capitalist suggest any perceptible decline in the creative quality and content of the business proposals they see. If anything, their innovation buffet has expanded. Aspiring pundits shouldn't confuse macroeconomic malaise with creative constipation.
The prose is colorful and the evidence, in the form of links, ample, although largely anecdotal. But there is this gem:
Genuine creativity isn't about ideas. It's about translating ideas into ingenious products, services and solutions. Ideas are the seeds, not the substance, of creativity. Getting them to take root is easier than it's ever been. [emphasis added]
The Torrance test is largely about ideas, and the caliber of their expression is explicitly incidental. Takers of the test have mere minutes to concoct their creative solution and, as Schrage points out, there is none of the collaboration prized by business and which is generally neccesary to business success.

Creativity is about the successful execution of a raw idea into a perfected technology, product, or business. The key is execution. Dreamers could be called creative in the idea-generating sense of the word, but they are not creative in the way that those 1,500 CEOs care about: getting innovative results. That requires executives that turn idea into product and hence into revenue.

Dreamers strew seeds. Creative executives draw on their experience, scrounge and apply resources, and harness their disparate skills to nurture seeds into enduring innovation. Got executive creativity? No? I'm available.

Update: "Genius begins great works; labor alone finishes them." --Joseph Joubert, French essayist

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