How Culture Influences Creativity

Culture and creativity

Every single person in business needs to acquire the ability to change, the self-confidence to learn new things and the capacity for helicopter vision. The idea that we can win with brilliant scientists and technologists alone is absolute nonsense.

It’s breadth of vision, the ability to understand all the influences at work, to flex between them and not be frightened of totally different experiences and viewpoints that hold the key. We need every single pressure from business at the moment to make clear that the specialist who cannot take the holistic view of the whole scene is no use at all.

[Sir John Harvey Jones, former leader of ICI, best known by the public for his BBC television show, Troubleshooter, in which he advised struggling businesses]

The way we think about something has a profound impact on what we do.

Many organizations could use more creative input to make sense of how technology innovation, population changes, new patterns of trade, and fluctuation in fiscal and monetary policy, to name a few, impact their operations. Because these issues play a major role on how customers and clients think and feel about the world.

Creative cultures are supple, inquiring, and understand the need for creative spaces, says Sir Ken Robinson in Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative.

Organizational habits, the patterns of everyday work, and habitats, the physical environments in which people work both have a bearing on the mood of a company. They set the tone for how people interact, behave, and what it feels like to conduct business with them.

In the book, Robinson says:

Leading a culture of innovation means engaging with two cultural challenges: external and internal.

[…] if they are to survive, organizations need to have vibrant internal culture, which evolves symbiotically with the changing cultural environment in which they are aiming to grow. The task of the creative leader is to facilitate a resilient relationship between the external and internal cultures.

“The way we do things around here” describes the habits or patterns of daily work inside an organization. Those patterns are created by the sum of personal and group behavior as well as the business culture overall. Robinson lists nine principles of creative leadership:

1/ Everyone has creative potential

2/ Innovation is the child of imagination

3/ We can all learn to be more creative — being creative is not only a matter of inspiration. It requires skill, craft in the control of materials and a reciprocating process of critical evaluation.

4/ Creativity thrives in diversity — a second and third dimension of which, beyond a first-dimensional innate characteristic like age and gender, are respectively cultural background (e.g., nationality) and personal background (e.g., experience, expertise, education.)

5/ Creativity loves collaboration

6/ Creativity takes time

7/ Creative cultures are supple — the internal challenge is to evolve structures and processes that are supple and responsive.

8/ Creative cultures are inquiring — creativity in any domain is a balance of freedom and control.

9/ Creative cultures need creative spaces

It is the interplay of these three dimensions — personal, group, and culture — that helps organizations become true organisms and behave more fluidly in relationship to the external context:

Organizations that make the most of their people find that their people make the most of them. That is the power of innovation and creative leadership.

Sir Ken Robinson is known for his message that schools kill creativity — “life is not an academic exercise,” he says, and “creativity is for everyone.” There is a relationship between imagination, creativity, and innovation, and successful organizations stack the odds in their favor by creating the conditions for creativity to flourish.


[image via Pixabay CC0 Public Domain]


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