Are you trying to draw more creativity out of your employees? Do you want more creative solutions and contributions?

The question really is — what kind of creativity are you asking for and what kind are you ready for?

I have been spending more time in California of late, and have had the pleasure to spend a few evenings at various summer art festivals. I have also run into a couple of well-known artists at sunset and admired them creating their landscape canvases on the beach.

Each artist has the same chosen field (art) and talent, but each has a different way of expressing his/her creativity.

Some are trying to replicate exactly what they see.

Others are applying techniques they have emulated from other artists. (Think impressionism, etc.)

Some are creating something totally new and different.

And still others are taking a little bit of this and a little bit of that and combining it all together.

All have totally different ways of being creative—

So when we talk about being more “creative” in companies—what exactly do we mean?

Do we want to replicate what we already have but redefine and rebrand it? (Example—a new marketing/branding campaign for the same company)

Do we want to use what we already have and evolve it?

Or do we want to create something totally different?

Robert Sternberg, an American psychologist and human development professor best known for his work on intelligence and creativity, points us to five categories of creative contributions:

1.  Paradigm preserving contributions that leave something where it is
2.  Paradigm preserving contributions that move something forward in the direction it is already going
3.  Paradigm rejecting contributions that move something in a new direction from an existing starting point
4.  Paradigm rejecting contributions that move something in a new direction from a new starting point
5.  Paradigm integrating contributions that combine approaches[1]
My observation is that when we ask for creative contributions, we are not making the distinction and are unclear about what type we are really ready to accept.

Evolving something already existing into a different but similar form is a totally different thing than starting with a blank sheet of paper.

So what type of creativity does your organization need?

And the bigger question–are you ready for it?

As always—I love to hear your thoughts and comments so drop me a line with your observations.

[1] Adapted From “The Nature of Creativity”, Robert Sternberg, Creativity Research Journal, 2006, Vol. 18, No.1, 87-98