Creativity in companies

by | 03.05.2021 | Processes & methods |

Can you paint?

I would like to start this post with a little secret: I love my job and write texts for t2informatik fairly regularly. I am reasonably skilled at writing, I paint far too infrequently and I think I am generally very creative. Nevertheless, I spent an unusually long time thinking about the introduction to the article and rewrote it many times. Not because I was looking for a particularly creative, artful introduction to the subject. Not because I find the topic particularly difficult; on the contrary: creativity is comparatively easy to bring to life in companies. It is in all of us and if we meet it with open eyes, many things improve in and for organisations. (I will of course prove this thesis in a moment).

My challenge is different: I don’t just want to write a simple appeal, but to change the view of your possibilities in your company in parts. I want to give you an idea of how to make creativity your friend and companion, no matter what rules, processes, duties, difficult bosses or time, budget and resource constraints exist in your organisation. Creativity is a huge opportunity to do small and big things differently and better from now on. Just try it out for yourself in about 10 minutes!

Creative work

Which jobs and activities do you know that “by definition” have something to do with creativity?

Graphic designers, software developers, advertising experts, filmmakers, architects, confiseurs or musicians, for example, are considered creative. Project managers, social media experts and saleswomen are probably also. Business analysts, controllers, mathematicians, virologists and bank employees, on the other hand, tend to be denied creativity.

I’ll be honest: I don’t think much of such assessments, prejudices or pigeonholes. I would like to prove this with a search query on StepStone. If you enter “creative work” (in German: kreatives Arbeiten) on the job portal, you will receive no less than 76,875 German hits. Creative buyers, interns, analysts, occupational therapists, facade technicians, cooks, technical draughtswomen, doctors, librarians, lawyers, editors, nurses or auditors are all wanted. Creativity seems to be an important ingredient in many jobs. And since “creativity is the ability to create something that is new or original and at the same time useful or usable”¹, the high number of hits is not surprising at second glance. Ergo: a classification and assessment of jobs according to creativity makes little sense.

Of course, you might object that “creative work” is merely a label to give “simple” job descriptions a little more pep. And you might note that there are positions in companies whose qualification profiles require them to continually produce something new and original: campaign managers, advertisers, copywriters, etc. Both are true. But I’m getting at something else: you decide for yourself whether you classify your own job, your own activity as creative. And despite all the rules, processes, duties etc., you can be creative. It may be that you cannot change the parameters in your department, your company, your market, but that doesn’t matter, because creativity doesn’t mean that “everything” has to be 100% different all at once. No, creativity is also possible in small things. Small changes often achieve big effects. I would like to give you two examples of this:

Two examples from a company

I spent Christmas and Easter with my family. In order to cover the 600 km distance smoothly, I rented a “nice” car each time. Once an Audi TT and once an Audi A7. “Vorsprung durch Technik” (Lead by Technology) is the slogan of the car manufacturer, but for me personally it is “Freude am Fahren” (Joy of Driving), even if this slogan comes from another great car manufacturer.

Example 1:

Maybe you’re like me, I can easily distinguish TV or radio ads from Audi from other ads. “Blame” it on a “Dum Dummm”. Every commercial ends with a very distinctive sound. “Dum Dumm”. The logo fades in and the sound booms out of the speakers of the television or radio set. “Dum Dummm”.

Of course, many manufacturers have already come up with this idea. The idea is good, creative in a way, but not worth a paragraph in a blog article. Except…

When opening the driver’s door of the TT, a sound is heard: “Dum Dummm”. The first time I heard it, I was a little surprised. Had I just heard the typical Audi sound? The second time I was sure. Yes, that’s the sound from the advertisements. Cool. I automatically thought of the last Audi advert. But: I was already sitting in an Audi. A gimmick that makes me think of the manufacturer’s advertising. Nice. Creative. But also a bit pointless. Until I saw the next Audi advertisement on TV. “Dum Dummm”. And already my thoughts were on the cool drive in the TT to my family. Two little sounds manage to remind me of a visit to my family including a nice drive in a nice car.

That’s creativity!

Maybe you are now thinking: “Yes, nice idea. ‘The others’ can do something like that, but we are not set up that way as a company. That would never be approved. I don’t even need to suggest that.” Okay, I can understand that. In many companies something like that is “impossible”.  Then let’s take a look at….

Example 2:

On the return journey of the second trip with the A7, I drive to Berlin from the city motorway into the city area. 80 km/h are permitted. 60 km/h. 50 km/h. BLITZ. Crap! After 1,200 km of following all the rules almost like clockwork, I get flashed just before the end of the journey. The fine from the public order office: 15 Euro.

After a few weeks I receive a bill from Audi: 30 Euro handling fee. 30 Euro?! I’m sure it’s somewhere written in the General Terms and Conditions.  But why does it cost 30 Euro to forward my address to the public order office? The car costs 70,000 Euro. Many hundreds of Euro for the rent. But 30 Euro for what exactly?

The letter states that the processing fee was charged directly to my credit card and asks me for feedback on how I like this service. “You’re kidding”, I think to myself and leave my feedback in the corresponding online form. What was the reaction to my feedback? There was none!

I’ll shorten the story a bit: the direct debit didn’t work, after another month I got a new letter with a new invoice number and direct debit, the processing fee was wrongly debited twice, two phone calls later this was corrected and the result was: 30,- Euro processing fee.

What is creative about this example? Nothing!

Now imagine the following: You receive an alternative letter.

“Dear Mr X,

You have been caught in a speed camera. What a pity. But we can easily understand your situation. Driving the A7 is a lot of fun, and you can lose sight of your speed for a short while. We get that, and it has happened to some of us, too. Actually, we would now have to charge you a handling fee of 30 Euro. We will waive this. We are simply looking forward to you booking another Audi with us in the near future. And who knows, maybe you’ll even be interested in buying an Audi at some point. After all, we have something new in store for you…

Best regards and see you soon”

That would be creativity!

Ingredients for creativity in companies

The German psychiatrist, psychotherapist and psychoanalyst Rainer Holm-Hadulla² says the following in a newspaper interview: “Creativity always takes place in the interplay of

  • talent,
  • knowledge and ability,
  • motivation,
  • discipline,
  • openness and resilience
  • as well as suitable environmental circumstances”.³

The German psychiatrist, psychotherapist and psychoanalyst Rainer Holm-Hadulla² says the following in a newspaper interview: “Creativity always takes place in the interplay of

  • talent,
  • knowledge and ability,
  • motivation,
  • discipline,
  • openness and resilience
  • as well as suitable environmental circumstances

takes place.”³

I don’t think you need talent to be creative. I could also discuss “ability” in this context. But the longer I think about the statement, the better I find the enumeration of the other points. Of course, it needs suitable environmental conditions, openness to other ways and approaches, the willingness to commit to new things, the knowledge of interrelationships in a company, the motivation to question existing processes and try new ones – these are all ingredients for creativity. Sometimes it could be as “easy” as in example 2, sometimes the effort is as high as in example 1.

In the t2informatik blog you will find many posts that deal with these and similar important points. Here is a small selection:

Of course, the selection can easily be extended. Just browse a little; it might be worth your while.

Tips for practice

“New or original and at the same time useful or usable” is the central element in the definition of creativity. The exciting thing about this element is the frame of reference: “New or original” can refer to something new in the world, but it can also refer to something original happening in your workplace, in your work with colleagues or in your communication with clients. As long as the new and original is “useful or usable”, many things will improve in and for organisations.

I would like to give you some tips on how you might be able to do your job with a little more creativity:

Change your perspective once in a while and ask yourself what effect an action of yours has on someone else (see example 2).
Ask yourself what you can do simply and easily to do a “nice” favour for those “affected” by your work – customers, colleagues, superiors, partners?
Think about what you have always wanted to change in your environment. Maybe you move a piece of furniture in the meeting room, cancel an unnecessary meeting, change workplaces for different activities or refrain from filling out reports that no one reads. These actions in themselves are not creative, but they create space for creativity.
Change communication formats. A difficult conversation with a colleague in the form of a walk-and-talk meeting often goes much better and more relaxed than a comparable conversation in the office.
Ask yourself what you want to do differently this week. And consciously do it differently. Doing “things” differently has a very liberating effect. And the nice thing about it: you can also ask this question in a team. You will be stunned at the ideas that emerge in a short time. Add to that the astonishment in the team when you implement the ideas and they perhaps even work better than the status quo. And even if they don’t, new knowledge is created and the “joy of working” increases.
And last but not least: creativity does not need permission. You have all the utensils you need for it. Get started! Preferably right now.

 

PS: “Can you paint?” I asked you at the beginning. Every small child answers this question with “yes”. Many adults are much more reticent in answering, although they can certainly paint “better” than many children. Of course you can paint! Everybody can paint. Not like Picasso. There was exactly one person on planet earth who could paint like Picasso: Picasso.

“Are you creative?”

 

Notes (in German):

[1] Mark A. Runco, Garrett J. Jaeger: The Standard Definition of Creativity. In: Creativity Research Journal. Band 24, Nr. 1, 01.01.2012
[2] Rainer Holm-Hadulla
[3] Süddeutsche Zeitung: Kreativtität braucht bestimmte Voraussetzungen

Michael Schenkel has published more articles on the t2informatik blog, including

t2informatik Blog: The customer is king

The customer is king

t2informatik Blog: Is feedback a gift?

Is feedback a gift?

t2informatik Blog: Myth Session Duration

Myth Session Duration

Michael Schenkel
Michael Schenkel

Head of Marketing, t2informatik GmbH

Michael Schenkel holds a degree in business administration (BA) and is passionate about marketing. He likes to blog about project management, requirements engineering and marketing. And he is happy to meet you for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake.