We tend to associate creativity with the arts and to think of it as the expression of highly original ideas. Think of how Pablo Picasso reinvented the conventions of painting or how William Faulkner redefined fiction. In business, originality isn’t enough. To be creative, an idea must also be appropriate—useful and actionable. It must somehow influence the way business gets done—by improving a product, for instance, or by opening up a new way to approach a process.
The associations made between creativity and artistic originality often lead to confusion about the appropriate place of creativity in business organizations. In seminars, I’ve asked managers if there is any place they don’t want creativity in their companies. About 80% of the time, they answer, “Accounting.” Creativity, they seem to believe, belongs just in marketing and R&D. But creativity can benefit every function of an organization. Think of activity-based accounting. It was an invention—an accounting invention—and its impact on business has been positive and profound.
Along with fearing creativity in the accounting department—or really, in any unit that involves systematic processes or legal regulations—many managers also hold a rather narrow view of the creative process. To them, creativity refers to the way people think—how inventively they approach problems, for instance. Indeed, thinking imaginatively is one part of creativity, but two others are also essential: expertise and motivation.
Creative thinking, as noted above, refers to how people approach problems and solutions—their capacity to put existing ideas together in new combinations. The skill itself depends quite a bit on personality as well as on how a person thinks and works.
Read more at hbr.org