Creativity in Business and Life: Why You Need It and How to Develop It

Creativity is an abstract concept – often leading people to have misperceptions about what and who is and isn’t creative. The truth is that everyone is creative and understanding creativity is much simpler that you might imagine. In fact, the best way to become more creative is to learn about creativity. This blog will define creativity, introduce you to the 4 levels of creativity and finally, break down the 4 Ps of creativity. 

Defining Creativity

Dictionary.com defines creativity as the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc. An act of creativity can be miraculous and inspiring, such as painting a beautiful art piece or developing an innovative new product. But an idea doesn’t need to be artistic or world-changing to count as creative. In fact, you can use creativity in day-to-day activities.

The 4 Levels of Creativity

How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m not creative?” 

It’s true that most people will never achieve Picasso’s level of creativity, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t creative. The 4 levels of creativity help us understand how it is that everyone is creative and how we can support others in their creative endeavors. 

Level 1. Personal Creativity

The first level of creativity is personal creativity. We can define personal creativity as the ability to create something that is new and meaningful to an individual. When it comes to personal creativity, the only person who can place value on the creative experience is the person performing the creative act. Defined this way, personal creativity can include doing many things, such as leading a group, writing a story or starting a business. 

If you wish to foster creativity in others, one important thing to remember is that adequate support and constructive feedback are crucial to the creative process. In other words, be careful about the feedback you offer to others, as well as yourself. Too much criticism can inhibit the individual’s confidence in continuing the pursuit. Too much praise can encourage overconfidence in his or her abilities. Instead, aim for providing thoughtful, helpful, constructive criticism and let the person know you support them in their creative pursuits. Positive support and feedback are crucial for building confidence to think and act creatively in the future. 

Level 2. Everyday Creativity

Everyday creativity refers to the everyday actions that help us overcome unforeseen challenges. This can be as simple as finding our way around an unexpected detour on the way to work or substituting a missing ingredient in a recipe. These are creative actions that are available to everyone. People don’t always recognize these activities as being creative, so they don’t acknowledge and celebrate them – but they are. 

Level 3. Professional Creativity

Professional creativity refers to people who have been in a certain professional field or industry for more than ten years. Since these people tend to have a good understanding of their fields, they are generally able to adapt or contribute new knowledge. 

Level 4. Eminent Creativity

Finally, eminent creativity is a term used to describe the type of creativity practiced by those who have made a substantial impact in their fields in a way that will be remembered for generations to come – people such as Maya Angelou, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Elon Musk. Their accomplishments have changed not only their fields but other fields as well. These individuals are important to understand because we can learn from them and find inspiration in their accomplishments. 

Understanding the 4 levels of creativity can help us see how we and others are creative, and therefore can support our efforts in business. They can be used as a reference guide to support employees to tap into creativity in order to work more effectively. 

The 4 Ps of Creativity

The 4 Ps of creativity should provide a deeper insight into the nature of creativity in your business and life. 

1. Person

The characteristics most commonly found in highly creative individuals include (but aren’t limited to) openness to new experiences and ideas, being comfortable with ambiguity and risk, being more sensitive to and mindful of the world around them, the ability to turn adversity into advantage and a tendency to go against the crowd. It should be understood that having or not having these traits does not mean one will or will not be creative. Awareness of these traits can help business leaders understand the thinking of others and themselves – and ultimately support creativity in individuals. 

2. Product

Creative products are all around us. A creative product can simply be described as new and useful, or as being original and having application. One might also say there is a certain aesthetic to creative products. Inspiration can be found by seeking to understand the histories and developments of creative products.  

The process for developing innovative products may look different for different people or companies, but it often involves many of the same steps and aspects. Using empathy when creating a product or service for others – thinking about the needs and wants of the customer – can be extremely helpful. 

3. Prototype

Prototyping is beneficial and cost efficient when developing something new. It allows the creator to test out the idea before investing significant money into a final product. There will likely be times during the innovation process when one gets stuck and cannot solve a problem. This can lead to setting the problem aside and not thinking about it – or what is called incubation. The brain is still working on the problem during this time even though the individual is not consciously thinking about the problem. The brain will eventually connect information and the answer will suddenly become apparent. This is known as an “Aha!” moment or an illumination. These moments often happen when one isn’t necessarily thinking about any one particular thing, such as in the shower, out on a walk or driving. 

4. Press

The last P of creativity refers to press, or, in other words, the pressures one faces in an environment that either stifles or supports creativity. Environment can be anything from the texture and color of chairs to how others respond to ideas and suggestions. 

Understanding creativity empowers business leaders to create a safe, supportive and inspiring environment that will encourage creativity. This can consist of supporting failures, creating opportunities for others to be creative, designing the space to support creativity, or even changing up the surroundings to invoke new creative inspiration. 

Now That You Have the Tools… 

Most people judge themselves for not being eminently creative without acknowledging the other three levels of creativity. However, recognizing and understanding the 4 Ps of creativity and the 4 levels of creativity can build creative potential, and support one’s efforts in developing creativity in their life and business. 

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