Since, as a writer, I’m fascinated by creative expression, I jumped at the invitation to read and blog about the new book by David Burkus, The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas, released today. It’s a fascinating and liberating book.
Our bosses are famous for asking us to come up with:
- A better process for handling customer complaints
- New copy for the company’s “About” page
- A promotion to increase sales
- Ideas to improve morale
They tell us we need to be innovative if we want to advance, get good performance ratings, and be rewarded.
You say to yourself, “I’m not the creative type. I just do my job…on the phones/in production/in tech support.”
Then your boss says, “I need your contribution by Friday.”
End of conversation. Beginning of panic.
David Burkus provides the oxygen we need to clear our heads about creativity. In his new book, The Myths of Creativity, he debunks what we have come to believe about creativity and creative people. He shows us that we’re all creative and how.
We don’t need to rely on belief in an outside force to generate great ideas. We have everything we need inside ourselves.
Most of us think of creativity as being the domain of painters, musicians, writers, and movie makers.
Burkus reminds us that:
Creativity is …the process of developing ideas that are both novel and useful.
You do that…me too.
But he also reveals something very important about what it takes to tap into and realize our creative potential at work.
Creativity in the form of innovation requires four things that are aligned:
- Domain-relevant skills (…expertise)…the knowledge, technical skills, or talent an individual possesses in a given domain [area]….
- Creativity-relevant processes…the methods people use to approach a …problem and generate solutions….
- Task motivation…the willingness to engage…passion….
- Social environment…[which] can either positively or negatively affect creative expression….
Think about how much freer your thinking is at work when you can draw on what you’re good at, using good problem-solving methods around a task you care about, in a work environment that suits you. Heaven!
Both expertise and creative methodology can be taught….Everyone can generate great ideas.
Creativity myths exist because we let them. Sometimes we actually want them to be true to get us off the hook or give us an excuse to stay in our comfort zones.
Some myths have been so ingrained that companies adopt and perpetuate them, not to their benefit.
The myths Burkus covers erase our excuses and relieve our anxieties. He explains them straight up and provides eye-popping, real-life business examples that stick.
The ten myths are the:
- Eureka Myth
- Breed Myth
- Originality Myth
- Expert Myth
- Incentive Myth
- Lone Creator Myth
- Brainstorming Myth
- Cohesive Myth
- Constraints Myth
- Mousetrap Myth
The Expert Myth strikes a loud chord. If you think you need to be the smartest one in the room to come up with the best idea, then heed this Burkus point:
The Expert Myth argues that the hardest problems are solved by the brightest minds in the field, but the evidence counters with a different argument. The people who solve tough problems are often from the edge of a domain. They have enough knowledge to understand the problem but don’t have a fixed method of thinking..[so] they possess the creative ability to find the right solution.”
If you also think that creative ideas are the product of individuals touched by the Muse, Burkus challenges that too:
…the Lone Creator myth…[is]…the belief that creativity is a solo performance and that the story of innovations can be told as the story or a single person working fervently on the new idea.
He shares little known information about Thomas Edison, more promoter and team leader than lone inventor, to make his point:
Too often…we prefer to recognize only one person for an outstanding creative work. This isn’t just a selective revision; it’s a fabrication.
Free yourself up
The Myths of Creativity frees us from our self-imposed limiters. Burkus’ myths can be found in nearly every company and are felt by most of us–mere employee mortals doing our jobs.
By discarding the myths, no matter what job you do, you can better use your creative, innovative thinking to make a process, a product, or a system better. Kudos to you!