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Gartner asks... What is creativity?

23 Dec 2013

When we hear the word creativity… thoughts immediately go to artistry. Creative people paint. They design. They’re good with colour.

Creativity is mostly associated with sound and sight; with audio and visual.

Creative people reimagine, reinvent or manipulate that which is, into something more visually interesting, often more imaginative and dramatic that its predecessor.

Mozart and Madonna did it with music. Picasso did it with imagery. Walt Disney did it with animation. All of these artists used sight and sound to create new representations that helped us think differently about old ideas.

When I talk to digital marketing agencies …

… and the subject of creative services comes up, the conversation immediately goes to visual design. But creativity goes far beyond what we think of as the classic artist. Many great creative people never went to art school.

One of the most creative people I’ve ever met …

… was a guy named Stuart Scott, who was exceptionally gifted in the art of project management. He taught me a creative principle that I’ll never forget – and that I still use to this day: when something seems too difficult, even impossible – deconstruct it into smaller chunks.

Still too complex? Keep deconstructing until you reach a point where you can associate each chunk with a discrete deliverable. Stuart taught me a creative approach to deconstructing complexity into manageable pieces – then reconstructing those pieces back into the larger whole.

Another extraordinarily creative individual …

…I worked with years ago was a technical architect, named David Cowing. When faced with a hugely complex technology challenge, Dave would think out-of-the box to creatively apply technology in ways that were usually faster, cheaper, and of higher quality than his original idea.

He used to say, “You can’t get too personally attached to an idea, no matter how creative you think it is. You have to be willing to rip it up, to throw it away and start over if it’s not living up to your own personal standard.”

Some of the best applications of creativity are things we never see.

So here’s to the unsung creative heroes: the project managers, technologists, administrative assistants, the logistics managers, the engineers that make things work; the finance managers that make spreadsheets sing. Sure, creativity is dominated by the artist, but artists live in every one of us.

As Pablo Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

By Richard Fouts - Gartner Blog