Innovation and creativity are popular topics in the publications I read, especially the business magazines (like Inc., Fast Company and Harvard Business Review). I’ve also noticed these words in national newspapers, regular blog posts, and conference programs. Why is this so important among people who value progress, relevance and future trends?
Like it or not, most of us live in a fast-paced, competitive culture that includes churches and other Christian institutions. To thrive, and sometimes simply to survive, we may need to be appealing, attractive, fresh and “cutting edge.” In addition, many of us are invigorated by the process of discovering or creating new experiences, beauty, art, and even practical gimmicks that make our lives and products more fulfilling and useful. Think of the counseling, coaching or teaching that involve many of us. We want to encourage and bring positive change in the people with whom we work. We’re delighted if innovation and creativity make their lives better.
It is impossible to summarize the massive writings and research about creativity but here are some observations:
- Despite the creations of innovators and inventors who work alone, there is value in creative people working together. In the Fast Company issue that focuses on creativity (April, 2014), editor Robert Safian writes that building on the ideas of one person can lead to thinking that is “narrow, predictable and boring….Collective creativity is far richer than any single source can provide.”
- But corporate bureaucracy and rules also can deaden creative impact. Consider the churches, accrediting agencies, governments and individuals that are stalled in rigidity and unwilling or unable to move forward.
- Any of us can shut off creativity and stay mired in the status quo, sometimes because this is personally beneficial or easier.
- In contrast, creativity can be cultivated. A good starting place is to look at the creative efforts of others, to try new things, to take new risks. Creative people and ideas stimulate more of the same.
- That said, there seems to be something innate in this. Some people are naturally less creative than others. Their personalities and background experiences limit their ability or desire to innovate. These people are very much needed to bring stability and grounding to our lives, society, churches and professions.
What have you learned about creativity? Please comment.