Creativity and Business in the Last Twenty Years

The recent past has seen the business world emphasizing on the need for creativity and concomitant innovation. This could be driven by the need for brand differentiation in the age of global competitiveness in the information technology age. Businesses need to be creative and constantly redefine their competitive advantage in a flux, global economic situation. It is because of this that this author would wish to explore the understanding and evolvement of creativity in business over the last twenty years. A good understanding of this term in a business context will ensure one is able to stay ahead of the industry curve in terms of product, person, process and place; the four Ps of creativity as defined by Mel Rhodes.

Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed; such as an idea, a scientific theory, an invention, a literary work, a painting, a musical composition, a joke, etc. Scholarly interest in creativity involves many definitions and concepts covering a variety of disciplines that include business studies, cognitive science, economics, education, linguistics, philosophy, psychology, sociology, songwriting, technology, and theology. The creativity process involves identifying problems, searching for solutions by formulating and affirming hypotheses, and communicating the results. Scientific research into creativity involves the production of novel, useful products.

Wikipedia is a good source to start regarding the history and concept of creativity. It traces the development of the word from the era of Archimedes and Plato in ancient Greece to the present. From Wikipedia, it is evident that the concept of creativity has changed over the years from its original concept in ancient Greece, to the Romans concept of sharing, Latin’s association with the divine, the Renaissance, the 19th century art ownership, and onto the 20th century when creativity started to be associated with sciences and nature. In this millennium the term creativity has found a proper footing in business with organizational factors fostering creativity in science coming to the fore via interrogation of creative capabilities and the promotion of highly innovative research.

Details of creativity’s etymology of discovery and its subsequent development to mean innovation and invention are found on various Wikipedia pages. The online encyclopedia also has important links to useful indexes, notes, references and further reading. The site also has a 2012 video entitled The 7 Steps of Creative Thinking by Raphael DiLuzio.

A research paper by Professor Dean Keith Simonton entitled The Psychology of Creativity also has a historical perspective to this subject. This paper was presented on September 10, 2001 in a lecture series on “The Nature of Creativity”. It has various in-text citations quoting various authorities. Not only does it look at the creative process, the persons involved in it and the products of the process, the paper also explores the mainstreaming of creativity into psychological research with mention of the various sub-disciplines that consider creativity worthy of empirical and theoretical research. Notably, evolutionary and positive psychology, two recent movements in the field, have both adopted creativity as a topic.

Professor Simonton offers further areas for research in creativity including its understanding as a biological and social phenomenon, development of its theories, and its practical application. The paper also has nine pages of an exhaustive reference list on the subject.

A useful book on creativity available at Google Books is Creativity and Beyond: Cultures, Values and Change from SUNY Press. The 368-page book by Robert Paul Weiner has a wide-ranging, interdisciplinary tour of past and present cultures that examines the different ways people have viewed creativity and how this understanding is changing in the context of today’s global culture. The book looks at the subject vis-à-vis the broader contemporary patterns such as postmodernism, art trends, gender, electronic media, multiculturalism and psychology. It offers various hypotheses, vignettes and examples.[3]

Creativity and Beyond: Cultures, Values and Change is divided into thirteen chapters ranging from “Creativity, The West and History” to “Creativity and Some Contemporary Policy Issues in the United States”. Especially pertinent are chapters on everyday obstacles to creativity and the future of creativity. The book has useful, interesting illustrations and end matter that includes comprehensive notes, references and an index.

Robert Paul Weiner is an author, teacher, and consultant on multiculturalism and creativity and has also served as Coordinator of Liberal Studies at St Mary’s College of California and Chair of Liberal Arts at John F Kennedy University.

Another important book in this field is Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation by Prof R Keith Sawyer available on paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com. The voluminous 568-page second edition of this book published in 2012 has many positive peer reviews on the site; including from Professor David Henry Feldman of Tufts University who describes Prof Sawyer and his work as “leading young scholar and proponent of a sociocultural approach to the study of creativity…written the most comprehensive and compelling work on creativity studies in years.”[4]

Professor R Keith Sawyer is a leading scientific expert on creativity, innovation, and learning and teaches psychology, education, and business at Washington University in St Louis. He has strong practical background in real-world creativity having begun his career making videogames for Atari after his graduation from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) before a stint as a management consultant in Boston and New York. He is also an accomplished jazz pianist who has played the piano with various theater groups in Chicago for many years.

Summarizing and integrating extensive research in psychology and related scientific fields, Professor Sawyers’ book has the latest scientific research on creativity. The book has an interdisciplinary approach that encompasses the arts, science, stage performance, business innovation, and everyday-life creativity. This interdisciplinary approach to creativity is reflected in the examination of various psychological, anthropological, sociological, and cognitive neuroscience studies. Individual, social and cultural contexts of creativity, including the role of collaboration in the creative process, are explored.

There is also a 321-page book freely available online entitled Creativity: Theory, History and Practice by Professor Rob Pope of Oxford Brookes University. Offering important perspectives on creativity based on contemporary critical theory and cultural history, the book is divided into four parts namely why creativity now; defining creativity, creating definitions; creation as myth, story, metaphor; and creative practices, cultural processes. The eight chapters in the book include “creativity old, new and otherwise”, “alternative terms, emerging debates,” and  “transforming culture”. The book also has end matter that includes a list of further reading by topic, bibliography and an index.

Understanding why creativity in business has become important is crucial in understanding business trends in United States, and indeed in the world. As the world continues to technologically become flat, it is important for the country to retain its competitive advantage. Whereas many countries can compete on such aspects as economies of scale, labor and logistics, most Western economies, including the United States, remain leaders in research and development (R&D); a critical aspect of product development and marketing. Creativity that leads to invention and innovation is core for the country to continue being a leader in business.

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