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Creativity leads to success

In English


Creativity is a vital skill in working life because it helps with innovation and problem solving. Intuition, on the other hand, helps individuals make quick decisions. Creativity flourishes in an atmosphere of trust, but is there strength left for it in the non-ending stream of digital meetings?

Creativity helps employees, the work community and the company develop new solutions to complex problems.

When the organisation encourages creativity, its employees and teams are likely to come up with innovative products, services and processes. In other words, creativity generates competitive advantage.

“If you want to succeed, you should nurture creativity,” says Saara Saarinen, Senior Lead at Sitra.

Creativity means the ability to steer thinking towards something unprecedented, but also the ability to change direction as needed.

According to her, creativity is as important a working life skill as, for example, rational reasoning.

“Creativity means the ability to steer thinking towards something unprecedented, but also the ability to change direction as needed,” Saarinen says.

Nurturing creativity in a work community requires a sense of psychological security, which means that everyone dares to say things out loud and freely without fear of judgment.

“On the other hand, the person presenting ideas must be persistent, because even major innovations, such as the telephone or television, were most likely dismissed as ridiculous at first,” Saarinen adds.

She encourages people to talk about creativity in the work community and come up with a common understanding of what creativity is in that particular workplace.

Her advice is to sit down together to consider what kinds of small everyday things promote creativity and also what prevents it. Such things can be related to, for example, time management, interaction or meeting practices.

Creativity belongs to everyone

A madly creative copywriter at an advertising agency, an inexhaustible idea spinner at a social media agency or a prolific composer – in certain professions, creativity is the prerequisite for work, and the activities of creative workplaces are often almost naturally based on enabling creativity.

At these workplaces, creativity should not be stifled, not even by strictly defined working hours, because people have different rhythms – for some, ideas flourish in the morning, for others it’s in the evening, during the day or at night. A creative idea can emerge anywhere: in the shower, during an evening jog or even in a dream. How can employers take people’s different rhythms into account?

“If creativity is required at work, the opportunity to work at a time that suits the individual best and take time off at another time should be offered. Strict standard working hours can kill creativity,” says Research Professor Tuomo Alasoini from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

In many cases, creativity is challenging because it cannot be measured in numbers, which is why its benefits are not always seen.

Creativity can be useful in manual work as well if it helps, say, find a new way to perform a certain work phase more efficiently. Creativity is needed, for example, when a process or work phase does not work.

“Change requires perseverance and the ability to tolerate uncertainty. When new activities begin, indicators may initially show a decline and the work community is gripped by fear. At first, more hours may be required than before, but after a while, time is saved,” says Saara Saarinen encouragingly.

In many cases, creativity is challenging because it cannot be measured in numbers, which is why its benefits are not always seen. However, creativity can produce something unprecedented and beneficial for a company’s business, and it is seen in expanding profit margins.

Creativity can also be practised. When one person or work community is defined as creative and another not, key resources are excluded. Everyone can be creative.

Getting out of one’s comfort zone and meeting different kinds of people – for example, job rotation between departments – can generate creativity in the work community. An individual’s creativity may take on new dimensions, such as in a new hobby or a surprising joint activity in the work community.

Intuition provides solutions quickly

Creativity is often associated with the concept of intuition, which can also be understood as tacit knowledge. Creativity and intuition are slightly different, even though they are often intertwined. Creative thinking usually has a goal, such as developing something new or solving a problem, and is based on knowledge and rational reasoning.

“Intuition, on the other hand, is instinctive and produces conclusions without rational thinking,” says professor Alasoini.

Intuition generates new information quickly, without reasoning.

Intuitiveness is also based on knowledge, experience and broader understanding. It requires a profound overall view of things.

“Intuition generates new information quickly, without reasoning. In problem-solving situations, intuition helps particularly when the ability to act quickly and understand complex contexts is required,” says Professor Alasoini.

Intuition is at work when, for example, a doctor or nurse comes up with a solution for treating a patient in the present moment, but in a work community, creativity changes operating methods more broadly.

“Collective creativity produces more than the sum of its parts. In working life, both are required, that is, both quick intuitive decisions by individuals and resolving broader problems alone and together,” says Saarinen.

Is there time for creative thinking?

If the workplace wants to support creativity, it is worth noting that creativity requires time free from stimuli.

Kimmo Vänni has studied digital stress at Tampere University and the impact of digital stress on creativity in HAMK University of Applied Sciences’ Digital Culture project; however, in addition to that, he develops wearable robots in his laboratory. In order to be effective as an inventor, he makes for himself space for spending time free from stimuli and sets aside one day each week without any face-to-face or online meetings.

“Creativity cannot progress if the day is fragmented. It is hard to be creative for a couple of hours, attend a meeting in between and switch creativity on again,” Vänni explains.

Then again, sometimes it is good to take a break from brainstorming and innovating and perform so-called routine work in a good mood.

Not many of us are professionally Gyro Gearloose like Vänni, but even in ordinary specialist work, it makes sense to block time for thinking in your calendar. If possible, it would be a good idea to consider in the work community whether it would be possible to set aside time free from contacts during the working week.

“For example, we have agreed not to hold internal meetings on Thursday mornings, so that everyone can have time on their own for brainwork,” says professor Alasoini from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

Then again, sometimes it is good to take a break from brainstorming and innovating and perform so-called routine work in a good mood.

“That type of work gives your mind a rest from thinking and your brain gets time to rest. Of course, you should take time to think creatively about whether routine tasks could be completed faster and more efficiently,” says Saarinen.

Google’s recipe for success encourages us to think about the distribution of working time.

“Seventy per cent of employees’ working time was reserved for core business, 20 per cent for their own, interesting projects linked to the core business, and the remaining 10 per cent for charity. That model has enabled Google to create groundbreaking innovations and to engage employees,” Alasoini says.

Digital flood hinders creativity?

Collective creativity is best achieved by seeing each other, meeting face-to-face and interacting in the same space, whereas remotely conducted online meetings are suitable for reviewing and repeating clear issues when there is no need to brainstorm and bounce ideas around.

Too numerous or poorly executed online meetings can cause digital stress, and studies show that any kind of stress impairs creativity.

“In online meetings, people are anxious about problems with the technical features of user interfaces, such as network connectivity and data security, while the leader of the meeting gets stressed about the quality of the image or sound and whether the memo can be successfully shared,” says Principal Research Scientist Vänni.

Such meetings, chained back-to-back during the day, can add up to an enormous digital load.

The studies conducted at Tampere University also indicated that complex written materials and difficult concepts in online meetings cause stress.

It was already stated earlier in this article that time must be set aside for creativity. However, digital calendars can be a disaster for creativity if the work community does not pay attention to this.

“It is too easy to add online meetings to an electronic calendar without people having a say in the matter. The team just assumes that people can make it to online meetings because they do not need time to move from one meeting location to another. Such meetings, chained back-to-back during the day, can add up to an enormous digital load,” Vänni points out.

Creativity helps get rid of digital stress

There is also a seed of creativity in digital stress: if things don’t work, they need to be fixed – and that requires creativity. Employees want more easy-to-use user interfaces and streamlined tools for sharing materials.

“Service development enhances creativity. We have started to realise that things cannot continue as they are in the world of remote meetings, because people are exhausted and the situation needs to improve,” Vänni says emphatically.

While waiting for new innovations, everyone can develop the activities of their work community to foster creativity. It makes sense to hold online meetings only when they are absolutely necessary. Participants remain alert in short meetings.

“If the meeting stretches for an hour or more, it is a good idea to take short breaks every half hour or so, so that people can concentrate. At the beginning of the meeting, free and fun conversation is relaxing. The materials should be kept simple and clear so that they leave room for thought.” This is Vänni’s advice for successful online meetings.