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  • Brett Simpson

In my experience…creativity is contagious


I admire artists across all artistic disciplines.  Their ability create is inspiring.  In business, creative talents exist in areas not traditionally considered art.  These include innovation, deal structures, problem-solving, etc.  I sometimes think about using the ‘Uber-of…’ lingo when referring to creative business people who aren’t conventional artists.  “Oh, you know Michelle…she’s the Artist-of-Innovation, or Kerri…she’s the Artist-of-Deal-Structures, or Sandi…she’s the Artist-of-Problem-Solving”.  Those sound kind of silly though and don’t really have the same ring as the timeless entrepreneurial pitch of “My company is the Uber-of-Mobile-Ballroom-Dancing-Costume-Tailoring”.


It’s a necessity (and also rewarding) to be creative in our professional endeavors.  In my experience, creativity is contagious.  A couple years ago I observed an entrepreneurship workshop where the attendees were high school students.  One of the exercises they went through was to take a product that everyone recognized, but maybe hadn’t used before, and come up with ways to innovate on the original.  In this case the product was a white cane, the device used by the visually impaired.  None of the students in the workshop used a white cane, so they came at the task from somewhat of an outsider’s perspective.  


The progression of creativity was fascinating to watch.  At first it was quiet as each student wrote down their own ideas.  There was hesitancy when they each had to initially share with the group what their ideas were.  The leaders had said there were no bad ideas, and nothing was off-limits in terms of being labeled impossible or impractical.  Because of that there was a sense of freedom of thought and expression.  As ideas were shared, new innovations were thought of and communicated to the group.  The creativity and excitement continued to build and became contagious.


I’ve observed this same phenomenon in business as well.  It doesn’t usually happen as rapidly as it did in that workshop, which was intentionally set-up for accelerated ideation.  Instead when leaders allow for creativity in solving business problems, that mindset becomes part of the culture of the team or organization.  Over time the people see the creative solutions their counterparts are suggesting and implementing and feel empowered to do the same.  


Creative contagiousness has two pre-requisites:

  1. Someone has a creative idea or solution and shares or implements it

  2. Leadership accepts and values creativity


If #1 exists without #2, the desire to be creative is squelched before it has an opportunity to take flight.  A culture that accepts and rewards creativity is one that people want to be a part of.  The opposite is true as well.  A culture that discourages and punishes creativity is one that should be avoided.  Since people are naturally creative it really comes down to the leaders and how they choose to react to creativity in their teams and organizations.


Special thanks to Chris Perkins, who I admire for his openness and approach to creative collaboration, and Sheila Seck, whose creative approach to service differentiation is innovative.

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