Creativity in the Workplace

You may think that business and creativity don’t have much to do with each other—business is all about the bottom line, while creativity is about artistic expression. But psychologists, business consultants and productivity specialists have all come around to the notion that the two have more in common than we realize.

One such consultant, a poet named David Whyte, has been working with organizations to help them foster creativity in their employees. He unabashedly asserts that companies cannot truly survive without it. Whyte uses poetry in organizational settings to illustrate how we can foster qualities of courage and engagement; qualities needed if we are to respond to today’s call for increased creativity and adaptability in the workplace.

“Out of the shifting nature of the workplace,” he says, “Out of a hundred details, a dozen conversations, a trip into the field, a pile of reports, a screen full of figures, we pluck, like Beowulf, the one concentrated point of the pattern from which we can act.”

Choosing that point, the next phone call, the right decision, the next hire, the next innovation, if coming from a place of creativity, can make or break a company.

Business guru Seth Godin says that the corporate world needs artists because they have “a genius for finding a new answer, a new connection, or a new way of getting things done.” The organizations that realize this are the ones that are forging new territory and succeeding where others have failed.

Organizations can’t do this by saying, “Be more creative,” but rather “How are you creative?” Leaders who embrace a creative workplace, develop systems that help employees explore the ways that they solve problems. That’s their talent, their creativity. Once explored, they can build on it, exercise it, and team up with others who complement their strengths. Then they begin to trust it. They use their creativity when making decisions and untangling issues and mediating difficulties. They are, in the end, more productive.

Creativity in the workplace is about the kind of success that transcends the bottom line. “Profit is fine — a sign that the customer honors the value of what we do. But “enterprise” (a lovely word) is about heart. About beauty. It’s about art. About people throwing themselves on the line. It’s about passion and the selfless pursuit of an ideal.” —Tom Peters