Could creativity be the key to performing well at work? Yes, according to a recent online survey commissioned by software maker Adobe. The study found that 78% of college-educated, full-time salaried American adults 25 and older believe that “creativity is important” to their current career. A whopping 85% of the 1,000 survey participants agree that “creative thinking is critical for problem solving” in their jobs. However, 32% don’t feel comfortable “thinking creatively” at work.
As far as what “creativity” means, exactly, most of the respondents believe the term is defined as the “ability to plan new, creative ideas” (33%) and thinking “out of the box” (33%). Only 3% equate creativity with “brainstorming to solve problems” and another 3% believe creativity is synonymous with an “unorthodox approach.”
There’s a generation gap in terms of how to further define “creative thinking.” Younger Americans associate creativity with the ability to present their thoughts with images and graphics than older U.S. workers. Thirteen percent of respondents between 25-44 believe creative thinking is about “expressing oneself visually” while a mere 2 % of those 45 and up agree.
Yet when asked what personality traits are most important for a successful career, while creativity ranked among the top three, it came in third, with 20% of respondents choosing it, behind “personability” (21%) and the classic qualifier of success, “intelligence” (24%). In other words, it’s still important to be smart and likable, in that order.
Given that creativity is considered a vital quality for thriving in the workplace, how can it be cultivated? The survey found that 71% of respondents believe that “creativity” should be taught as a course.
The concept of more creative classrooms and workplaces certainly seems promising, and could encourage more innovative thinking across industries. But in our era of quick criticism (online and off), it’s only inevitable that skeptics might soon wonder if teaching creativity will also hinder it if lessons on how to be creative are rigid in any way. Of course, how one reacts depends on how one defines creativity: as a business practice, a skill, or a personality trait. The recent Adobe survey suggests that as it is understood today, “creativity” may be all of the above.