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Life Mantra
Anu Goel
Creativity in the work-sphere 09 November, 2015
I was at the mall day before, window shopping with a friend. We went past these apparel showrooms, and my friend remarked, "Look how creatively they have used the belt to cinch the dress… these designers...wow…they'll think up things you won't even think are worthwhile and turn them into classic pieces."

A little later, we went to the store selling mobile handsets, and she remarked, "Such ingenuity. Only people with an analytical mind frame can think up stuff like this." This got me wondering. What exactly is creativity? Is it restricted only to certain professions or is it needed in all?

This quote by Brian Vaszily offered some light into my query, "See what others don't see. Then show it to them. That is creativity."

In a more structured manner, we can define creativity as the process 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 and so forth. In Robert Sternberg's words, creativity is the resonance of 'something original and worthwhile.' 

According to Wikipedia, Dr. E. Paul Torrance described it as "a process of becoming sensitive to problems, deficiencies, gaps in knowledge, missing elements, disharmonies, and so on; identifying the difficulty; searching for solutions, making guesses, or formulating hypotheses about the deficiencies: testing and retesting these hypotheses and possibly modifying and retesting them; and finally communicating the results. Creativity is, in a nutshell, intelligence having fun.

Psychologists have come up with various theories to decode the creative process. As per Mel Rhodes, the dominant factors of Creativity can be traced to the four Ps- Process, Product, Person and Place. Graham Wallas considered creativity to be a legacy of the evolutionary process, which allowed humans to quickly adapt to rapidly changing environments. Creative lifestyles are usually characterised by non-conforming attitudes and behaviours as well as flexibility. There is, however, no prototype of a creative person. This makes defining creativity a challenge and assessing it a monumental undertaking.

The traditional psychological definition of creativity includes two parts: originality and functionality.

The concept of Creativity is plagued with a plethora of stereotypes. Mainly, it is assumed that creativity is synchronous only with certain people and professions. The fact however remains that creativity is not only restricted to the domains of visual and performing art, but is an integral pre-requisite for any and every sphere of life. Building upon this idea, we can explore how creativity can and is helping in boosting performances in regular job settings. It is a known adage, when boredom strikes, creativity takes over.

Earlier, employees were encouraged into fitness activities to give a lift to their work output. Recent studies have shown that indulging in any form of creativity also has the same desired effect. This comes as a boon to couch potatoes, who might find the fitness workouts a pain much greater than their regular jobs.

Kevin Eschleman, organizational psychologist at San Francisco State University and his colleagues studied the direct effect of creative pursuits, such as writing short stories, or playing video games on employee job performance. The idea was to explore whether creative activities during free time help employees recover from the daily stresses of their job by facilitating relaxation or not. The study not only proved this idea accurate, but the researchers also found a strong boost in areas such as problem solving and helping others. Studies that attempt to relate creativity with the work atmosphere usually take high-stress jobs alone into account.

However, Eschleman notes that all employees need a form of recovery during their own stressful times- for example, when meeting tight deadlines, organizing large events or handling management shifts. What transpires can be summed up in saying that employers should encourage their employees to engage in creative activities outside of work.

A word of caution to this effect would be that the employee must not feel that it is the organization that is controlling them, rather, forcing them into creative pursuits, because intrinsic motivation is part of that unique experience that comes with creative activity. An effective way of nudging employees into creative activities is by bringing creativity into the workplace. This can be done by simply asking employees to decorate their work-space in their own way, lending individuality to the assembly line make-up of usual work-settings. Or employees can be encouraged into going to Art exhibitions, fairs and museums by offering corporate discounts for the same.

Another effective tool would be to have Suggestion Boxes, where employees can harness their creativity in suggesting ways of improvement. This system, however will work only when the organization reciprocates by recognizing and implementing changes. This will lead to a holistic growth of the employees as well as the company; a sense of bond and ownership will bloom.

It has actually been found that people who take out time for their hobbies perform better. Letting the creative juices flow not only helps in relieving the stress that invariably builds up over the course of a work-day, but also adds a streak of novelty into the daily humdrum of life. That way, work is not seen through a lens of hatred, but as a necessary part of living.

A few pointers that may help in boosting our productivity can be summed up as follows.

1. The mere presence of other people can boost your performance.
Social psychologist Floyd Allport showed that a group of people working individually at the same table performed better on tasks even though they weren't cooperating or competing because it tends to create a social facilitation effect. Allport's research illustrates how synergy can act as a substitute team even when working solo. This could be attributed to many creative artistes' bent for working at local cafes and bistros, surrounded by random strangers.

2. A familiar team has benefits like a home stadium.
It is a common notion that the team that has the 'home advantage' performs better. A 2006 Harvard study showed that the performance of heart surgeons improved over time when working at their main hospital surrounded by their usual team. It wasn't as though the team did not know the layout or working of the other hospitals, but the innate mutual understanding in working with the same set of people, knowing their strengths and weaknesses and having common experiences to draw from results in a boost in performance. This works for performing artistes as well.

3. A balance of extroverts and introverts makes for a better team.
A judicious mix of bold and often brash individuals, together with shy and quiet individuals emerges as the most effective combination in terms of efficacy. Also, having both, men as well as women on the team is found to help.

Henri Matisse very aptly recognised, 'Creativity takes courage'. Having said that, people should be allowed to let their minds run wild, brainstorm and innovate. Creativity is born out of necessity. True. But at the same time, creativity cannot be forced. The deadline is detrimental to the creative spirit. Letting creativity run its course will allow us to create a beautiful place.

The article is jointly authored by Anu Goel (Counselling Psychologist) & Sreyoshi Bhattacharya

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
About The Author
Mrs. ANU GOEL is a Counselling Psychologist. She has practiced in Mumbai for 5 years, and is currently practicing in Delhi since the last 7 years. Goel, who can be contacted at 9313320146 and anugoel75@gmail.com, is a member of the Counsellor's Association of India, and has been a guest speaker on several occasions.
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