Thursday, 7 February 2013

Adrian Furnham on Creativity at #HRTalks

Screen Shot 2013-02-07 at 14.27.34.png  So we're on to Adrian Furnham talking about innovation and creativity.  I've seen Adrian before and he's a great speaker, plus the session's been well trailed in this article suggesting we don't want creative people in our businesses.  Here are some of his - deliberately provocative - points (it was supposed to be a 1-10 but he or I got it all mixed up a bit).

1.  Most participants want more creative people in our businesses.  Adrian suggests we're all mad.  Creativity is a backwater in terms of research because it's so difficult to measure.  It's OK to define - something about creating novel and useful ideas and products.

2.  Creativity attracts charlatans, purveyors of piffle (I quite like that title!)  A creativity workshop is a bit like regressing to kindergarten.  Everyone is creative they say.  Piffle.  Everything, apart from sex, is normally distributed.  And pissing about with balloons isn't going to help.  Putting on de Bono hats is lots of fun but it's not going to make you more creative.

3.   Really creative people aren't nice and are really difficult.  Two camps: artists vs scientists.  Creative artists - the Saatchi types - real arty fartys - often mentally ill, particularly bi-polar.  Eg Paul Merton - shows disinhibition of ideas.  Can easily go off posts as ideas come into his mind which aren't inhibited in normal way.  Associated with mental illness.  Need to deal with very difficult, sometimes dangerous people.  Can never take managerial decisions.  Scientific creatives are rather different - geeky, nerdy people on the aspergers spectrum.  Not fun or inspiring.  Low emotional intelligence, high fetishism - keep them in their garden sheds.  Neither interested in entrepreneurial behaviour / innovation = putting in place creative ideas - seeing ideas and knowing what to put money behind.  Ryanair man - horrible man but hugely successful.


Get rid of them and get a chief espionage officer.  People who think about and are able to innovate.  HR should understand how to find these people - not creatives!


In his response, Benjamin Reid from the Big Innovation Centre at the Work Foundation suggested that whilst he agreed with a lot of Adrian's inputs, organisations still need creative people and organisations need to be able to manage them.  We need these disruptive people and radical ideas.  Particularly as ideas aren't likely to come from other place. 

We can learn from these people - especially their artistic sensibilities - and from organisations that can manage them.  But most of what happens in innovation is about collaboration - bringing people with different perspectives together.  The idea behind open innovation.

Some of the Work Foundation's research looked at how leaders create meaning for people - this is about creating narratives which help people do stuff they've not done before.  Which requires creativity.  NESTA research shows that if you collaborate with creative businesses your own organisation is likely to be more successful.


I liked Adrian's ideas, and particularly his ability to present them, but I'm still on Benjamin's side.  I recognised I'm biased though - I know I'd personally work in a company of creatives, rather than an organisation of drudges.  And if was still an HR Director, I'd want to take on the problem of managing creatives than not to have any to manage.

But I don't think I'm totally alone.  I suspect Adrian would have been on to something ten years ago but today, the journey we're on, in the West at least, is towards creating more inspiring, exciting and necessarily creative organisations.  And as the rate of change increases, the need to have internal creative capability grows as well.

And there's probably room for both models to flourish.  Though yet again, if I was an investor, I'd want to put my money on the creative organisations too.

Ideally of course, I'd want to work in, help manage and invest in an organisation that employs creatives, AND knows how to manage them.  I agree with Adrian about the normal distribution curve - not everyone can be exceptionally creative - but I think most people can be sufficiently so.

Actually the issue isn't so much about creatives, as is it about creating the environment in which they can flourish.  Getting rid of the old, command and control, directive styles, and giving creative people freedom to create, innovate and execute as well.


It'd be great to see your thoughts as well...


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