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Creativity is a Mindset


It’s the Economist Innovation Awards on 3rd December. Some winners have already been announced, like Jane Chen, Rahul Panicker, Naganand Murty and Linus Liang, who have developed an inexpensive incubator for premature babies. Cancer researcher James Allison is another winner.

The awards website features details of past winners, like SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk, and MIT’s Yet Ming Chiang. It also features quotes from some of the winners, and this one from Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com drew my attention.

“Some ideas hit with a big bang. Others take time to stew. I had been thinking about how to make enterprise software as easy-to-use as a website like Amazon.com. It was in taking time off that my epiphany came. But it didn’t come in a moment; it came in a mindset.”

I find that’s true about most creativity stories – that it’s not quick tricks and techniques that really deliver the game changing innovations. The media constantly shares advice, often backed by scientific research, on how to be more creative by messing up your desk, or dimming the lights, or looking at the colour blue, or drinking beer, or sitting in coffee shops.

Some of these things may work – for some people, some of the time. But the truth is, creativity is more than that – much more. It’s about characteristics and behaviours, such as flexibility, awareness, openness to ideas, the ability to solve problems, tolerance of failure and risk taking. This is a creative mindset.


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