How Creative Are You?

Test your workplace creativity skills!

© iStockphoto/fpm

If the idea of being creative at work makes you think of artistic talent, don't worry!

Business creativity is all about finding fresh and innovative solutions to problems, and identifying opportunities to improve the way that we do things.

As such, anyone can be creative, just as long as they have the right mindset and use the right tools.

This test helps you to think about how creative you are right now. Take it, and then use the tools and discussions that follow to bring intense creativity to your everyday work.

How Creative Are You?

Instructions:

For each statement, click the button in the column that best describes you. Please answer questions as you actually are (rather than how you think you should be), and don't worry if some questions seem to score in the 'wrong direction'. When you are finished, please click the 'Calculate My Total' button at the bottom of the test.

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   16 Statements to Answer

Not
at All
Rarely Some
times
Often Very
Often
1 Creative people should specialize in coming up with lots of ideas. Other people should then implement these.
2 If I have a problem, I allow myself to back off active problem solving, and I create some mental distance between myself and the issue.
3 When I'm coming up with ideas, I find myself using phrases like "we can't" or "we don't."
4 I'm busy. As soon as I have a good idea, I move forward with implementation.
5 I gather information from a wide variety of sources to stay current with what's happening in my field of work.
6 I see problems, complaints, and bottlenecks as opportunities rather than as issues.
7 When solving a problem, I try to rethink my current understanding of an issue to develop a deeper insight into it.
8 I often ignore good ideas because I don't have the resources to implement them.
9 I find problems and issues distracting. They cause me to lose focus on my real work.
10 I'm confident that I can develop creative ideas to solve problems, and I'm motivated to implement solutions.
11 I take time to investigate how things are working, even when there are no current problems.
12 I always look for the causes of problems, so that I can understand what's really going on.
13 I look for things in my environment to inspire me to find new interpretations of problems.
14 I focus on issues that are important right now, preferring to worry about future problems as they arise.
15 When gathering information about an issue, I explore solutions that have worked elsewhere in the past..
16 When I generate ideas, I evaluate them and I quickly discard ideas that I don't like.
Calculate My Total
Total = 0

Score Interpretation

Score Comment
16-36 You're unsure of your creative talent. Maybe you haven't been given opportunities to be creative, or maybe you're convinced that you're simply not a creative person. Either way, look for opportunities to improve how you do things, even if you don't have any current problems. Use the discussion and resources below to be more creative – you'll be surprised by how creative you can be if you give yourself a chance! (Read below to start.)
37-58 Your creativity is a "work in progress." You've had some successes, so now it's time to let loose and stretch yourself. Share your ideas and perspectives with others, and ask them how they view problems. Adopt a collaborative approach to problem finding, and work actively with others to create and innovate. The tools and resources below will help you get to the next level of creativity. (Read below to start.)
59-80 Creativity is one of your strengths, and innovative and creative minds are highly sought after. So don't hide your ability! Look for ways to share your creativity process with others. Engage colleagues and teammates in creative pursuits, and promote creativity in your team and organization. And remember that you can always be more creative – so use the tools and discussion below to fulfill your creative potential! (Read below to start.)

Boosting Your Creativity Ability

In his well-respected book, "Creativity," Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says that an effective creative process usually consists of five steps. These are:

  1. Preparation – becoming immersed in problems and issues that are interesting and that arouse curiosity.
  2. Incubation – allowing ideas to turn around in your mind without thinking about them consciously.
  3. Insight – experiencing the moment when the problem makes sense, and you understand the fundamental issue.
  4. Evaluation – taking time to make sure that the insight provides sufficient value to outweigh the various costs involved in implementation.
  5. Elaboration – creating a plan to implement the solution, and following through.

We've mapped these five steps onto the process below. This provides a clear and practical way for you to think about creativity, and to use it in your everyday life at work.

1. Finding Problems (Preparation)

(Questions 6, 9, 11, 14, 15)


Creative people don't sit and allow problems to surface. Instead, they scan their environment for potential issues, and they see this as time well spent. Also, they're excited by the opportunity to change things. They aren't intimidated by change; they embrace it.

To develop your creative skills, you need to adopt a positive attitude towards change, and take an active role in identifying opportunities and looking for potential issues. To do this, challenge your business processes using Failure Modes and Effects Analysis  , and look for bottlenecks   in these processes. Carry out SWOT   and PEST   analyses on a regular basis. Keep up-to-date with customer experiences and expectations  , and try to spot problems from other people's perspectives.

Also, engage in benchmarking   to find out how well others are addressing similar issues, and look at the issue from a wide range of perspectives. Then, analyze your findings to ensure that a real problem does exist. This fact-finding activity can save you a great deal of time later on, and will help ensure that you only act on the most relevant problems and issues.

Look first for problems and potential issues that interest you. These are the things you'll be most motivated to pursue when you're learning to solve problems creatively. Then, as you become more confident, challenge yourself to investigate issues that are more complex.

2. Gathering and Reflecting on Information (Incubation)

(Questions 2, 5)


When you have a potential issue or problem, gather as much information   about it as you can. As part of this, investigate solutions that have been tried previously (both in your own organization, and in other areas), and identify ideas that might have surfaced, but were never acted on.

At this stage it's also a good idea to step away from the problem for a while, and allow new thoughts and ideas to enter your mind. When we concentrate on one issue for too long there is a tendency to latch onto one or two ideas, and this can block other good ideas. (One of the benefits of being proactive in your problem-finding is that you have time to incubate ideas, rather than being pressurized to find an immediate solution to a problem.)

3. Problem Exploration (Insight)

(Question 3, 7, 12)


Once you've identified and verified your problem, you can figure out what's really going on. Often, the initial problem that you identified will turn out to be a symptom of a deeper problem. Therefore, identifying the root cause of the problem is extremely important.

When you do this, you'll find that techniques like CATWOE  , Drill Down  , the 5 Whys  , Cause and Effect Analysis  , and Root Cause Analysis   are all very effective. While creativity may invoke ideas of spontaneous insight and far-out inspiration, the truth is that being creative in the workplace is rooted in a practical understanding of the situation at hand.

Don't, however, be so practical that you become negative. What often separates creative people from others is the ability to see past potential barriers, and believe in their insights. For instance, you could easily dismiss a great insight by saying, "Oh that could never be the problem!" But, you won't ever know if something is contributing to a problem unless you allow yourself to explore the possibility. That's what creative problem exploration is all about – being open to all ideas and possibilities.

4. Generating and Evaluating Ideas (Evaluation)

(Question 4, 13, 16)


When you have clear insight into the cause of the issue, you can move onto generating ideas for a solution. Here you want to look for as many ways to inspire ideas as possible. Brainstorming  , Reverse Brainstorming   and Starbursting   are popular for this, however these can be undermined by problems with group dynamics. Techniques like Brainwriting  , Round-Robin Brainstorming   and the Charette Procedure   can help you circumvent common problems.

You can also enrich your ideas by using tools like the Six Thinking Hats  , Random Input  , the Reframing Matrix   and Metaphorical Thinking   to look at problems from different perspectives.

Obviously not all of the ideas you have will be practical or possible. So, as part of this step in the creativity process, you need to decide which criteria you'll use to evaluate your ideas. (Without a solid evaluation process, you'll be prone to choosing a solution that is perhaps too cautious.)

There are a wide range of tools you can use for the evaluation, including:

5. Implementation (Elaboration)

(Questions 1, 8, 10)


A common misconception is that creative people spend all their time thinking of new and interesting ideas. In fact, truly creative people recognize a good idea and run with it. A famous Thomas Edison quote supports this: "Creativity is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration."

For this final step, you need to be committed to taking your ideas and making them happen, and you need to be confident that you can, indeed, propose innovative ideas and inspire change.

To implement your ideas successfully, develop a solid plan, using action plans   for simple projects, and more formal project management techniques for larger, more complex projects. You'll also need to be able to sell your idea to others in your organization. If your idea is likely to affect other people, you'll want to develop strong change management   skills so that the people around you accept and use the products of your creativity.

Once you bring one idea through to successful implementation, you'll be motivated and inspired to repeat the process again and again!

Key Points

In the workplace, some people are naturally more creative than others. However, that doesn't mean that we can't all learn to be more creative, and use creativity enhancing tools and techniques in our daily lives.

At its core, creativity is the ability to see familiar things in a new light, and the first step to being more creative is training yourself to look for opportunities to improve the systems and processes around you.

Then gather information, find the main cause of issues and problems, and generate and evaluate your ideas. And don't forget that the mundane work of implementing your ideas is key to being genuinely creative!

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Click here for more, subscribe to our free newsletter, or become a member for just $1.

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