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Being creative and innovative has arguably never been cooler than it is today.  Large chunks of the whole improving workplace movement rests upon the notion of giving employees an engaging and fulfilling life.

It’s typified by campaigns such as the RSA’s Power to Create.  They suggest that this movement is driven by an appetite and demand for creativity.  A better educated and mobile global population are constantly seeking out ways they can apply their thoughts and ideas in new ways.

This desire has been facilitated by social web platforms that connect and accelerate creativity in ways we’ve never seen before.  And this matters, because the large, difficult challenges facing the world require as much thought diversity as possible to tackle them.

The notion goes that there are many things standing in the way of this utopia.  The organizations that seek only to label and stereotype us.  The institutions that see people not as valuable contributors but merely as needs that need to be fulfilled.

It’s an exciting and tantalizing vision of a world freed from its shackles and unleashed onto all manner of problems and challenges.  The notion rests however on the belief that people want to be free.
A study from earlier this year for instance found that people are quite happy to succumb to hierarchy, just so long as it’s a fair and equitable one.There is also a litany of evidence to show that those who seek different ways of doing things aren’t actually very popular at all.  They’re seen as having less leadership potential and people are often wary of those with creative thoughts.Indeed, another study found that people weigh up a number of factors before deciding to stick their neck out and attempt innovations.  Things like their level of job security and the depth of their personal relationships all go into the decision making process.Of course, it isn’t something that’s a fixed trait, and the researchers were at pains to point out that it is something that can be both learned but also influenced by our surroundings.

“What’s surprising about the findings is that they tell us courage is not just a personality trait, it’s a behavior that can be learned,” they say. “Also, courage is very social. You compare yourself with the people around you and ask, ‘Do I identify with the victim, or am I more powerful than the other people?’”

This suggests that our environs play a big part in how we behave.  The system and environment we operate within therefore has to support creativity and innovation if people are to have a hope of obtaining it.

Things like the RSA’s Power to Create are undoubtedly seductive, but it should not make us fall into the trap that this is the default state and there is an undercurrent of creativity just waiting to explode at the merest hint.  If we’re to reach that hallowed state, there needs to be a good chunk of groundwork done to prepare a system that encourages and supports creativity.

Simple, isn’t it?

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