by Elmarie Bouwer

Tell me again – why is the subject of creativity important when all I’m interested in is business success?

Because creativity underlies all successful business functions! And what you believe about creativity is directly going to influence that very success you’re so interested in! That’s why.


  “All he ever does is practice, practice…

One of the myths surrounding creativity, is that concerning talent. We believe we have to have talent in something to be able to do it. Not so! says Prof. Howe and other researchers at Exeter University. A study done there records that “[t]he notion that geniuses such as Shakespeare, Mozart and Picasso were “gifted” or possessed innate talents is a myth,” Howe et al… concluded that “opportunities, encouragement, training, motivation, self-confidence and – most of all – practice determine excellence.”*

Nay, says…

David Feldman and Tamar Katzir of Tufts University, Massachusetts.  ”[P]ractice and other factors were no doubt important contributors to outstanding performance, but not enough to explain great creative works.  “Talent is essential…[i]f anyone can prove that the works of these individuals can be explained without…natural talent, we will concede that talent does not exist:  “Mozart, Picasso, Shakespeare, Martina Hingis, Pavarotti, Ramanujam, Judit Polgar and Micheal Jordan. Practice indeed…”* (Naysayers are good. They help us to think for ourselves…)

It seems clear though…

…that talent only plays a role to some extent. Other factors like “encouragement, training, motivation, self-confidence and – most of all – practice”* seem to speak as loud as innate talent. Mozart, for instance, had to work hard and was immersed in music for 16 years, practicing, before he produced a masterwork.

Other myths…

…we tell ourselves says Prof. Robert Harris of Virtual Salt,# is to believe that:

  1. Every problem has only one right answer or solution. People discover different solutions to the same problem, none of them are ‘wrong’ simply because they differ. e.g. ”What is THE solution to putting words on paper? Fountain pen, ball point, pencil, marker, typewriter, printer, Xerox machine, printing press?”


  1. The best answer/method/solution has already been found. A study of any solution / method …will tell you that’s baloney. Just look at human transportation. Was the car the best and last? “What about pneumatic tubes, hovercraft, even Star Trek type beams?”#


  1.  Creative answers are technologically complex. That is only true of a very limited number of problems. Most problems only require some thoughtful thinking, some action and simple tools. For example, “when hot dogs were first invented, they were served with gloves to customers so they could hold them. Unfortunately, the customers kept walking off with the gloves. The solution was not at all complex: serve the hot dog on a roll so that the customer’s fingers were still insulated from the heat. The roll could be eaten along with the dog.”#


  1. “Ideas either come or they don’t. Nothing will help.” # Now, this is just not true. Although creativity is not an add-and stir exercise, there are many thoughts and exercises available for idea stimulation and we will in some future post focus on some of them.


Linda Naiman of Creativity at Work well refers to a study done by George Land that says that developing your creative muscle is like that of any other muscle. It takes…yup… exercise! “…we are naturally creative and as we grow up we learn to be uncreative. Creativity is a skill that can be developed and a process that can be managed. Learning to be creative is akin to learning a sport.  It requires practice to develop the right muscles, and a supportive environment in which to flourish.”+

The word here that seems to recur with annoying regularity, is practice.

Now, lest it seem that we can just park ourselves, stare into vacant space and let some creative genius wash over us out of sweet nothingness, there are some characteristics of the creative person that we have to share before that artistic spark will ignite into flame (plus of course, practice of whatever… ):

Prof Harris again:

  • “curious
  • seeks problems
  • enjoys challenge
  • optimistic
  • able to suspend judgment
  • comfortable with imagination
  • sees problems as opportunities
  • sees problems as interesting
  • problems are emotionally acceptable
  • challenges assumptions
  • doesn’t give up easily: perseveres, works hard”#

Finally, a quote from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes will put the cap on what it all comes down to. “They say that genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains,” he remarked with a smile. “It’s a very bad definition, but it does apply to detective work.”$

 Taking pains, sound an awfully lot like … practise.


Well, next week we look at something that is called “creative unblocking.” Like blocked sinuses. There is something that helps for that too. See you there!

In case you have missed some of our previous posts on creativity and how that links to business, here are they:

  • When sales are sluggish


  • Why being creative matters more to your business than you think


  • Creative?  Who me?


  • Why creativity is so much like show jumping


© Elmarie Bouw


Practise and Training, not talent, key to genius. Accessed 14 Feb 2012      http://tinpan.fortunecity.com/harrison/624/practicetalent.htm

#  Harris, Robert. Introduction to creative thinking. VirtualSalt. 1 July 1998. Web.  Accessed 16 February 2012. http://www.virtualsalt.com/crebook1.htm

+ Creativity at Work. What is creativity. Linda Naiman2010. Accessed 16 February 2012. http://www.creativityatwork.com/articlesContent/whatis.htm

$ Quotes from Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, page 1 of 11. Para 8.  Accessed 16 February 2012


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34 Responses

  1. Minnaar says:

    I agree completely.

  2. CrossBear says:

    Thanks for a great post. Creativity is all important for business success – and so is talent. The problem is that people do not recognise creativity for what it is in the business environment, simply because they have been brainwashed with the mindset that creativity is limited to the fine arts or to creative writing in some or other form. With all due respect to Prof. Howe, a person with limited talent can practice till the cows come home. If he hasn’t got it, he will simply not deliver the goods. Keep up the good work!

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