Thinking Managers

Edward de Bono of argues that companies should employ a CCO, a Chief Creativity Officer.

Creativity must be taken seriously

Try adding up every number from one to ten. Most people can do that in around 20 seconds. Now try adding up every number from one to 1,000. How long do you think that would take you? Using creativity, you could do it in ten seconds.

With this exercise, you know you need a new idea. However, in everyday life there are a limited number of times when we know we need a new idea.

Much of the time we are not even aware that we could benefit from a new idea. A common thought process is, “If there is not a problem to solve, who needs a new idea?”

But there are plenty of uses for creativity. It can be useful for:

• Solving a problem that can’t otherwise be solved

• Looking for alternative solutions that are quicker, simpler or cheaper

• Finding and developing opportunities

• Simplifying procedures that have become complicated

• Cutting costs and trimming expenses

• Developing new values in products or services

• Finding different ways to present things

Understandably, organisations spend a great deal of money on computers and IT systems. Information is essential but so are ideas. No doubt organisations would spend money on a creative computer if such a thing existed.

It is not easy to ask people to focus on continuity and at the same time embrace change. Continuity requires that you keep things going as they are – and that is the basis for most organisations. So to then ask the same people to embrace the changes of creativity can cause difficulty.

But valuable creative ideas are always logical in hindsight – so there isn’t a big risk. Plenty of ideas are worth doing or at least attempting. However, difference for the sake of difference is not creativity – it’s what I call ‘crazytivity’.

Which would you choose – adding up all the numbers from one to 1,000 in the normal way or in the ten-second creative way?

Creativity must be taken seriously. How can you not take creativity seriously when we know that much of progress depends on it? A possible reason is a lack of understanding. Creativity has always had a mysterious quality. We can see the results but sometimes we’re not sure how it happened.

A further possible reason is that we don’t know what to do about creativity. We assume that ideas just happen every now and then and there is not much you can do about them. Many people do not realise that you can use creativity formally. New ideas can be deliberately generated.

Corporations take finance very seriously, and the same applies to legal matters and research. But creativity isn’t taken seriously at all. Therefore, I believe every organisation needs a formal CCO, or Chief Creativity Officer.

About the author
Edward de Bono is the world's leading authority in the field of creative thinking and the teaching of thinking as a skill.

  Edward de Bono