Creativity: Outside-in or Inside-out?

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A recent article in the SJ Mercury focused on Facebook’s Artist in Residence Program that is meant “to help foster creative thinking and hacker spirit that keeps the tech firm thriving.” They are bringing in artists to apply their art to the spaces where employees spend time.

This program is an example of fostering creative thinking from the outside-in, doing something in the external environment to encourage a change inside a person.

Typically, when “creativity” is mentioned, “art” is the first association, e. g., painting, music, dancing, writing, or crafts. Some people are more inspired by one of these art forms over another. Many people turn to some form of art to get temporary respite from the discipline of their jobs. But, creativity is not just about art; it applies to every domain in business (people, products/technology, processes, environment, and business results) and the art of everyday living.

When it comes to creativity, everyone is idiosyncratic, meaning that:

– Each of us has our own way of being creative

– Each of us has unique strategies to turn insights into different and valuable ideas

– Each of us has a unique way of bringing our creativity out into the world

– Our creativity gets stimulated by different things

Because everyone is different, the impact of outside-in creativity can be mixed, especially if the approach is one-size-fits-all. Some people may be inspired, some put off, and others have no reaction.

Fostering creativity from the inside-out addresses the idiosyncratic nature of creativity by using a massing principle, i. e., providing lots of different ways and types of resources to explore individual creativity, have new experiences, try new tools, and integrate new practices to address everyday problems and challenges in professional and personal life.

The Adobe State of Create study reported the following from US respondents:

88% Everyone has potential to create

52% Don’t have time to be creative

61% Not living up to their creative potential

50% People are increasingly being expected to think creatively at work

80% There is increasing pressure to be productive rather than creative at work

There are benefits to outside-in approaches like Facebook’s but those benefits will not be experienced equally by everyone. New experiences are temporal in nature so the effect of the art will diminish over time for everyone.

A better and lasting way to foster creative thinking and the hacker spirit, and where the real magic comes from, is to approach creativity from the inside-out.

About Susan Jamison

During her high-tech career at IBM and Sun Microsystems, Susan Jamison became expert at taking on challenging initiatives and bringing out the best in people to deliver great results.

As founder and CEO of CLUE Institute, Susan shows individuals how to develop greater personal power and fulfillment so they become more effective in their work, and ultimately build lasting competencies for personal and organizational excellence.