The problems of creativity.

Author: Ana Simar from Happytivity.

In my own experience, studies with a creative and humanistic basis, Latin American migrant in an industrialised country central to European political dynamics, I have repeatedly found it challenging to put my creative and critical thinking attributes at the service of my employers.


After my most recent rejection in a job application, by the way, the most attractive offer I have ever seen, where the reason given for the denial was “you are too creative and innovative for this company”, I did not really know whether to be flattered or desperate. The fact is that after this disappointment, I decided to do a short survey with my closest contacts via my Facebook account: 

What does it mean to be rejected for a job
you are too creative and innovative?
– Any idea? –

What does it mean to be rejected for a job because you are too creative and innovative? – Any idea? –

The discussion took shape, and not only did I receive messages of support, but I was reminded of my creative and humanistic roots.


Several comments came out of the batch and inspired me to write about creativity as a conflicting aspect for companies. 


According to my community, rejecting a very creative person in a company lines can come from several factors:

  • Being overqualified for the job.
  • The company may not be ready for change.
  • A highly creative employee can leave at any time if they don’t find nourishment for their creativity in that company.
  • They may not want someone who thinks, but someone who obeys.
  • They may be afraid of what creativity can bring.
  • They don’t have budget for ideas implementation. 
  • The manifested creative thinking may be too disruptive for a traditional company. 
  • Being too creative and innovative is almost like taking the company away from the owner. Many of us have to go into Excel cells and come up with the exact result of the equation. The creative ones come up with results so good that the equation comes out wrong.

What stands out most in this discussion is fear, for different reasons perhaps, but fear nonetheless. This is precisely where I want to and can help show companies, even the more traditional ones, how to lessen or alleviate the fear of the effects of employee creativity on their operations.

Even though creativity is one of the most demanded soft skills in the labour market today and even more vehemently since the beginning of the current crisis, in a way, it seems to be problematic for companies.


But what’s the deal with creativity? 

Why is it so in demand, and why is the incongruity evident so far?

We need creative employees, but not so much, please.

According to T. Amabile, Professor of Business Administration in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School, creativity is the behaviour resulting from a particular constellation of personal characteristics, cognitive abilities and environmental influences. According to her studies, creative behaviour is at its best when these three characteristics are aligned: Motivation, domain-specific skills, and creative skills (such as divergent thinking, cognitive style, and training, among others)1.


I believe there is currently a lack of congruence between the real world of work, processes, timing, and the opportunities to develop and exercise the creativity required from today’s employees’ profiles. 


There is no point in asking employees to be creative if the company does not have mechanisms adapted to its reality so that creativity can bring its fruits, both for the company and for the employee. And yes, all human beings benefit from and need to use our creative capacities. 


Then, we see high potential people being rejected in recruitment processes or dismissed from their functions because they are “too creative or innovative for the type of company”. Even though their proclaimed values and current challenges may include innovation as a means for their existence in today’s world.

Creativity as a lever for innovation development.

One of the problems with the collective perception of creativity is a common belief that creativity is equal to “artists’ stuff” or “things that are crazy” or so unusual that they are impossible.


To develop creative skills, one needs to work on a particular state of mind. The part of the brain that allows us to be creative is nothing other than the same part of the brain where we develop our adaptive functions to complex and new situations, where we can plan and think about the future, where our intuitive capacity is also developed. So, when we stimulate our creativity, we also work on our ability to respond in interpersonal relationships, how we work in a team or how we approach someone and try to understand their particular perspective.


Creativity then becomes ESSENTIAL for the generation of innovation. Understanding innovation as the successful introduction of something NEW in a given ENVIRONMENT. Creative thinking allows us to generate new ideas and connect with the environment that we wish to “conquer” through innovation, ensuring its relevance and, therefore, its SUCCESS in terms of the achieved ownership of the results.


Creativity is, therefore, a characteristic that allows us to forge original ideas (the “crazy things” ;)) and develop the sensitivity, empathy, and willingness required to succeed in an innovation mission. 


The misunderstanding of creativity and the apprehension to high-creative profiles in the industry may come from the incomprehension of the structure and benefits of creative processes. Such as onboarding guidance for innovation missions, rationalising and detaching emotionally from ideas we usually generate with devotion, and getting closer to the real people concerned by innovations, aka users.

Ask for creativity, offer coherence.

Being a capacity inherent to human beings and to life itself, creativity* will continue to accompany us as long as we exist. Innovation’s volatile and changing nature requires an almost constant regeneration of concepts and projects.


If creativity is required from employees, companies must provide the space, the tools and the framework necessary to make the most of it and bring its great benefit. This will also affect the working environment, contributing to building employees’ integral well-being.


Innovation is the emergent outcome of creative processes. Therefore, it cannot be controlled from a micro-managerial perspective. Innovation is not achieved only by following one, two and three steps. It is a process that has multiple comings and goings, inputs and outputs, which need to be nurtured permanently. That is why it is important to provide spaces and resources, but above all, values and the appropriate climate to systemically favour its generation. This can only be achieved from the company’s cultural mindset and the business leadership commitment.


To find out what it takes to bring to life a collaborative innovation strategy where employees’ talent, motivation, and creative skills are focused on the company’s positive growth, just get in touch; I am here to help.

*Create word etymology: To bring into being,” early 15c., from Latin creatus, past participle of creare “to make, bring forth, produce, procreate, beget, cause,” related to Ceres and to crescere “arise, be born, increase, grow,” from PIE root *ker- (2) “to grow.”

  1. T. Amabile, (1996), Creativity and innovation in organizations, Harvard Business School.

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