Creativity goes to work


cindy davies byline

Fictional nanny and amateur career coach Mary Poppins shared this advice in song: “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and ‘snap,’ the job’s a game.” Similarly, Albert Einstein noted, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” In truth, creativity is a valuable “element of fun” that makes work interesting and allows us to excel in our chosen pursuits.

Creative Organizations

Across the Upstate, examples of communities and organizations investing in creativity are plentiful. Towns are enriching quality of life by developing event venues, farmers markets, parks, public art, and festivals. Small businesses, such as restaurants, breweries, artist studios, and real estate developers, showcase creative thinking and aspire to bring people together. Creativity, research, and collaboration intersect in colleges and universities, manufacturing facilities, medical research centers, and collaborative work spaces. Creativity is not only “nice to have,” but it is also essential to sustain livable communities and competitive businesses.

Well-known organizations build reputations on their efforts to empower employees to be creative and innovative. In describing their culture, Google points to “offices and cafes … designed to encourage interactions between Googlers within and across teams, and to spark conversation about work as well as play.” Online shoe retailer Zappos reminds employees to “Create Fun and A Little Weirdness,” “Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded,” and “Pursue Growth and Learning.”

To attract and retain world-class organizations like these, the Upstate needs a broad creative workforce.

Creative Types

Creativity is a soft skill sought by employers, so how do individuals meet the needs of business and communities?

Artistic careers usually leap to mind when we think of creativity, but there is widespread consensus that creativity is not exclusive to specific personalities, learners, or professionals. Simply, creativity is developing valuable ideas, and innovation is the process of applying them. Albert Einstein noted, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Creativity can happen whenever smart people are making connections.

In “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Every Day Genius” (1998), author Michael Gelb asserts that everyone has untapped creative potential. To support this claim, Gelb returns to the Italian Renaissance to reintroduce us to Leonardo da Vinci. He reminds us that Leonardo was both a master artist and a groundbreaking scientist — two roles that seem to be opposites. Not only did Leonardo produce masterpieces like “The Last Supper” and “Mona Lisa,” but he also left a scientific legacy including precursors to modern inventions such as automobiles, planes, helicopters, and more.

Gelb identifies behavioral traits that da Vinci practiced — curiosity, willingness to test beliefs, use of the senses, acceptance of uncertainty, balance between art and science, physical fitness and coordination, and focus on connections. Gelb promises that these behaviors will stir creativity in each of us.

Nurturing Creativity

As students prepare for careers, schools and colleges are ideal places to build creative genius. From preschools to universities, both in and out of the classroom, educators search for teaching strategies and engagement activities that spark interest and inspire students to find their own creativity.

Across colleges, faculty combine subject expertise with creative practices to educate and engage. In addition to traditional courses, they use case studies, problem-based learning, flipped instruction, service learning, honors courses, and research to inspire students. While serious work takes place, learning labs, studios, shops, simulators, clinics, kitchens, and mock courtrooms are intellectual playgrounds that spur creativity.

Beyond the classroom, students find inspiration and connections through extracurricular activities. Volunteerism encourages students to combine skills, knowledge, and compassion on behalf of the community. International travel provides structured learning with a dash of adventure. Academic departments and libraries offer talks to expose students to a host of speakers and topics.

Even beyond our school days, the potential to be more creative is limitless. To get your creative juices flowing, read, draw, watch, listen, smell, touch, taste, exercise, play, and think about the origins and interconnectedness of things. In the process, your work may become more productive, your intelligence may have some fun, and our communities will become more sustainable because of your increased creativity.



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