Scott McJunkin


Problems With Creativity In The Workplace


PARinfographicR2In a world that is quickly becoming more reliant on creativity to produce new innovations, research shows there is a growing divide between organizations and creative thought. In fact, a relatively small percentage of people (only 1 in 4) feel they are fully utilizing their inherent creativity in their current roles. This is just one statistic in a growing body of data that is shedding light on how big the divide truly is. This research paints a better picture of how creativity functions in the marketplace and why producing strategies to continue fostering creativity in professional contexts is greatly beneficial.

Productivity Vs. Creativity: Conflicting demands are limiting employees’ and company’s performance

As markets are becoming increasingly competitive, organizations are looking to retain positive profit margins by increasing the efficiency and productivity of their employees. This naturally puts pressure on managers and employees to value production over creative thought despite the long-term benefits creative thinking offers. According to one study, only 32% of workers surveyed feel comfortable being creative in their career. This is alarming when you consider how research indicates that people exhibit higher levels of creative behavior when they perceive the work environment to be supportive of creativity.[1] This tells us change needs to start within the organizations structure and goals to alleviate the need employees have to express creativity and overall, unlock vital innovation.

Problem Solving: Creativity is needed to address increasingly-complex problems

At face value, it’s easy to associate the utility of creativity with new product development, marketing and sales. The reality is, the positive uses and benefits of creativity extends beyond established creative roles and supports an organization in a variety of ways. For example, as the shifting competitive landscape becomes more technologically diverse and the realities of globalization continue to impact entire economic sectors, creative thinking is being relied upon to address traditionally-solvable problems.[2] The essential nature creativity has on one’s ability to solve problems in their career is felt by 85% of the world’s professional population. Contrast this with the relatively small percentage of people who feel comfortable being creative and it becomes clear how this gap in creativity can pose a significant organizational threat to efficiency and productivity.

Universities: Standardized thinking produces a creativity-devaluing culture

The devaluation of creativity can be approached many different ways. However, there are those who view universities as the origin point of this devaluation. In a university setting, one is rated against peers in their ability to conform to a particular way of thinking. While this generates competent professionals, it does little to nurture creative thinking in the workforce.[3] To further prove standardized thought has created a culture of devaluing the importance of imagination, a statistic says only 58% of university students believe creativity will be important in their career.

As research continues to reveal insight on how organizations and employees view and use creativity, it becomes apparent that organizations are far from exploiting all its potential. If organizations would place more emphasis on the role of creativity, perhaps employees would be able to grow in their confidence and use of creativity. This new emphasis would naturally prompt universities to do the same, resulting in more creative professionals entering the workforce. Of course, this is a long-term approach to solving a complex issue. But, if creativity can improve how problems are solved, products are designed and careers strengthened – it’s a long-term approach worth taking.


[1] Diliello, Trudy C., Jeffery D. Houghton, and David Dawley. “Narrowing The Creativity Gap: The Moderating Effects Of Perceived Support For Creativity.” Journal Of Psychology 145.3 (2011): 151-172. Business Source Complete. Web. 24 Mar. 2015.

[2] Ness, Roberta B. “Promoting Innovative Thinking.” American Journal Of Public Health 105.(2015): S114-S118. Business Source Complete. Web. 24 Mar. 2015.

[3]Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D