Each month, a member of the board will share a reflection on the Soul Matters monthly theme. The theme for May is Creativity. This month’s post is offered by Brian Zais.
If you poll a group of kindergartners, asking them to raise their hand if they think they’re creative, almost all the hands will go up, probably quickly and emphatically. Ask the same question of a group of adults and you’d be lucky to get 20%. We seem to “manage out” creativity somewhere in puberty, or at least the self-identification of it.
But everyone is creative, at least in their own way. Society just doesn’t always recognize or tend to reward one expression of it.
During my 30 years in the corporate world, I’ve taken many different inventories, assessments, and style surveys. Each one comes into (and out of) vogue as a way to enhance teamwork by better understanding our coworkers’ natural styles. I truly believe each has a strength and value, though some have had more impact on my relationships than others. One that has stuck with me more than most is the Kirton’s Adaption Innovation Inventory (the KAI).
Rather than measuring multiple axes’ worth of traits, the KAI only measures one: your creative style. The KAI insists that everyone is creative; however how we are creative can be different. On one end of the continuum are the Innovators. At the other end are the Adapters. This is your preferred, natural style. And while you can learn and practice the opposite style, you’re most comfortable in your measured type of creativity.
People who are innovatively creative are often full of ideas, bubbling over with enthusiasm and energy for something new. This type of creativity is usually the one most associated with society’s typical definition of creativity. Albert Einstein is a great example. He was full of amazing and revolutionary ideas. However, he probably didn’t know which end of a hammer to hold.
People who are adaptively creative usually feel like they aren’t “creative” because their ideas often aren’t seen as transformative or wild. However, these people excel at finding creative ways to make others’ crazy ideas work. Thomas Edison is a famous adaptively creative person. He may not have had many original ideas in his life, but he was able to take others’ ideas and turn them into reality (and 1093 U.S. patents).
Most of us actually fall somewhere in the middle as “bridgers.” We can help translate the languages between the two ends. (I’m betting Edison and Einstein wouldn’t get along without a mediator!) And it’s a relative scale. Unless you’re at an extreme, you’ll always be more adaptively creative than some and more innovatively creative than others. Depending on whom you’re working with, you may call yourself creative or think you have zero creativity. Change partners and suddenly you may find yourself in the opposite camp!
So embrace your creativity. Figure out if you’re more often the creative person who comes up with wild and crazy ideas, or the creative person who figures out how to execute the idea. Because we need both types of creativity: vision and action. From Joel A. Barker: Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision is just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.
— Brian Zais
UUCM Board of Trustees Member
Thanks, Brian, for your essay. It has given me a new idea about creativity: generating brand new concepts, or productively executing outcomes from the ideas of others. We need both, don’t we! Thanks a bunch!