Finding the Creative Spark

The Chicago Tech Summit was a one-day conference as part of Chicago Ideas Week that focused on sharing leading trends in entrepreneurship, web, design, data and innovation.  The day was spent with executives from GE, Etsy, Quirky, IDEO, Myspace, Lulu, Groupon, PayPal and Girls Who Code, among others, learning about their experiences and industry best practices.  The goal of the conference was to “stop looking at tech so technically” and start looking at tech creatively.

cre·a·tiv·i·ty; noun: the use of the imagination or original ideas, esp. in the production of an artistic work

The basic definition of creativity highlights an interesting lens for viewing creation – through art.  While there are a handful of technologists that would describe themselves as artists, the majority would not say artistry was their distinguishing characteristic.  It is important to look closer at the personality traits of artists to derive the value they bring to technology.  The widely known Myers Briggs assessment categorizes ‘The Artists’ as the ISFP Personality Type:  Introversion, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiving.  At the surface, these personality traits may not seem like the winning formula to be the next Chief Technology Officer, VP of Product Development or Founder of a Startup.  However, as the following insights from the Tech Summit illustrate, these personality traits are necessary in leading innovation and achieving success in a rapidly changing technology world.

  • Beth Comstock, Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer, GE:  Beth discussed the Global Innovation Barometer sponsored by GE, an international opinion survey of senior business executives engaged in managing the firm’s innovation strategy.  The results of the most recent survey highlight that most large organizations are struggling with how to hire and retain imaginative and artistic individuals.  This is an ever-growing challenge, as many companies are seeing their true ‘creative types’ leave to start their own business or launch a new startup.  So what is GE’s solution?  They have created GE Ventures, which works to integrate GE professionals with technology startups in the software, health care, energy and advanced manufacturing industries.  The goal is mutually beneficial – GE provides investment returns and commercial arrangements to the startups, while the startups help GE stay on the forefront of innovation, foster creative growth and increase brand recognition.
  • Tom Kelly, Partner, IDEO:  Tom is the author of the newly released Creative Confidence:  Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All.  His formula for creative confidence is the ability to come up with breakthrough ideas and combine with the courage to act on them.  The courage turns out to be the really important part since many people have ideas, but most are too timid to put them into action.  One interesting guiding principle, he explains, is balancing technology with humanity.  In other words, if your company is looking to create the next big thing in technology, start with empathy – hire and foster employees within your organization that are good at sensing and perceiving emotions or desires (i.e., the ISFP personality types explained above).  These are the people that will think of new technologies before people know they need them.  Pure innovation typically requires a leap of faith, one that may not always be supported by numbers and metrics, but one that is a result of creative individuals who take risks. 

The technology world is rapidly changing.  Innovation is the end goal and creativity is the means to get there.  But how do companies large and small create and execute a strategy to improve innovation?  The answer lies in the ability to hire and retain the creative artists who will be courageous enough to develop and execute breakthrough ideas.

As one of the most well-known artists put it…

“I feel such a creative force in me: I am convinced that there will be a time when, let us say, I will make something good every day, on a regular basis….I am doing my very best to make every effort because I am longing so much to make beautiful things. But beautiful things mean painstaking work, disappointment, and perseverance.”
― Vincent van Gogh

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