4 Keys to Igniting Creativity and Accelerating Innovation in Business

Published: Oct 18, 2021
Modified: Apr 08, 2024


From American Management Association

Creativity in business is a core requirement for developing and improving on products, designing new and better processes, keeping an edge on competitors, and staying profitable. Yet, as all too many leaders know, harnessing creativity for practical results can be challenging. Based on expert estimates, more than 80% of innovation initiatives fail. While there are a variety of contributing factors, from undefined goals to inadequate cost assessments, the failure of creative projects often comes down to a matter of people. Creativity in business is a group effort. And without the right combination of creative thinkers who work well together, even the best planned and funded creative project is unlikely to deliver on its promise.

How can leaders effectively harness individual creativity for tangible, bottom-line benefits? It starts with assembling the right mix of perspectives and aptitudes for your team—and the experts at American Management Association (AMA) offer valuable insights to help. When building a creative team, every leader should strive for diversity in background and experience, as well as ethnicity, race, age, and gender. At the same time, however, you need to seek out people who possess the following four creative abilities:

1. Fluency. People with fluent minds naturally generate many alternative scenarios or possible solutions—creative ideas simply flow. Fluent thinkers enjoy brainstorming and envisioning new ways to approach challenges and solve problems. As a team, the more creative ideas you have, the better your chances of landing on an innovative solution that really does work wonders.

2. Flexibility. People with mental flexibility think out-of-the-box: They break down boundaries and challenge what’s established and expected. Flexible thinkers are comfortable with abandoning old ways of thinking and adept at moving forward in new directions. They see things from different angles. As part of a team, flexible thinkers help others shift away from conventional thinking and take a bold creative leap by going off the beaten path.

3. Originality. People with a gift for originality stand out—and they make the whole team stand out too. Original thinkers have the ability to come up with totally new, wholly unexpected, truly unique, and often radical ideas. Genuine one-of-a-kind ideas are rare, and original thinkers need to feel supported by their teammates and leader, especially when skeptics threaten to extinguish their spark.

4. Elaboration. People who excel at elaboration add vivid and vital details. They flesh out and embellish creative ideas with exceptional attention and care. As part of a team, elaborate thinkers paint a full, rich picture that makes innovative possibilities crystal clear and much easier to put into practice.

Finding the right combination of creative thinkers who demonstrate these four powerful abilities takes some work. Beyond asking candidates thoughtful questions and closely observing the way they think through the answers, it involves carefully assessing how they share and talk through ideas, handle roadblocks, and reach solutions with other creative thinkers. The payoff is well worth a leader’s effort. When people with the capabilities of fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration collaborate, their collective creativity yields amazing results and transforms business as usual. It’s a proven formula for igniting and accelerating innovation in your business.

About AMA

American Management Association (AMA) is globally recognized as a leader in professional development. For nearly 100 years, it has helped millions of people bring about positive change in their performance in order to improve results. AMA’s learn-by-doing instructor-led methods, extensive content, and flexible learning formats are proven effective—and constantly evolve to meet the changing needs of individuals and organizations. To learn more, visit www.amanet.org.