Innovation is essential for staying competitive in the marketplace, so business leaders and researchers are increasingly interested in optimizing their organization’s creative talent. However, there are challenging paradoxes that arise as creatives and organizations seek to move from generating ideas to implementing and commercializing them. In their Creativity Research Journal article, Cropley and Cropley described these paradoxes as “mutually antagonistic factors”.
We explored some of these paradoxes in our own data, using a new type of personality assessment tool – the DRiV™ – that we developed to assess individuals’ passions, motives and values. While there are many potential paradoxes in the innovation life-cycle, we focused on four drivers (Creativity, Persistence, Commercial Focus and Autonomy) and how their interactions may present risks to a business.
Balancing Creativity, Persistence, and Commercial Focus. The stereotypical creative person bounces from one idea to the next as if they were allergic to boredom. However, moving beyond generating ideas to driving innovation requires creatives to display the persistence necessary to flesh out — and sometimes implement — their many ideas. Creatives can often become overly concerned with their idea’s purity, with little thought for implementation, commercialization, or other practical business issues. Keeping one eye on business concerns, however, makes creatives more likely to get support for their ideas.
Balancing Autonomy and Conformity. Creatives are often considered eternal nonconformists, challenging and disrupting the status quo. However, some conformity is necessary to minimize chaos and find synergies with existing efforts. Creatives generally lack the leadership cachet needed to force creative change throughout the organization; they should balance their independent idea generation and desire for autonomy with collaboration and stakeholder management.
Can Creatives Find Balance? 3 Paradoxes. Our research suggests that while 30% of highly creative people possess a balanced mix of these drivers, 70% had more imbalanced profiles that occurred in three clear patterns we call Creative Paradox Profiles:
- The Artist. Probably the most stereotypical creative portrait, the Artist is a highly autonomous nonconformist who tends not to persist in their efforts. They like to remain independent and free to follow their energy for new ideas and challenges. However, they may not feel obliged to work alongside others, align with the culture, or finish what they started.
Business risk? Too many ideas that do not get executed.
- The Purist. Highly autonomous, persistent, and non-conforming, the Purist often scores low on Commercial Focus too. This means the Purist will challenge the status quo with new ideas, and persist with these challenges regardless of whether their ideas are aligned with the business or are supported by others.
Business risk? Stubborn execution of pet projects without necessary support.
- The Improver. Perhaps the most unconventional creative type, the Improver tends to be highly conforming, and ranks lower in both Autonomy and Commercial Focus. This means the Improver feels safer employing their Creativity in a structured environment and developing incremental solutions; they tend not to advocate for major disruptions.
Business risk? Under-leveraged creativity due to lack of advocacy.
In Part 2, we’ll focus on helping these three type of paradoxical creatives maximize their work satisfaction and productivity. Please contact LWF with any questions about leadership, creativity, or the DRiV assessment, and how to better understand and leverage your team and your organization.