In theory... Creative working

"You don't have to be mad to work here, but it helps!" is the madcap cry most managers would expect to hear from employees in touch with their creative side.

Wearing a wacky tie and bouncing to work on a space hopper, the stereotypical 'creative' worker has an unimpressive reputation among bosses, who fear their inefficiency and unpredictability. Quite unfairly, creative people are known for being unmanageable, difficult to work with and generally disruptive to others in the office. It takes a risk-taking, confident manager to handle them properly - and how many of those are there out there?

Yet creativity is a godsend for any organisation, be it a charity, hedge fund firm or high-street supermarket. A charity that shows a flair for creativity by encouraging its staff to listen to their inner muses is one that is innovative, full of energy and fun to work in. And let's face it, a creative approach can work wonders with a meagre budget, and new ideas can turn around a flagging fund-raising push or a weary marketing plan.

Creativity in business works, and that's why so much has been written on the subject in the past 10 years. Where once the ideal worker was defined as an efficient and productive automaton, it now means someone who can 'ideate', or create ideas. But not all of us are so gifted - hence the popularity of techniques such as lateral thinking, pioneered by psychologist Edward de Bono, which helps the less creative to tap into eureka moments on demand.

Truly creative thinking is thought to happen when you are feeling relaxed, usually when you're not at work, ironically, such as on the cycle ride home or in the shower, when subconscious ruminations are allowed to surface. The latest management thinking even goes so far as to say that time-wasting is a good thing because it frees your mind to wander. So next time you find yourself mindlessly staring out of the office window, don't admonish your slack behaviour - pat yourself on the back instead and savour your precious creativity.

- Emma De Vita is a senior section editor on Management Today.


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