HBR just published a nice article on 4 kinds of creativity.
In the decades to come, creativity will be key to doing most jobs well.
Gabriella Rosen Kellerman and Martin E.P. Seligman offer a new typology that breaks creative thinking into four types:
– integration, or showing that two things that appear different are the same;
– splitting, or seeing how things that look the same are more usefully divided into parts;
– figure-ground reversal, or realizing that what is crucial is not in the foreground but in the background; and
– distal thinking, which involves imagining things that are very different from the here and now.
Most of us tend to think in just one of those four ways. But we can hone our ability to be creative in other dimensions.
Managers need to understand both their own strengths and how to balance the types of thinking across their teams to successfully execute creative projects. And organizations can use this typology to optimize innovation across the workforce
How to Proceed
Which type of creativity do you use the most?
Each one offers a unique advantage—and potential blind spots. Integrators may try to see synergies where they don’t exist, while splitters may overcomplicate a simple solution.
Understanding your strengths as an individual is the first step. Look for places to apply them and watch out for overuse. At your next opportunity to innovate, push yourself to think in the styles that come less naturally to you. Before you settle on a path forward, challenge yourself to define at least one option for each of the four styles.
If you lead a team, how do you complement your skill set with other types of creative thinkers? When receiving proposals from your team, do you get options that explore all four forms of innovation? If not, ask for them.
At the organizational level, reflect on your business’s recent innovations, both internal and external. Do any patterns emerge? Are your products typically the result of splitting, for example? Or integration? When was the last time you capitalized on a figure-ground reversal? Do you have enough distal thinkers in your midst who are pushing others to expand their thinking? How often are hiring managers considering the mix of innovation types on teams as they grow?
Creativity is an imperative for our new world of work.
Cultivating all four types of divergent thinking at every level will afford greater odds of converting each new challenge into successful innovation.