How An Executive Can Spot Creative Potential in Others
One of the most important responsibilities any executive must handle is seeing that his company gets "the most" from its workers. This is particularly so when it comes to creativeness- the production of the ideas upon which the company is dependent to make money, or to operate efficiently and at a profit.
Most of us, in our everyday lives, make the mistake of oversimplifying our classifications of others. We say someone is "likable" or "not likable." We call him a "pessimist" or an "optimist." We decide a certain worker is "responsible" or "irresponsible." A man is either "loyal" to the company or he is "disloyal." Our definitions are all black or white-we have no "gray scales" for in-betweens.
However, most people, upon careful analysis, fall into the gray area between black and white. And this complicates the job of the executive who is trying to make certain that his company is making the most of the creative potential at its disposal.
The problem of spotting creative potential is also complicated by the fact that people do not always think up to their capacities. It is relatively easy to spot the highly creative person who is using his ability actively and conclusively to its fullest extent. But what do you look for when trying to spot a creative person who is not living up to their potential?
It has been said that "Creativity is best revealed by what it creates." There is certainly a great deal of truth in this. But the practice of looking only at achievement for determining creative potential can cause an executive to overlook many potentially good creative workers who have never had either the inclination or the opportunity to reveal themselves as being creative.
Most suggestions for informal observing and testing to spot creative potential are based on the outward signs of the basic creative characteristics and the thinking patterns of creative people. This puts quite a responsibility upon anyone trying to screen people for creative potential, because so much is dependent upon the observation and correct interpretation of the basic "signs." However, here are some general personality traits to look for:
1. The Observant Person. Generally, a person who is highly alert to what is around him, who sees details and relationships that others miss, has a great advantage in developing creative potential.
2. Knowledge. New ideas are usually combinations of old ideas, or old ideas in new forms. The greater a person's knowledge about his field, the greater his potential creativeness. Remember that field knowledge may be acquired through related experience or on-the-job instruction-it does not necessarily have to be from schooling. It is relatively easy to determine a person's knowledge of his job, field, company, or industry.
3. A Good Memory. This is a part of the acquisition of knowledge, but becomes more important in the less formal types of knowledge. The man who can remember an odd-shaped piece of metal he saw in the storage room at just the time such a piece is needed, may be indicating the kind of "odds- and-ends" memory that frequently typifies a creative mind.
4. The Curious Person. This is an easy-to-spot trait and a key one to be alert for in another person. Chances are anyone without curiosity will not have a very high degree of creative potential. It is important, however, to distinguish between true creative curiosity and the idle type of questioning that only serves as conversation. ("How's the weather outside?" or "Where did you have lunch today?")
6. The Skeptic. In evaluating this quality, it is important to evaluate the quality or motivation of the skepticism. The creative skeptic doubts many things-particularly the obvious things that everyone else accepts perhaps too readily. The noncreative skeptic has destruction or belittlement as his motivation. The two can usually be distinguished by an adroit question or two. The non-creative skeptic will usually assume that things are going from bad to worse and nothing can be done about it, so why try? The creative skeptic normally feels that no matter how bad or how wrong something is, it can always be made better. He may even have some ready suggestions for betterment.
It should also be remembered that few of these "types" of personalities will ever be found in a "pure" state. They have been set out as individuals here to make it easier to distinguish among them. But many people will be mixtures and composites of any or all of these to varying degrees. The mere presence of one such trait, then, is probably not enough to immediately classify a person as "potentially creative."
The detection of several or many such traits, however, should at least give the executive cause to go out of his "way to really get acquainted with the worker. The result of further acquaintance may be the happy discovery of still another mind capable of coping with the company's problems in an imaginative way.