Ric Latarski - Companies need to learn that Creativity Matters

Just in case you missed this, a group of business leaders has determined that creativity is just as important as the ability to understand complex problems or a record of academic achievement when it comes to hiring employees.

A Washington group known as Creativity Matters, a government-sanctioned but privately financed organization, is encouraging employees to look at creativity as part of the hiring process and trying to find ways in which to tap creative thinking as a part of the educational environment.

While finding ways to teach creativity may be a task equal to climbing Mt. Everest, the acknowledgment that someone is recognizing creativity as a critical element in an employee is good news.

We often hear about the need to improve math and science skills of students, and there is no question these are areas that should always be stressed, but the potential of every student who will become an employee may not be rooted in math and science.

The question of how to teach creativity in the classroom is one that will require some creative thinking in its own right, but the rewards will be worth the efforts.

Students need to be taught how to use their imaginations to solve problems. Call it experimental teaching or alternative education but the goal should be to produce students who are not limited in their thought processes.

Perhaps you could even take a subject like math and teach it in connection with creativity. Someone who has visions of designing great buildings and becoming a world famous architect needs to know those visions will never become a reality without a solid math background.

But the educational system can't do it alone and is only part of the battle. The real fight comes in the battlefields of government and corporate America.

Somewhere along the way the idea of the expendable employee who came from a cookie-cutter hiring process became the norm. Employers increasingly want do-it-my-way-and-if-you-don't-like-it-there's-the-door personnel.

In the real world the creative person is often fighting a battle with the status quo, even when the status quo of an organization is failing.

The employee who offers new proposals, points out flaws in a policy, offers alternatives to existing programs or simply presents an idea of doing something different than the way it has been done for 50 years is often marked as a boatrocker or malcontent.

In many cases, supervisors feel threatened by someone who has new ideas and some companies are so stringent in their management and thinking they would rather go bankrupt than change. And many often do.

An executive at Boeing noted that despite the highly technical nature of what Boeing does, the product the company produces starts with an idea of how to do something differently and that creativity is at the heart of the company's success. This is the thinking more companies need to embrace.

Employers should not want automatons, and good supervisors and well-managed companies should seek out people who can think creatively and look beyond the norm for new ideas and solutions to problems.

The very idea of the expendable employee needs to go the way of the dodo bird, but it will be a hard sale to the bottom line bottom feeders of corporate America.

I have actually heard a so-called human resource expert say they can tell in the first 30 seconds of an interview if the person sitting across from them is right for the job. That is a frighteningly arrogant and stupid mindset.

If I were running a company and the human resource director said that, they would be the first person fired.

Just as great football coaches teach more than X's and O's, our educational system needs to produce students who have a wide range of skills.

But employees have to demonstrate that those skills are important and desirable in an employee, that the ability to think - dare we say - outside the box has merit and value to an organization.

All of this requires a change and some creative thinking about how to operate in the future.

How successful Creativity Matters will be remains to be seen, and you can learn more about them on the Web site under that name.

But the fact that there are serious and successful people who are trying to develop ways in which teachers can stimulate creativity is cause for celebration. Hopefully, the world of business and government will also be listening.