A group of businesspeople brainstorm ideas around a table covered with UX mockups.
A group of businesspeople brainstorm ideas around a table covered with UX mockups.

The Importance of Creativity in Business

The “right-brain versus left-brain” myth: It leads many to believe creative people don’t have a place in the business world. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Creative people are idea generators and innovative problem solvers, and an asset to any business. If you are a creative person, the business world needs your skills. An excellent choice to jumpstart your career would be to enroll in an online MBA program. It enables you to earn your degree in one year or less and will add business acumen to your creative portfolio. 

This article will explore the significance of creativity in business, while also dismantling some of the more pernicious left-brain/right-brain myths.

Why Is Creativity in Business Important?

Creativity is by no means merely incidental to business success. On the contrary, creative thinking can have a direct impact on the bottom line. Creativity helps individuals develop new, innovative ideas, while also challenging old, outdated ones. In other words, creativity is important for moving businesses beyond conventional wisdom, allowing them to develop fresh, inventive alternatives. 

This out-of-the-box thinking can help businesses differentiate themselves from the competition, or simply find new ways to address customer demands. 

Additionally, creativity helps businesses remain agile, quickly responding to changes in the marketplace or pivoting as technology and consumer preferences shift.

Examples of Creativity in Business

Do you think of a secretary at a company as being a creative person? Thinking of a creative person as only being a bohemian artist can overshadow the reality of a creative person being a logical inventor.

Consider this scenario. Bette Nesmith Graham was working as a secretary in the 1950s. She started to experiment with using a small paintbrush and white tempera paint to correct typing errors. The tempera paint would flake off the paper and reveal the errors, so Ms. Graham continued to experiment with different formulas in her home kitchen. She eventually created Liquid Paper.

Ms. Graham’s invention evolved into a major company, which she went on to sell for $47.5 million in 1979. Countless people had been using typewriters and paper since the 1800s. As a result of her innovative thinking, she invented something that people still use today.

Everyone has creative skills. The difference with “creative people” is they nurture and foster their creative abilities instead of blocking them. Creative people work to grow and improve their creative skills. They are more likely to experiment and take risks. Asking “what if” enables them to see around current assumptions and find potential for the future.

Consider these examples of progress. President Rutherford B. Hayes used a telephone for the first time in 1876 but could not imagine why anyone would want to use one. Regardless, creative innovators of the past like Alexander Graham Bell, and visionaries of today like Steven Jobs, see potential for the future. Today, we have phones, computers, smart devices and more. Without creativity in business, life would be very different.

Benefits of Creativity in Business

Creativity can benefit business organizations in more ways than one. 

  • Creative people are curious and willing to ask a wider range of questions, which improves business analysis.
  • Creative people have the courage to express a unique idea or approach. They also tend to encourage out-of-the-box thinking in their peers.
  • Through creative thinking, teams can see challenges as opportunities to problem solve and innovate.
  • Creative skills help with visualizing ideas, understanding the needs of stakeholders, and creating designs that will become prototypes.
  • Innovative problem-solving skills mean a person can work past the judgments and “common sense” of the time to generate unique ideas.
  • A healthy creative culture gives businesses a competitive edge against competitors.
  • Creative businesses bring about changes in society by creating jobs, introducing new products and inventing new industries.
  • Regular creative pursuit helps team members develop higher levels of cognitive thinking, which can lead to improved logic and problem solving from day to day.

Logic vs. Creativity in Business

But what about the common demarcation between right-brain and left-brain thinking? Is creativity really at odds with strategic or analytic thinking?

What Is the “Right-Brain vs. Left-Brain” Myth?

If you felt some hesitation to think of a company secretary as being a creative person, it may be due to the idea of separation — that logic and creativity don’t belong together. The right-brain vs. left-brain myth has been used for decades. “Right-brained” dominant thinkers were deemed to be more creative, intuitive and spontaneous, while “left-brained” thinkers were considered more logical, mathematical and structured.

A Closer Look at Theory 

The two sides of the brain have specializations, but these skills are not divided into neat sections. Neither side of the brain determines someone’s overall personality traits any more than being right-handed or left-handed determines it.

The right-brain left-brain myth had a prior scientific basis in Nobel Prize-winning research from Roger Wolcott Sperry in the 1960s. While trying to find a surgical way to treat epilepsy, Sperry discovered each side of the brain was specialized in certain tasks. His study went on to be misunderstood and linked to personality traits. 

Today’s Understanding 

Current science shows there is no one dominant side of the brain controlling your personality. Dr. Robert H. Schmerling, Faculty Editor of Harvard Health Publishing explained in a blog post:

“In fact, if you performed a CT scan, MRI scan or even an autopsy on the brain of a mathematician and compared it to the brain of an artist, it’s unlikely you’d find much difference. And if you did the same for 1,000 mathematicians and artists, it’s unlikely that any clear pattern of difference in brain structure would emerge.”

Breaking Barriers 

Ideas from the right-brain vs. left-brain mythology are still widely accepted. Many make assumptions about where creativity lives — that it’s more likely to be found among people on a graphic design team than those in an accounting firm. Believing these myths can be counterproductive. It leads people to pigeonhole themselves by thinking they cannot do certain things because they lack natural skills.

Spark Creativity with These Top 10 Business Books

If you’re an aspiring business professional hoping to improve your skills, consider these books to reignite business creativity, acquire new information, and increase your leadership competencies through the power of reading.

1. The Myth of the Strong Leader: Political Leadership in the Modern Age, by Archie Brown

Brown’s book contrasts the governing styles of leaders throughout history and uses his findings to offer a better path forward for successful leaders in the modern age. Although the book focuses on leadership in the political sphere, it offers the wisdom many business books attempt to convey.

2. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success: How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential, by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.

Carol S. Dweck is a world-renowned psychologist who has dedicated years of her life to researching the inner mechanics of achievement and success. After much research, Dweck found a core difference between those who achieve success and those who fall short — their mindset. This groundbreaking research has influenced many business books over the years and is regarded as an essential read for leaders who want to encourage growth and learning in their teams.

3. Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell is a Canadian journalist, author and public speaker with a knack for writing insightful books that draw from real-world historical examples. Outliers is about how “a person’s environment, in conjunction with personal drive and motivation, affects his or her possibility and opportunity for success.” The book may not resemble other business books marketed to leaders, but it does allow professionals to garner a new perspective. The ultra-successful aren’t necessarily the smartest or the best; they simply honed their craft at the right time with the right allocation of time.

4. How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

In this classic, Carnegie teaches professionals, “the six ways to make people like you, the twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking and the nine ways to change people without arousing resentment.” This timeless advice is not just relevant in the boardroom, it can be applied throughout all relationships.

Aspiring leaders use Carnegie’s teachings to better communicate with people on their team and build and improve successful relationships through social skills.

5. The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America

Warren Buffett is a well-known American investor and business tycoon who famously spends five to six hours a day reading five newspapers and 500 pages of corporate reports. He is regarded as one of the most successful investors in the world and boasts a net worth of over $70 billion. Leaders have a lot to learn from Buffet and can start with The Essays of Warren Buffett, a collection of Buffett’s teachings regarding finance and economics in corporate America. Not only does Buffett cover topics related to finance, but he dives into human behavior and psychology, manufacturing and trade, management and leadership, corporate culture, corporate governance, influence, government and politics, law, philosophy, education, history and more.

6. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg (Co-writer Nell Scovell)

Sheryl Sandberg broke headlines and glass ceilings with the release of her extraordinary book Lean In. Sandberg famously said, “In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” This ignited a global conversation about women in the workplace and the unique challenges in female leadership. Sandberg draws on her own experience as Facebook’s COO and one of Fortune magazine's ‘Most Powerful Women in Business’ to encourage women to occupy leadership positions, speak up and of course, lean into the conversation.

7. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, by Simon Sinek

In 2009, Simon Sinek’s ideas spread like wildfire when his TEDx Talk “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action” went viral. It currently has over 7 million views on YouTube. Sinek published a book by the same title the same year and impacted thousands of professionals across the world. The book encourages leaders to ask the big questions, like what a company’s organizational mission and goals are. He believes customers don’t buy what a company does, they buy why a company is.

8. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, by Daniel Goleman

Business books used to concentrate on the thinking mind and completely ignore the emotional mind. Goleman introduces leaders to this largely neglected area of self-development and presents a case for the importance of developing emotional intelligence. This is closely related to the topic of creativity in business.

9. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport

Deep Work is about the importance of developing the ability to focus on a demanding, cognitive task. In the modern world, people are being pulled in every direction by information overload and distraction. Newport teaches readers how to develop focus as the one superpower of the 21st century. Leaders can expect a combination of valuable information and practical advice about how to create deep work through focus.

10. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey

Finally, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a breakdown of seven principles, mastery of which promises to enhance an individual’s personal and professional life. Covey believes highly effective people live according to their principles and develop strong character. The book walks the reader through the process of identifying principles and learning to apply them to actions in personal and business settings. The book doesn’t teach leaders about how to act; it teaches them who to be. Readers will walk away from this book with a clearer picture of what they value in their lives and companies.

Become a Creative Business Leader with an MBA from Walsh University

Earning an online MBA degree can help you achieve your business goals. Named a top 50 Midwest Regional University by the U.S. News & World Report, Walsh University offers options for those who want to advance as innovative business professionals. With MBA concentrations available in Healthcare Management, Management, Data Analytics and Marketing, you can customize your degree to your strengths and aspirations. Learn more and contact us today.