Don’t limit your own creativity

Ask any student what qualities they think will make them successful in their careers, and they’ll likely have different answers. Engineering students might include the ability to problem solve. Journalism students could mention having good time management skills. Future teachers on campus may talk about being good communicators. But all of these qualities – and many more – have one thing in common: creativity.

Oftentimes, students are under the impression that not having an explicitly creative job, such as graphic design or ceramics, nixes any need for creativity in the workplace. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

A survey of CEOs revealed that the most valued quality of employees is creativity, which includes the ability to solve problems and create new solutions, according to a 2012 report from U.S. News.

A study conducted by Adobe found that creativity is seen as a huge part of economic growth. This means companies would greatly benefit from having employees buzzing with creative excitement. The same study showed that many Americans believe they live in the country with the greatest creative potential, but do not feel that they are exercising those skills often enough in the workplace. It was also revealed that many of these individuals feel increasing pressure to be productive rather than creative.

The lack of creativity in schools and work environments is stifling the natural abilities of many Americans. Rather than give in to the notion that being productive and being creative are at odds with each other, we ought to encourage our students and workforce to learn that creativity and productivity can be mutually beneficial.

It’s been a long held belief that people who are right-brained, typically identified by left-handedness, are creative types. They’re believed to be more artistic than their left-brained counterparts, and are thought best suited for careers in creative occupations. However, recent research conducted at the University of Utah found that the connections between brain sides and creativity or logicality are untrue. There is no correlation between being right-brained and creativity.

The important thing to consider here is that, for most Americans, creativity won’t appear in the form of a painting or a new website layout. Creativity is often disguised as brainstorming, problem solving and re-imagining the way things have always been done. Rather than a product of the hands, creativity is a product of the mind. Even in the case of artists, creativity begins with ideas that are shaped internally and, through careful planning, eventually find their way into the material world.

Just think: if the Wright brothers had never been bold enough to incorporate creativity with invention, the first working airplane may not have come around for another 20 years. If Steve Jobs hadn’t integrated creativity and entrepreneurship, we might never have known the joys of iPhones and Apple Watches.

The connection between creative thinking and one’s career doesn’t have to be so grand, though. A barista could strategically to use in his conversations with customers to create and maintain lasting customer-establishment relationships. A librarian might think of new ways to encourage the children she encounters to read new books. Mechanics are constantly using problem-solving skills to try and fix what could be a number of problems with a car.

Allowing professionals to formulate new ideas and put them into practice allows them to take ownership of the work they are doing. Rather than simply completing a list of responsibilities handed to them, these individuals are now able to see the merit of investing oneself into the task at hand. Having employees who find this type of investment in their trade will benefit the company in the long run through the development of revolutionary ideas and better ways to solve problems.

Students should take some time to figure out where creativity fits into their future careers. This could help them establish what creative roles they’d like to fill and could possibly lead to conversations with future employers about the inclusion of creative thinking even in entry level jobs. Maybe this could help students avoid entering a job only to find out it is creatively stifling and not as rewarding as they would have liked.

The human mind is wired for creativity; both halves work equally to accomplish creative tasks. There is no reason students should not be able to find the creative niches in their respective trades. Find a way to make creativity work with your occupation, and you might be the next big thing in your industry. After all, we need creative mechanics just as much as we need creative entrepreneurs.