Creativity and Innovation Myths

And What That Means for the Future of Nonprofit Capacity Building

Correcting pervasive myths can lead us to understanding why "shiny object syndrome" happens.


Creative thinking, innovation, and great ideas are no doubt coveted abilities for any 21st century organization. According to the 2010 IBM Global Study of 1500 CEOs, creativity is ranked as the skill most required by leaders to succeed in the future economy. If that's the case, then why is creativity, innovation, and new ideas so elusive for both businesses and not-for-profits to actually achieve?

Some essential recommendations can be made especially for nonprofit capacity building:

First, nonprofits, NGOs, and charities need to study up on the myths and misconceptions behind creativity. Yes, everyone is creative but do some fact checks on the reasons and neuroscience. Look up skills related to divergent and convergent thinking. Also look up why tools like brainstorming fails and what the alternatives are.

Second, begin researching how multi-disciplinary teams are trained and designed to utilize their creativity together.This is the key to linking personal creativity to group creativity. It's also the key to making any design thinking or innovation methodology work in the long run. It's also the reason why creative processes fail for newcomers.

Third, be wary of platitude overuse from the mainstream media, bloggers, and essayists saying that we need creativity, innovation, and collaboration. This has been a foregone conclusion for the past couple of decades. Always focus on substance. The how versus the what. Real skills, processes, and empirical research to back it up.

Groups need to be designed for genius, with the insights provided by the science of collaborative creativity — and science has come a long way since Osborn’s cold-war fad.

- Keith Sawyer, Ph.D “Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration”

Creativity is not brainstorming

Any assertion or implication that creativity = brainstorming is a 1940s/50s assumption that even Alex Osborn, the father of brainstorming, had surpassed. He knew that creativity required other activities beyond traditional brainstorming alone.

Hundreds of variations of brainstorming exist to support the entire creative process.

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