Creativity is often framed as a binary skillset, either you are creative, or you are not. We consider creatives to be artists; painters, sculptors, musicians etc and we marvel at what they are able to put into the world. Creativity is often characterised by the production of something new.

By contrast, creativity is not often considered the domain of scientists, medics and businesspeople. Their roles need concrete knowledge, not daydreaming. There is a need for certainty in industry that has no place for the ambiguity of creativity.

Given this, you may think that an organisation as business minded as the World Economic Forum (WEF, funded by its members – businesses with over $5Bn annual turnover) would be one of the last places creativity is considered important. However, as society goes more global and the world more complex, the WEF have recognised that creativity is more essential than ever. In 2015 it was 10th on the list of critical work skills, rising to number three in 2020 and now at number two in the 2023 Future of Jobs report (

So, creativity is an important skill, but simply knowing this does not mean we suddenly feel inspired to go out and paint a masterpiece.

Great artistry is personal, it emerges from the interaction between the artist and a blank canvas, a lump of rock, or the keys of a piano. What the artist produces is an expression of their thoughts, feelings, and knowledge of the world at that given moment translated into physical form. The artist often doesn’t know exactly the final form their work will take.

We have already explored how in complex environments the performance of a group of people such as a sports team emerges from the interactions between the members as opposed to the performance of each member individually.

Whenever we interact with other people there is complexity, characterised by a degree of uncertainty around the final outcomes and interdependence between each other. This exists at a small scale when we have a conversation with one other person. The conversation that emerges almost certainly veered on different tangents and was not wholly predictable to each person at the start. It will be directed by the participants thoughts, feelings, and knowledge of the world at that time. Sound familiar? Conversation is a creativity; we just don’t consider it so because it something we all do every single day.

I prefer to think of creativity then, not as binary, but as a sliding scale. We are all creative to a greater or lesser extent, dependant on the situation and environment we find ourselves in at any given moment. There is a tension between the ambiguity of the environment and the level of creativity. We admire artists because they are able to create with the ultimate level of ambiguity, they produce something from the proverbial blank canvas. Similarly, being dropped into stage comedy, either stand up or improve, feel terrifying to most of us. On the other hand, the conversation we discussed above emerges from between two people, it is co-created through the back-and-forth responses of each participant so it feels safer, like a collaborative effort.

In complex environments like those in elite sport, we are restricted from foreseeing what the impacts of our actions will be, so every decision we take is to a certain extent ambiguous. All decisions then require creativity as the precise set of circumstances that led to the decision point may never be seen again, and the future is unknown. The scenario requires creativity. We take our thoughts, feelings and knowledge of the world at that moment and create a path forwards.

Once we know the outcome of that decision, we can then recycle that new knowledge and add it to our existing body of knowledge. In this way our knowledge grows…we are learning. Creativity then is not fundamental to decision making in complex environments but is also synonymous with learning.

Do not feel obliged to purposefully unleash the creativity inside of you and those you lead in some abstract way. This will be weird and unnatural and at best you’ll get some weird looks.

Instead appreciate that you are already creative. Go and look for where others are creative as well, recognise it, celebrate it and search for ways to dial it up when necessary. It is the only way you, your team and your organisation will grow.

We are all artists, we just need to recognise it.

  1. When are you at your most creative? why?
  2. Where does creativity live for your team?
  3. How can you dial up creativity in your team when necessary?
  4. What small thing can you do to be more creative today?