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Kevin Rutkowski

I think that it's odd that many people equate creativity with flakiness. It seems that when people think of "creative people," they tend to think of visual artists, which I think is unfair to people who are creative in a variety of non-artistic ways.

In one of my Engineering Management classes, the instructor asked the class of working engineers how many thought of themselves as creative. Only about 1/4 of the class raised their hands. I was disappointed to see this. When the instructor asked why people didn't think of themselves as creative, they mostly indicated that engineers need to be practical. They saw being practical as the opposite of being creative.

Frankly, I think that any engineer that's not creative doesn't offer much value. A computer can solve any problem that doesn't require creativity. I've found that an engineer is truly adding value when they attack a difficult and novel problem and solve it using creativity.

I think that anyone who has a challenging job that requires solving novel problems must be creative to be successful. Unfortunately, it seems that many people have come to see "creativity" as a dirty word that is the opposite of "practicality", which I think is absolutely wrong.


I love creative people, but you are right. In the business world they are seen as quirky or flakey. They march to a beat of a different drummer. They are independent and don't comply to the social norms. Creative people are needed though to challenge the status quo and our thinking.


CareerAnnie brings up an excellent point. It makes sense that charisma might be acting as a proxy for the ability to translate ideas into actions. Highly successful ‘creative leaders’ generally share the ability to bring their concepts to fruition with astonishing efficiency. It seems to me that this is the common thread between Jobs and Gates. I'd be curious to see a follow-up study that looked deeper into this possibility.

Gaston Cantens

Creativity requires failing most of the time; routine work entails succeeding most of the time. So doing creative means screwing up constantly, while doing routine work means you are usually doing things right and well.if failure comes it has to be considered as a part of success.


It is interesting if a little disappointing that creative people face these kinds of bias and misconceptions in the professional world. It is a good reminder to keep our own biases and stereotypes in check. Thanks!

Adam's Myth

Probably true, but since creativity is its own reward, I'm not bothered too much.

Julia Stewart

Thanks for this. It makes a lot of sense. The world does need more creatives, but they won't be traditional leaders. The freedom to see and act differently is usually related to a feeling of 'not caring' what others think. Creatives choose freedom over influence again and again. Sometimes that makes them influential.

Nicolay Worren


the Muller study confirms my own observations as a consultant. There are a couple of implications I see (apart from perhaps trying to broaden people's conception of leadership). One is how we can create alternative internal career paths in organizations for creatives (e.g., technology experts). Another is how creative people can learn to "sell" their ideas to leaders who may not share their own cognitive style.

Joe Marchese

This study made me uncomfortable, which is usually an indication that it is challenging my previous perspective. I get the charisma angle, but for me, it has a slightly different description. I think passion is the only thing that sells, so a creative type who is passionate about the possibilities of her creation is bound to attract followers. If the same creative leader is not as strong when it comes to producing the new idea, she can still be the leader if she uses her passion to enroll others with better production skills to the effort.


Wow, this, added to an HBS working paper last month highlighting a potential aptitude for creative people to cheat and demonstrate unethical behaviors -using a research methodology and assumptions that could be questioned-, puts quite a curse on creatives!

I'm quite surprised though that the research you refer to does not mention the fact that creatives usually challenge status quo -the very definition of creativity- which is naturally something that non creatives may worry about... but quite useful to lead our businesses out of the 20th century and into the 21st!


thank you for pointing out this study. I cant agree more that there need to be more creative people to come up with solutions to the worlds problems, and to develop new products and technology.


This is somewhat disappointing, although it's not entirely unexpected. Perhaps there is another element to personality that most creative people lack that Jobs has. Specifically, I would bet that translating the creative burst into action items is probably the hardest. Creative people like to dream up new ideas, but they often lack the follow-through to get them done.

Just a theory.

Andrea Learned

This reminds me of research written up by Carli & Eagly in "Women & Leadership" ( )... in that the stereotype of what makes a good leader remains the more "manly" example, while the truth is studies show that what proves more productive/successful is the more stereotypically female ways of leadership. Non-creative has long="business minded"... and my, my... how old news that is. As well, it also reminds me of Warren Bennis' work wherein he says that managers surrender to the context while leaders master it (and that doesn't mean they are above it). It is great to see these things really being more openly discussed, because there seem to be some hugely underutilized clues to developing leadership in the 21st Century. It'll be exciting to get "on it."

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