Redefining Creativity

Creativity. Just the mere mention of this word can draw visceral reactions from people. Especially those of us, that have been born and raised in a climate where creativity is regulated to artistic expression and often times those creative expressions are not valued, unless you are Beyoncé or Picasso. When most folks are asked if they are creative, they typically consolidate their expression of the word into some form of art.  Although creativity is the hallmark of so many different levels of life, we have done ourselves the disservice of limiting it to a very minimal perspective. So, if a person does not sing, dance, or draw, they often don’t consider themselves creative.

I remember being in a random conversation at a restaurant with this gentleman and somehow, we got on the subject of creativity, and of course he didn’t see himself as creative. I asked him what his profession was and he said a field trauma nurse, which meant he would get helicoptered into mountains or something when people have accidents and help to stabilize them. So, I asked him, if he was in a situation where he had to put a hole in someone’s throat so they could breathe then he could do that? (Clearly, I enjoy a little imaginative action/medical drama shows.) And without a blink he said “yes”, so I said, “Is that not creative?”. He said, “I never saw it like that.”

How many of us fall into that same boat? Our professions have us knee deep in problem solving, finding creative ways to create relationships with families and organizations, reframe challenging dynamics to see strengths or opportunities. We are able to develop structure for situations or organizations that are riddled with chaos, and don’t let me get on the subject of budgets. I’ve spent enough time in the non-profit world to know that some folks turn into magicians based on the budgets accessible, or not accessible. Now I could get into this long dissertation about how creativity is not valued under the guise of art and lot of times that’s where the disconnect happens. In academic settings, art programs are the first to lose funding and we often look to art as a last resort for problematic students. It is definitely not the field we suggest students into, music, theatre etc. But the entertainment industry is a billion-dollar industry? Things that make you go hmmm. I think we should re-evaluate our approach.

The same skillset that we use to engage in creativity is the same skillset we use in problem solving, but we often give the lens of science more credibility than art, so when we look at the creativity, we don’t value it in the same way. But what if we took the time to understand creativity under the lens of how we are able to show up in our authentic self, in a strengths-based approach that allows us to understand how we are truly showing up for the work we do. When we think about innovation, what does that look like? Is it bringing certain people to the table that we wouldn’t normally see a correlation with? Is there someone on your team, that is very organized? How do they go about creating structure or maintaining that? How are we able to find solutions and reframe how we look at challenges? Your creativity is more than art, it is how you are able to create solutions, structure, opportunities and look at the same old problems in different ways. It is how we learn how to engage with each other more effectively. Hopefully, this makes sense and you can begin to challenge yourself and those around you in how you use your creativity to strive for growth, change and opportunities.


Kendrick Dial, MSW, Practice Coach for CWDS


About Jenee Northcutt

Strengths: Input, Strategic, Learner, Belief, Individualization
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