July 10, 2001
Many people think creativity occurs naturally. Marty Sklar, the former executive vice president of Walt Disney Imagineering, the group that designs Disney theme parks, knows better.
Sklar holds regular "gag sessions" in which all kinds of ideas are encouraged and none are dismissed as stupid. He provides employees with time and budget restrictions so they don't waste energy on the impossible. And he seeks diverse perspectives from employees ranging in age from their early 20s to late 80s. "It's about listening and bringing out the best in people," he told participants at a conference. Those strategies helped create Epcot's spacecraft simulator, the Magic Kingdom's Haunted Mansion, and a Disney resort in Hong Kong.
Sklar is part of a growing number of businesses, organizations, and individuals trying to boost creativity, driven largely by the fact that today's economy requires it. "As the knowledge part of the economy grows, evidence seems to be showing that businesses are demanding more and more conceptual thinking," says Charles Hulten, professor of economics at the University of Maryland.
In other words, it's not just Walt Disney designers who need to be creative at work--it's all of us. "Every job is a creative job," says Gregg Fraley, a Chicago-based creativity consultant. A barista, for example, can create new drinks and greet customers in a variety of ways to add to the coffee shop experience, Fraley says.
That immense demand for creativity inspired Todd Henry to launch a podcast, The Accidental Creative, in 2005, about how people can thrive in our "create on demand" culture. His hobby quickly grew into an online community, e-newsletter, products, and most recently, a book, "The Accidental Creative."
If you find yourself wondering how to constantly create at your own job, here are a dozen ways to rev your creativity engine.
--Kimberly Palmer, U.S. News & World Report; distributed by Tribune Media Services