Interview with David Burkus: The Myths of Creativity
I interviewed David Burkus who is the author of his latest best-selling book The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas. David is Assistant Professor of Management at the College of Business at Oral Roberts University, where he teaches courses on leadership, creativity, strategy, and organizational behavior. He is the founder and host LDRLB, a podcast tank that shares insights from research on leadership, innovation, and strategy.
Paul: How do you differentiate between creativity and innovation?
David: Creativity is the starting point for innovation. Innovation is creativity applied and scaled. We need creative ideas to find the concepts that will develop into innovations.
Paul: Why is creativity a core competency for businesses to thrive?
David: Organizations, and people, have always faced problems. Creativity is what helps us solve those problems and arrive at new opportunities. There are businesses out there that compete by lowering the cost of an existing product or service, but the most sustainable companies use creativity to find ways to create lasting, sustainable value and hence gain competitive advantage.
Paul: What was the most surprising myth you found?
David: The brainstorming myth. Brainstorming gets a bad name. Lots of people have done what they thought was brainstorming and then criticized it for not working. Others have brainstormed properly and ended up with a list of great ideas but no way to take action. The truth is that brainstorming is a great start for getting ideas, but you can’t stop there. You need time to test some ideas, learn, and let the idea evolve before it’s really ready for the world.
Paul: What is the greatest myth that debilitates an organization’s creative potential?
David: There’s a faulty notion that when we see great ideas, we immediately recognize their true potential. I call it the Mousetrap Myth, from the saying “If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.” The truth is that companies reject the great ideas of their people all the time. Xerox employees created the first personal computer, but management never thought it was worth really developing. Kodak employees invented the first digital camera, but senior executives didn’t see its value. Most people believe the myth that they can spot great ideas, but suffer from a hidden bias against them. As a result most companies don’t suffer from an idea generation issue; they suffer from an idea recognition issue.
Paul: What can leaders do to tap into the creative potential of their employees?
David: I think leaders most effective influence on their people’s creativity is in how they shape the social environment. We need a lot of things inside ourselves to work out to tap into our creativity, but most of all we need a social environment that supports us expressing ourselves. Do leaders encourage risk taking or punish failure? Do they promote knowledge sharing or prevent their people from interacting outside their domain? Do they give their people enough autonomy to pursue projects that might not work out in the end, but that everyone can learn from? All of these are questions leaders have to ask in order to diagnose the social environment and make the cultural changes needed to enhance creative potential. Most people already have the skills they need to be creative, they just need to be in an environment that helps them express their creativity.
Check out the following 9-minute TED Talk where David shares his insights on “Why Great Ideas Get Rejected.”
If you’ve liked this interview, you may want to check out previous interviews which includes Brad Lomenick|CEO of Catalyst, Lusi Chien| CEO of 4Soils, Ryan Avery| World Champion of Public Speaking, Celina Lee| Best-selling Author, “Live Your Dream” etc
Question: How are you cultivating creativity to further your purpose/mission/vision in life?
David Burkus is the author of The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas. David is Assistant Professor of Management at the College of Business at Oral Roberts University, where he teaches courses on leadership, creativity, strategy, and organizational behavior. He is the founder and host LDRLB, a podcast tank that shares insights from research on leadership, innovation, and strategy. His work as been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, PsychologyToday, Inc, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the Financial Times and the Harvard Business Review.