Friday, April 24, 2015

The myth of the “creative type”

If you go to your favorite job search aggregator, such as or, and type in the words “creativity” or “innovation,” you will be inundated with results. More than 70,000 positions are given on a search of “creativity” and more than 170,000 are produced by searching on “innovation.” That’s a lot of opportunity! But, there are a lot of myths around those words, as well.

What are the stereotypes that come to mind if I ask you think about the “creative type?” Maybe you thought of someone who is artistically inclined? Maybe a painter or a musician? Or maybe you thought of someone who is an impractical dreamer or someone who can’t quite fit into the confines of traditional societal norms. But, here is the truth about creativity in the workplace – you are all capable of being a creative employee or contributing to a creative environment. One of my favorite business books is titled “Ten Faces of Innovation,” written by Tom Kelley of IDEO.  This book talks about how many different work styles are important to create and maintain an innovative workplace.

When you leave Hofstra for full-time work, or even when you head off to your internship, volunteer site, research lab or field placement, I want you to think about how you can contribute to making the environment more creative and innovative. Are you someone who pays very close attention to how people (i.e. customers, clients, students, or whomever is being served) behave? Perhaps you are the “anthropologist” that Tom Kelley describes in his book. Or maybe you are someone who pays attention to the physical space in which the work is being done. Perhaps you are the “set designer” of which he speaks. Could it be that you can see something happening in one context, like maybe a retail store, and see how it could be applied in another setting, like a hospital? Then maybe you are what Kelley calls a “cross-pollinator.”

The important take away is that creativity and innovation are certainly buzzwords in the world of work. That’s true because these skills are needed for most workplace settings. So, when you see them appear in a job or internship description, don’t say to yourself, “I’m not a creative type.” Instead, say, “I can contribute to a creative environment in my own ways.” But, it takes reflection and self-understanding to do that. If we can help you do this kind of reflection, come see any of our career counselors. And, if you are in a student group that would be interested in learning more about innovation types, we have a group assessment experience we could do with you. Just get in touch!

Gary Alan Miller,
Executive Director

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