Creativity is the ability to find new solutions to a problem or new modes of expression; thus it brings into existence something new to the individual and to the culture. - Dr. Betty Edwards in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain


As the births of living creatures at first are ill-shapen, so are all innovations, which are the births of time. - Francis Bacon

When looking at Edward's definition, creativity is the ability to bring into existence something new to the individual and to the culture, while a new solution is the innovation. And as Bacon noted, “innovations are the births of time.” For example, when going back to rocketry (see creativity), we see that it was not simply one big creative thought that took place after a mind-stretcher, but rather a series of innovations that took place over a long period of time. That is, someone did not say, “hey, let's build a rocket to go to the moon,” but rather it started with the simple concept of gunpowder and then took on a number of innovations throughout history. Thus, creativity and innovation are closely linked together. Creativity is the process, while innovation is the product.

Drivers of Innovation

Critical + Creative Thinking = Innovation

While the Disney Corporation is often good at critical thinking, Walt Disney himself was not really a big critical thinker, rather he was the creative force. Walt's first business, drawing cartoon advertisements in Kansas City, ended in bankruptcy. So he headed to Hollywood. He soon joined forces with his brother Roy by creating cartoons. Their new venture was founded in 1926 and was called Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio. Walt was the creative spark behind the company who worked with a small crew of animators that he assembled, while Roy provided the business acumen of critical thinking by explaining to bankers and investors why they should invest money in silly cartoons.

Although both were needed to run the business, there was no doubt who was in charge. Three years later the name was changed to Walt Disney Studios, and later to Walt Disney Productions. Walt wanted to be the first and the best: Steamboat Willie was the first cartoon to synchronize sound, he was the first to add full color, and then in 1937 he created the first full length animated movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Being the first and the best nearly put the young company into bankruptcy. Roy was able to convince a Bank of America official to invest in Snow White, which of course became a hit and allowed the company to pay off all of its debts.

While the two brothers provided synergy for running the company, they are also credited with another first—the business synergy of cross-promotion, that is, licensing their characters, such as Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse, to other companies for placements on products, such as watches and lunch pails.

The two brothers relationship was not a smooth one. For about a 10 year period between 1953 and 1963 they had a feud in which they rarely talked to each other. Walt finally ended it by sending Roy a peace pipe for his 63rd birthday.

Roy and Walt provide an excellent example of the right/left brain metaphor. Roy was the left-brained critical thinker who provided the sequential thinking for keeping the company on track. It was this logical thinking style that enabled others to see the reason for investing in the company. Walt was the right-brained creative type who saw many things at once or simultaneously. While Roy was laying out his words in detail, Walt was able to see the big picture and was busy joining sounds and pictures together. The two concepts of critical and creative thinking often cross, meld, and mesh together like a spider's web. Dutch composer Simeon ten Holt created Canto Ostinato (see the section, Flow Rather than Script). Like any composition, it requires creativeness to create something quite original, while at the same time, the basis of critical thinking must be used so that the various arrangements flow together in harmony. The Canto Ostinato is also quite original in another way—while it requires the musicians to use linear thinking to read and orchestrate it, it is also flexible enough that the musicians can also add their own creativeness.

Steven Job is probably the ultimate example of joining the two concepts of critical and creative thinking. While Job is a major factor behind the Apple computer, MacIntosh, Next computer, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, iMac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and iPad, he is neither the major creative technological innovator nor the critical business thinker behind the products. Rather he seems to be his best by thinking along both lines and being the middle-man who is best able to push these marvelous innovations out for our use and enjoyment.

The Whole Mind

We now reach Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind age of conceptual thinking—the joining of right and left brain thinking:

The basic argument of Pink's is that the era of left-brain domination, which brought forth the Information Age, is giving way to a new world in which right-brain qualities, such as inventiveness, empathy, and meaning will govern. For example, Pink argues that by 2010, India will become the largest nation of English speakers in the world. In addition, other developing nations are minting capable knowledge workers that can crunch numbers, read charts, and write code...and do it cheaper than we can. However, this is what Pink calls narrow left-brain work—reducing tasks to a set of routines, rules, and instructions.

The opportunities that remain are those who can design systems, accountants who can do life planning, and bankers who know less about Excel and more about the art of the deal; in other words, artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, care-givers, big picture thinkers, etc. will transform the present Information Age into the Conceptual Age.

By left-brain/right-brain, Pink writes “the two hemispheres work in concert, and we enlist both sides for nearly everything we do. But the structure of our brains can help explain the contours of our times.”

If the Industrial Age was built on people's backs, and the Information Age on people's left-hemispheres, the Conceptual Age is being built on people's right-hemispheres. We've progressed from a society of factory workers to a society of knowledge workers. And now we're progressing yet again -- to a society of creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers. - Pink

While being logic, linear, and analytical will remain important, it will no longer be enough. For example, while electric lighting is now common place, candles are a $2 billion a year business. Logic would dictate that the candle business should be dead, however, the more industrial we become, the more transcendence we desire.

For quite some time training has normally meant teaching someone a skill that can be immediately be used back on the job. And it worked quite well during the Industrial Age. However, as we have shifted towards the Information Age, training someone on “knowledge” did not quite seem right, so the term “learning” became more in vogue. Thus we have eLearning, rather than eTraining. And if Pink is correct and we are starting a new shift, we will still have to be able to measure and analyze; help others to learn new skills and be able to find, rearrange, and structure the information around them; and in addition, help them to build broader conceptual skills.

Next Steps