Creativity is a discipline, not a talent – and it could save your job

In an ever-changing world where automation is a reality changing the employment landscape, what skills should business and individuals be focusing on?

For many, the answer is our humanity - our ability to connect with others, share ideas, persuade and influence - which will set us apart from the machines. The good news is this is a kind of creativity is something we can all learn.

"Creativity is a skill we all need and it’s a skill we can all develop."
Keiran Flanagan, Co-founder, Impossible Institute

According to workplace expert Kieran Flanagan, skills like creativity and building buy-in are “forever skills” and more important than ever.

Speaking to BlueNotes on video, Flanagan – the co-founder of the Impossible Institute, which teaches organisations how to develop their creative agility – says creativity is about thinking and problem solving.

“Creativity is a skill we all need and it’s a skill we can all develop,” she said. “But most of us think it’s something we are born with. “

Creativity is a discipline, not a talent – and it could save your job

Flanagan challenges us all to think of creativity in a completely different way – not just in terms of drawing a picture.

“It’s about lateral thinking. It’s about mental agility,” she said. “It’s about being flexible; adaptable to change. It’s seeing things from another point of view. These are all creative skills.”


Our brains are incredible pattern making machines and they love repetition, Flanagan says. To break our patterns and expand our thinking, all each of us needs to do is develop our mental muscles.

The real power of creativity - and where business can benefit - is from leveraging all the creative smarts to solve challenging business problems, she says.  

“Business today - and the planet today - is facing problems of magnitude we’ve never seen before,” she said. “It’s gonna take all the creative smarts we have in order to solve them.”

“I think every company absolutely needs to put a huge focus on developing their people’s creative ability. The good news is they can learn it – it is a process, not a talent.”

In March, Flanagan was the guest speaker at an ANZ session to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Hosted by Forward Australia and AIA, the event saw Flanagan address boldly building buy-in and her experiences as a representative of the Impossible Institute.

The Forward Australia group aims to progress gender balance at ANZ and is open to all genders.


Indeed, businesses can help raise their collaborative intelligence – or “we-q”, as Flanagan puts it – by bringing together diverse groups with different experiences and values to solve problems in new ways.

If generating new creative ideas is important to your business (and which business is it not?) consider ideas are nothing if you can’t build buy-in for those ideas.

When it comes to good ideas, Flanagan said, it is often not about being the best or even about being first. In fact 97.8 per cent of the value of a good idea goes to the imitator, according to research by Professor Shenkar published by The Harvard Business Review.

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Research tells us women in particular like to have all the information available and for everything to be perfect before putting their ideas forward – but as Flanagan said, what’s most important is being able to sell, persuade and convince other your idea has merit.

 The idea can be finessed later, she said, once everyone is excited and you have the green light to make it happen.

“No matter what you do for a living, you’re in sales” Flanagan said.

Watch the video for more of her insights, including her thoughts on why we need an IWD and why she’s passionate about teaching organisations to be more creative.

Stella Walsh is Senior Manager Digital, Data & Social Communications at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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