The Creativity Gap

Creativity is declining in America, yet business leaders say it is the most crucial factor for success. We all have tremendous creative potential, but how do we tap into it?

The cover story of Newsweek (July 19, 2010) reports on the state of Creativity in America. The findings, unfortunately, point to the first measurable decline in our collective creative abilities in our country’s history. While we are still the beacon of imagination on the world stage, there is now a leak that could significantly damage our ability to maintain our standing in the global economy.


Why is our creativity declining? We’re taught in schools to guess what the teacher knows, there’s only one right answer, be obedient, and whatever you do … don’t make mistakes! Our kids sit in front of the Xbox, television, and Facebook while placing their imagination on hold. Art, music, and theater classes have largely been cut from public school curriculum, as education continues to devalue right-brain, creative thinking.

The disconnect, however, is that Creativity is the most important leadership skill for the next generation of business. According to an IBM study of 1500 CEOs’ Creativity was ranked as the single most crucial factor for future success. So we have a situation where the demand for creativity in clearly on the rise, yet the supply is on the downturn. We are experiencing a large and increasing Creativity Gap.

Thankfully, there is hope. According to a joint study between Harvard and Insead, it turns out that creativity is 85% a learned skill. That means that all of us, even on our groggy days, have 85% the creative potential as Mozart, or Picasso, or Da Vinci. We simply need a process to tap into this valuable natural resource.

Creativity is like a muscle–we all have the capacity to build muscle mass if we exercise. If we fail to do so, our muscles atrophy. The same is true with creativity. By embracing and exercising our creativity muscles, we unleash a wellspring of insight. This innovation will drive success in both your company and your career. For dozens of exercises, links, resources, and best practices, click here.

It’s time to make creativity a national priority and close the creativity gap. It’s time to encourage risk taking and innovation over cost-cutting and obedience. It’s time to embrace our imagination and build our creativity muscles to their full potential. It’s time to celebrate new ideas and original thought in order to drive breakthrough results. Simply put, it’s time to let our creativity come out to play.

About the author

Josh Linkner is the New York Times Bestselling author of Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity, named one of the top 10 business books of 2011. Josh is the CEO and Managing Partner of Detroit Venture Partners.