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How Being Creative at Work Helps Your Career

Why creativity is important to career success, with advice and activities from a Bentley University professor on how to embrace it.

Nurturing your creativity is a must for success in any career. People with innovative ideas are highly valued in the global marketplace, and to be one of them you must think in fresh and unexpected ways.

Adopting certain practices will help you develop the right mindset, according to Andy Aylesworth, an associate professor of marketing at Bentley University.

“We’re all born creative. We’re all here to exercise that creative muscle,” Aylesworth told Bentley alumni at a recent creativity bootcamp event in Boston, run by the Alumni Association.

The businesspeople were there to develop that strength and put it to use in the workplace. “I want to get some creative ideas to possibly bring back to the firm,” said Allison Glenn ’09, who majored in marketing and now works at Goulston & Storrs.

Accounting major Michael Abrahams, ’77, MBA ’84, who has spent his career managing finances at the state’s Department of Conversation and Recreation, said he wanted to learn to look at old problems in new ways.

We’re all born #creative, says @bentleyu prof. Learn how to make #creativity work for you at work.


The event offered exercises and lessons that will help you become more creative — and use that skill to get ahead in your career:


  1. Learn to Fail Better
    To be truly creative, you have to overcome any fears of looking like a fool. Embrace your ideas and see what happens.

    “You’re never going to look as stupid as you think,” counsels Aylesworth.

    The professor likes to cite Thomas Edison’s famous comment that the inventor didn’t fail 10,000 times. He successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.

    Google Glass is a perfect example. It was a colossal failure, but it resulted in breakthroughs for the wearable industry. Read more about how Google Glass was a failure and a success.

    Failing — trying something that doesn’t work — is just a step in the process of creating success. You have to be okay making the leap.

    Creativity Activity for You: Create a new identify for yourself combining an interesting job and hobby. Go!

    How did you do?

    Some of the ones audience members at the event suggested included an international flight attendant with a habit of keeping otters in her bathtub and a flower shop owner with a penchant for chasing whales.

    Comfort zones successfully exited.

    Learn how to retrain your brain to embrace failure.
  2. Practice Divergent Thinking
    Divergent thinking is a thought process used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions.

    “Being good at divergent thinking requires that you eliminate that voice of judgment. One of the tricks is not giving yourself time to think,” shares Aylesworth.

    And with that, he whisked around the room asking startled individuals rapid-fire questions.

    Creativity Activity for You: answer those same questions.
    • Where does a shark sleep?
    • What musical instrument does an alligator play?
    • Who shot first?

    Got it?

    Those chosen blurted out answers including, respectively: a bed, an oboe and Han Solo.

    Too often people in the business world focus on getting the right answer, rather than exploring many possibilities. To practice more expansive divergent thinking, try posing questions without a right answer, but charged with creative potential. It will make your meetings much more interesting.
  3. Value the Creativity of Others
    Don’t monopolize airtime in a business discussion, always rush to get through an agenda or dismiss your colleagues’ ideas. Instead, use their creativity to enhance your own — draw them into a collaborative process, instead of trying to go it alone.

    During a group project, you might not see where things are going in the moment. But by trusting in the process, the effort will become worthwhile, says Aylesworth.

    To illustrate this concept, he had the attendees split into small circles and solve a problem: “Aunt Ethel remembered you in her will. She left you a warehouse of floppy discs. What will you make with them?”

    Creativity Activity for You: What would you do with the discs?

    The alumni started throwing out wild ideas. A few minutes later, Aylesworth told them to select one and build on it.

    Creativity Activity for You: What would you build with your idea?

    The results were hilarious and innovative. One group planned to redesign the discs as mouse guillotines to solve the city’s rodent problem. Another wanted to make throwback arcade phones.

No matter what career you’re in, creativity is a skill that will benefit you and the company you work for.

“The way this works out in creativity and in business is if you go to a meeting thinking you have the solution — rather than part of the solution —you aren’t allowing anyone else to be creative,” shared Aylesworth.

How did you do with the creativity activities? If you need some more help in the creativity department, it might be time to go to grad school. Learning new ideas and being around like-minded students and professors might just the jolt you need.