Creative Style, Talent and Skill

Creativity? Hey, I’m not an artist. But I would like to be more creative.” We often hear this from people we are about to work with. What’s behind that sort of statement is usually a misconception, mixing and confusing several concepts that psychologists have described very well. Few people are aware of this, so here is a clarification:

Creative style, Skill, Talent: These are different from each other, and they operate independently of each other. Yes, they do interact, and yes, can support and enhance each other. But they are not quite the same.

Creative Style: Everyone is creative (let’s spell that out: EVERYONE). The thing to remember is that each of us has a unique creative style. This ranges along a continuum of styles from “adaptive,” “inside-the-box” (think: process improvement – make what’s ‘in the box’ efficient, and very often, elegant) to “original,” “outside-the-box” (think; create a new box, or better yet, a whole new type of container – which may completely ignore the original problem some people thought was going to be solved). Each of us sits somewhere along this continuum. No matter where we are, those who are more ‘adaptive’ and ‘practical’ than we are perceive us as more ‘out-of-the-box;’ and to those who are more ‘novel’ and ‘original,’ we appear as more ‘in-the-box.’ These perceptions are in fact the result of measurable, cognitive preferences – like being right or left handed. And, and each style has its strengths and limitations. (Just think about a few of the people you work with.)

Talent: Everyone has some. Talents are not restricted to art, of course. And they can lie undiscovered or undeveloped for years. For a broad assessment of major talents, try the Gallop StrengthsFinder assessment. Purchase the book Now Discover Your Strengths . Be sure to purchase a new copy, which includes a code for one-time-only access to an online survey. You will receive a list (and definitions) of your top five Strengths, which for all intents and purposes will also identify your unique talents. According to Gallup, “A talent is a naturally recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied.” Having a talent does not imply that you actually have developed skill or flexibility in applying that talent, but at the minimum, you will have the potential for developing that talent. Talent development is possible – and it takes some work. Most of us depend on the same tried and true behaviors or skills which are the applications of our talent(s). The good news is that knowing what your talents are is the first step to developing them into skills.

Skill: Skills are behavior, the things we can really do. Skills can be learned. True, if you have a talent, your potential for excellence in the skills supporting it is greater than if you don’t have that associated talent. But we all are called upon to do things that at first we don’t do well; and we can learn how to achieve mastery. It’s also true that we enjoy doing things most when we can employ our natural talents. And you know that simple memorization will likely not provide you with depth of insight or meaning. You know the drill: practice, practice, practice.

At the Creative Intelligence Lab we help people integrate all three of these important factors, and we throw in a fourth factor:

Values: Values are, really, your highest priorities. When you identify your real priorities, you have the master key to what motivates you. Think of values as packages of energy, which when triggered, are guided by your creative style, enhanced by your own particular talents, and applied through your skills. Then, mountains get moved.

Effective and lasting development requires an integration of all of the above. It also requires a commitment, because true development takes effort. But, when it mixes in the stuff you really are, it’s also fun.