About 12 months ago, we set out to see if it was possible to do what was previously thought to be impossible - accurately predicting whether a person would be an effective creative thinker at work. To our knowledge, there was not a single scientifically validated process to do this. We found that in the majority of cases, most companies were not using any method for assessing creativity, despite claiming it to be a critical competency for staff to possess.
There were a couple of exceptions. In “creative industries”, such as advertising and design, recruiters would typically look at a job applicant’s portfolio of past work to see how creative they were. Of course, we all know people’s tendencies to stretch the truth. I used to work at the advertising agency that came up with the idea for Earth Hour. And despite the fact that only one person came up with the idea, I heard about many people from the agency claiming that they were the one who gave birth to this idea and had put it in their portfolio.
In other industries, creative thinking is sometimes assessed by giving people a difficult problem to solve and observing how they answer the problem. For example, Microsoft famously ask job applicants how they would move Mount Fuji, and use people’s answers as a test as to how creative they are. However, this process has never been scientifically validated and is only testing a small component of workplace creativity.
So 12 months after we set ourselves the challenge of measuring the unmeasurable. We tested over 1300 people, across industries as diverse as advertising to engineering, through to insurance. And we have found out that yes, we could indeed predict a person’s ability to think creatively and work. Moreover, we could do so extremely accurately. It was all a matter of identifying the right variables to measure.
There are several components to creative thinking that we found that our test could predict. These included a person’s ability to:
- generate new and effective solutions.
- collaborate well with others.
- sell and communicate ideas to others.
- think creatively under stressful situations.