Study Shows Untapped Creativity in Workforce

According to Lindemann, the researchers were interested in the concept of “creative identity” — how people who think of themselves as creative, and who are trained to be creative, do or do not view that creativity as “portable” into various occupational contexts.

“Do arts graduates who now work as attorneys, teachers, computer programmers, etc. feel that their creative training is relevant to their work?” she asks.

For the SNAAP portion of the project, they were mainly interested in a question that asked respondents to explain, in their own words, “how your arts training is or is not relevant to your current work.” The study found that people with similar training who are working in similar jobs interpret the relationship between their creativity and their work differently.

“Relevant in working with others and needing to consider people skills like in the band. Not relevant because I don’t take my tuba to work at Microsoft.””I use the technical skills on my instruments as a tool and backdrop for most of the creative work I do, with or without the instrument.”

That one factor in these divergent responses may be respondents’ creative identity — the extent to which these individuals viewed themselves as creative, and, specifically, their sense of how their own creativity extended across contexts. For some, creativity was portable into their current jobs while, for others, it was not. Some took their tubas to the office, in a figurative sense, while others left them at home.”

Lindemann adds: “I think for me the most striking thing was the side-by-side narratives of people who worked in the exact same job and who had such different thoughts about whether their creative training was applicable to their jobs.”

An example of such a “side by side comparison” are the responses of two arts-graduates-turned-attorneys. One indicated that his creative training translated to the legal sphere:

“The communication skills and creative thinking I learned at [arts school] really help with lawyering.”

Another attorney, on the other hand, did not view his arts training as relevant to his work. In fact, he described the “creative” domain of the arts in opposition to the “thinking” zone of the law:

“One person who works as an attorney will say that his creative training is invaluable to his ability to do his work, while another will say it’s irrelevant, because the law involves ‘thinking,’ not ‘creativity.’ Why is that?” says Lindemann. “Some of those differences may be due to workplace context or their specific positions in their firms, but, as we explore in the article, we think their identities as ‘creative people’ play a crucial role as well.”

In their analysis, the researchers look at arts graduates who spend the majority of their working time in an occupation outside of the arts. They found that 51.8% of undergraduate arts alumni report being “somewhat” or “very” satisfied with their opportunity to be creative in their work. By comparison, 60.3% of graduate alumni say they are “somewhat” or “very” satisfied with their opportunity to be creative in their work.

The authors find that there is a positive relationship between increased artistic training and satisfaction with opportunity to be creative in what might be seen as “noncreative” jobs.


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