Looking to hire for creativity? Research says you should look for these traits (but, be warned, not all of them make someone easy to work with).
Sure, it’s possible for everyone to nurture his or her creative side, but honest observation shows that fresh ideas come more easily to some people than to others. If you’re in the market for individuals to drive innovation at your business, how can you hire these naturally creative folks?
A new Norwegian study has some suggestions. Forget the Myers Briggs, says the research from Professor Øyvind L. Martinsen of BI Norwegian Business School. What you really need to look for is a handful of traits that tend to be associated with highly creative individuals.
To identify these characteristics, Martinsen gathered a group of artists, musicians, and marketing creatives and compared them with a control group of managers and others in professions less associated with creativity. Which personality traits stood out among the artistically inclined? Martinsen found seven:
Associative orientation: Imaginative, playful, have a wealth of ideas, ability to be committed, sliding transitions between fact and fiction.
Need for originality: Resists rules and conventions. Have a rebellious attitude because of a need to do things no one else does.
Motivation: Have a need to perform, goal oriented, innovative attitude, stamina to tackle difficult issues.
Ambition: Have a need to be influential, attract attention and recognition.
Flexibility: Have the ability to see different aspects of issues and come up with optimal solutions.
Low emotional stability: Have a tendency to experience negative emotions, greater fluctuations in moods and emotional state, failing self-confidence.
Low sociability: Have a tendency not to be very considerate, are obstinate and find faults and flaws in ideas and people.
Although some of these traits sound positive (motivation) or neutral (associative orientation), others, you may notice, sound less appealing. Would you want the desk next to yours to be occupied by someone with low emotional stability and sociability? Probably not.
Martinsen acknowledges these tradeoffs, noting that “creative people are not always equally practical and performance oriented” and advising that an employer looking to bring creativity into her organization “would be wise to conduct a position analysis to weigh the requirements for the ability to cooperate against the need for creativity.” Or, in other words, think carefully about whether being a bit of a jerk is an acceptable tradeoff for being a fount of ideas. Many experts warn it’s often not (here are three just on Inc.com alone), suggesting that your best bet may be to walk a middle way, accepting slightly less creativity in exchange for being more of a team player.
Do you struggle to hire creative people who aren’t also jerks?
Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist. @EntryLevelRebel