Advances in technology mean it's possible for an organisation to measure individual creativity using AI, but that doesn't guarantee innovative ideas. In order to have the competitive edge you need to nuture a team of creative innovators.
Innovation is essential in today’s organisations. When your competitors have access to the same technology and resources as you - and they can quickly replicate your offering - your business will die if it doesn’t find new ways to become better, faster or fresher. Creativity is therefore a desirable employee competency but it has always been challenging to assess, until now.
The pioneering American psychologist Joy Paul Guilford developed the first test in 1967 that measured ‘divergent thinking’ (the ability to have creative thoughts). Test takers had to list multiple uses for a common object, such as a brick, shoe or paperclip.
Their results were scored on factors such as originality, fluency (the quantity and relevance of the answers) and flexibility (the number of different categories of answer).
Another US psychologist Ellis Paul Torrance built on Guildford’s work with his own creative thinking tests. In these, the test takers had to construct pictures from certain shapes.
The downside of both of these approaches was the time needed to evaluate each test taker’s results and the difficulty of assessing the ‘originality’ of the responses. These factors made creativity tests prohibitively expensive to use for employee selection or development.
Dawn of a new era
The advent of AI (Artificial Intelligence) has changed all of this. Today’s creativity tests, which have been inspired by Guildford and Torrance, quickly assess verbal creativity and ‘figural creativity’, although drawing skills are not important.
The tests feature lines and objects that can be manipulated to form a picture - and the candidates give their pictures a creative title. Algorithms score the responses on fluency and flexibility.
The algorithms then search through Google to check the originality of each candidate’s words and drawings. This means that these creativity tests don’t have to be manually reviewed by people; they are scored automatically (in less than a second).
Other roles for innovation
The ability to measure creativity in an objective and cost effective way has been described as the ‘holy grail of assessment’. It’s certainly an exciting development but it doesn’t guarantee innovation.
Generating ideas by thinking ‘outside the box’ is unquestionably an important skillset. But on its own, it’s not enough. Novelty and originality may be the cornerstones of innovation but ideas still need to be vetted and they need to be channelled into something useful or practical. So, as well as idea generators, you need idea vetters and idea communicators.
As well as idea generators, you need idea vetters and idea communicators.
It’s a creative idea to throw your computer out of the window. But it’s probably not going to benefit you in the long-run (or maybe it would?). Someone with relevant knowledge and experience needs to vet your ideas and decide which of them are suitable and feasible. Someone also needs to present the chosen idea/s to the senior management team, or the client, in order to turn a good idea into something beneficial.
It’s rare that one individual will be skilled in all three areas of idea generating, idea vetting and idea communicating. However, if you want a high performing creative team, you should ensure that it comprises individuals who are skilled in each of these roles.
Assessing key skills
In order to enhance innovation, many organisations are now combining a creativity test with a personality questionnaire and an abstract logical thinking test. These assessments can be used as a diagnostic to determine the ‘innovation skills’ of your employees.
They can help you to identify who are your best idea generators, idea vetters and idea communicators. You can use the results to form or develop innovative teams. If any of the three key roles are lacking, these assessments could help you to recruit candidates with the required competencies.
Identify who are your best idea generators, idea vetters and idea communicators.
Remember, innovation doesn’t always have to be about breakthrough products. Good ideas at every level can help your organisation to make incremental improvements to processes or operations that might enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of your business model - or the convenience, accessibility and affordability of your product range.
Now that it has become affordable to assess the important roles that are required for innovation, you can ensure your teams have a blend of the necessary skills. This will not only improve each team’s ability to innovate, it will ensure your organisation remains competitive.
About Richard Justenhoven
I am Product Development Director at international talent measurement and assessment specialist cut-e, an Aon company. I hold a master degree in work and organisational psychology and specialise in psychometrics and online-based psychometric assessments. My work synthesises research and work practice with organisational psychology, working in multiple countries with international clients from various industries. My area of expertise is the design and implementation of online-based psychometric assessments.
cut-e offers a broad range of services across the talent life cycle beginning with pre-employment assessments, retention, management and leadership development as well as performance management processes. These areas may involve online assessments, creating and facilitating assessment centres or High Potential development programmes and the design and roll out of competency & leadership frameworks.
Please feel free to email me at [email protected] for further information.