The term ‘creativity’ has been having a hard time lately. We often hear from companies ranging from design agencies to engineering firms that it’s difficult to find people who ‘think creatively’ in Hong Kong. But we don’t want to believe that.

Einstein said, “Creativity is seeing what everyone else has seen, and thinking what no one else has thought.” And while I agree with nearly everything that has come out of his ferally-moustached lips – I can’t agree with this. It starts with the idea of ‘thinking what no one has thought’. How are we ever to know what anyone else is truly thinking? I don’t want to disagree with Albert, but I prefer to believe that there exists within everyone an infinite capacity for original thought.

However, unless we do something with those thoughts; action them, share them or express them – they remain ours, private, mysterious, dormant. This is important to bear in mind when addressing the idea of creativity.

The problem is that all too often we confuse ‘being creative’ with ‘being artistic’ but if we look for an alternative definition of creativity, this one seems especially pertinent:

Creativity is defined as the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness. 

What stands out from this definition is the phrase: creating something. We can all think things that no one else has thought before – the difference is with creativity, you create something from that. Herein lies creativity’s awkward reputation. To state you are a creative person, can attract a level of stigma. People will either proudly proclaim, “Oh yes, I’m definitely a creative type,” while others shy away from the label, feeling it is best reserved for graphic designers, artists, musicians and even chefs.

But even within these categories, there are people who don’t actually create anything. They action other people’s ideas – follow instructions, templates and recipes. They’re not creating something from their own imagination.

This brings up the second idea of creativity – that of problem solving. Creativity is to a degree, the ability to problem solve using innovation, intuition, imagination and inventiveness. Perhaps that means coming up with a design brief, or managing a team of people to work together – but ultimately it’s acting upon an idea and creating something from that.

So back to Hong Kong – I think many sectors need to redefine the term ‘creativity’. We need to start looking to our ranks to recognise the people who show a willingness to act on their imagination and come up with solutions and actionable ideas. That’s where the true value of creativity lies.

Push your creativity. Act on your ideas. Create things, so that you can stand back and say, “We/I created this.”