Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

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The need for creativity in business

Developing your creative intelligence

As the world of business continues to evolve and accelerate, managers need more than just analytic skills to tackle the most complex challenges. Business Design is a creative problem-solving methodology that draws on the designer’s way of thinking and applies it to create business value – from innovative new products and services to creative strategies and models.

The innovation expert, author and educator, describes creative intelligence and the urgent need for creative competencies.

At its core, creativity is all about figuring out what is meaningful to people. Many of the most successful innovations begin by recognizing the important dots and connecting them in new ways. For example, by connecting the dots of ‘cheap’, ‘shoes’ and ‘social media’, you get Zappos. Connect ‘looking for friends’, ‘sharing’ and ‘social media’ and you get Facebook. Connect the dots of ‘cars’, ‘sharing values’, ‘cheap’ and ‘social media’ and you get ZipCar. As a first step to discovering the next winnable innovation, you need to start by developing your creative intelligence.

Five competencies of creative intelligence

  • Knowledge mining: Those who are routinely creative are skilled at connecting information from various sources in new and surprising ways. Creative entrepreneurs, thinkers and artists use their own experiences and aspirations as a starting point for dreaming up new things. When their own experience is insufficient, they go straight to the source and partner with people who are more embedded in a culture than they are.
  • Framing: Understanding your frame of reference — your way of seeing the world as it compares with other people’s—is critical, no matter your aspirations or industry. People who understand framing techniques are better able to shift their perspectives depending on the situation, environment or community they’re interacting with.
  • Playing: We associate play with children, but Navy Seals, scientists and engineers all ‘play’ at discovering solutions to challenges. By adopting a playful mindset, we’re more willing to take risks, explore possibilities and learn to navigate uncertainty, without the paralyzing stigma of failure.
  • Making: After decades of rewarding mental agility — trading on Wall Street, consulting, strategy and branding — we are experiencing a ‘maker’s renaissance’. People want to make things again, and thanks to a whole host of new technologies and the democratization of the tools of creativity, we’re doing it.
  • Pivoting: Traditional notions of creativity separate the process of coming up with new ideas from the actual making of new things; but truly creative people don’t stop at the idea: they quickly make the pivot into creation.

In my view, colleges and universities should begin to request portfolios as part of the admissions process — and not just design schools. Organizations looking to hire people should do the same, and, like Google and IDEO, they should add a performance challenge to their job interviews.

Some of the most creative people in the world are those who create new businesses. In terms of education, we need to start teaching creative competencies. The math-based analytics learned to promote efficiency can help on the scaling end of creativity, but not in the process of being innovative. There is a whole different set of skills that must be learned. They are more qualitative than quantitative, more a search for cultural meaning than a mechanism for maximizing. These notions have taken root at business schools like Rotman, but business schools in general have a long way to go.

- Bruce Nussbaum is the author of Creative Intelligence: Harnessing The Power to Create, Connect and Inspire (HarperBusiness, 2013). The former assistant managing editor for Business Week, he is a professor of Innovation and Design at Parsons The New School of Design in New York City.

Read the full article in Rotman Management magazine.

Business Design Practicum MBA Course

In this MBA course elective, students tackle real world innovation challenges.

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MBA students explore some of the world’s most innovative organizations

Rotman Design Challenge

Students come from around the world to tackle a real-world challenge

Creative Intelligence: A Powerful Message for Driving Innovation

Bruce Nussbaum is the former managing editor of BusinessWeek


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