KATONAH, N.Y. - Name three people well-known for their creativity. Are you thinking of famous artists such as Picasso, well-known musicians such as Beethoven or imaginative writers such as J.K. Rowling? Did you include yourself on the list?
In general, few people think of themselves as creative, but according to creativity expert Kathryn Haydon of Katonah, everyone is.
“It’s not only Einstein, Monet or prodigious people who are creative. We all use creativity in our everyday lives, in ways that we may not even realize,” Haydon said.
Haydon is a consultant, author and speaker who helps businesses and schools grow creative talent and trains teams in the creative problem-solving process.
Creative thinking is something people do daily to solve problems, she said. When cooking dinner, for example, you might resort to creative thinking if you have only a handful of ingredients available.
Haydon explains that creativity is thinking differently, within constraints, to produce new or useful ideas and solutions. Although everybody is creative, that creativity tends to get diluted over time; like a muscle, it needs exercise to strengthen it.
Haydon said it’s hard to spot creativity if you don’t know what to look for. In fact, creative traits are often seen as difficulties. For example, Thomas Edison had a profound sense of curiosity. In elementary school, he asked a lot of questions. But his teacher didn’t recognize his curiosity as a sign of creativity and said he asked too many stupid questions to ever be able to learn.
Today, most people in business understand the importance of innovation, which is the outcome of creative thinking. The pressure to innovate is intense in a fast-changing world. An IBM survey asked 1,500 CEOs around the world to identify the top leadership competencies necessary for employees to thrive today. The top response was creativity.
And business leaders consistently cite creative thinking as the top skill needed to solve complex problems. Yet, businesses report that creative problem solving is the second-hardest skill to find in both employees and prospective employees.
“[I] help employees pinpoint their own creative strengths and teach teams to effectively collaborate so they can come up with better solutions to problems,” Haydon said.
Haydon, as the founder of Sparkitivity, delivers keynote speeches on the secrets of sustained innovation and how to leverage a creative edge. All organizations develop cultural norms; these norms determine whether creative thinking has the potential to flourish or flounder.
“The question is, does the climate of the organization support creative thinking?” Haydon said. “We can evaluate specific aspects of the culture to foster deliberate innovation practices.”
Leaders of any organization can strengthen their teams by learning more about creativity and creative leadership. Creative leadership means that the employer is interested in using the individual strengths of employees for the benefit of the organization and employees.
“This approach to leadership strengthens outcomes and engagement and creates strong work cultures,” she said. “Sometimes all it takes is a simple tweak in how you respond to new ideas or the way meetings are conducted.”
Anyone can learn to spot creative strengths by understanding more about the creative process. Haydon’s book, “Creativity for Everybody,” available on Amazon, contains ways to apply creativity to everyday work and home life. Co-authored with graphic designer Jane Harvey, “Creativity for Everybody” synthesizes and summarizes seven decades of research on creativity.
“The book summarizes creativity for busy people to understand how and why creativity enhances their everyday lives,” Haydon said.
Sometimes, people are surprised to learn they have a creative strength.
“That’s what I love, bringing out the best in people,” Haydon said. “Everyone has their own unique blend of creative strengths. My work always builds people up in a positive way. The science of creativity offers a new way to see yourself and others. It leads to personal growth and a more joyfully productive way of being and working.”
When Rippowam Cisqua School in Bedford developed its long-term innovation strategy, it worked with Haydon.
“We decided to create a creativity cohort of teachers, and each year the school’s innovation director, Miles Cameron, and I train teachers to incorporate the highest levels of thinking, creative thinking, into the subjects they teach,” she said. “Teachers love it when they learn strategies to teach the fundamentals of math, science or language arts in ways that deeply challenge and engage students while concurrently developing students’ creative thinking skills.”
Haydon started out in banking and sales, but her passion was understanding how people learn.
“I have always been curious to understand what makes people deeply engage in learning,” she said. “After banking, I spent time teaching people of all ages, from pre-school to grad school. I fell into the field of creativity because it provided a research basis for the conclusions I had reached through my experience.”
Today, Haydon works with clients locally and throughout the country. Originally from Chicago, her family moved to Katonah in 2012 from California when her husband, Jeff Haydon, took the helm at Caramoor.
“We love living in Katonah,” Haydon said. “The natural beauty is breathtaking in every season, and the spirit of community and creativity here is inspiring.”