Think everybody has a positive view of creativity? Think again!

Rita McGrath
5 min readSep 9, 2022

Of course, we believe that creativity is a universally great thing — thinking otherwise is like dismissing hope or truth! In his conversational, approachable book, New York Times Pulitzer Prize winning author Matt Richtel takes us on a guided tour of the many facets of creativity and offers the encouragement that creativity is innate to being human — it is in all of us.

Matt Richtel has woven together a mind-blowing series of stories, interviews and examples of the creative process at work across the ages and human endeavor. He’s going to be joining me by the fireside this Friday and we’ll be talking about many of them. Register here. In the meantime, some nuggets I found particularly interesting.

Creativity — inventing something new, original and valuable– can be terrifying!

Despite our cultural pro-creativity bias, Richtel’s work with researchers who study our actual feelings about creative solutions finds that for many, creative new solutions are scary and can carry negative connotations. This makes sense when viewed through the lens of stability versus change. After all, a truly meaningful creative new solution makes older ones obsolete. This reminded me of the effects of strategic inflection points that I write about — automobiles made buggy whip manufacturers obsolete; digital GPS and mapping systems made paper maps largely irrelevant, digital screens replace printed photos. Creativity isn’t good for everyone all the time.

Creativity is, however, the process by which new ideas and solutions come into being. It is fundamental to human progress.

Creativity requires multitudes

Breakthrough creations are often symbolically associated with a single person. Steve Jobs with Apple products. Reed Hastings and Netflix. Elon Musk with electric vehicles. Richter finds that, absolutely, when a tipping point for a new idea is ripe, the world-changing innovation that takes hold is often channeled through an individual or group. It builds, however, on decades of what he calls “mini C” — — “little C” — “Pro C” creations before the world-changing “Big C” emerges.

Rita McGrath

Columbia Business School Professor. Thinkers50 top 10 & #1 in strategy. Bestselling author of The End of Competitive Advantage & Seeing Around Corners.