More Common Myths About Creativity in Sales

Last week mentioned a few common myths about creativity, and the week before that we asked if creativity even belongs in sales. We’ve had many responses on LinkedIn, and most agree: creativity absolutely belongs in sales. But there’s another myth about creativity that can wreak havoc on an organization’s attempts to bring innovation into sales:

  •  Perception: Creativity is creativity; it’s all the same. A painter, musician, or poet can translate those talents to creativity in the business arena.
  • Reality: All creativity is not created equal. Most creative endeavors fall into one of two general categories: artistic creativityand functional creativity.

When you think about creativity and innovation, names like Leonardo da Vinci, Walt Whitman, or Andy Warhol may come to mind. These talented people were famous for their artistic creativity. Artistic creativity leans heavily toward expression and unconstrained innovation seen from painters, sculptors, poets, musicians, and interpretive dancers. But it’s hard to assign a place for this in a sales environment. Artistic creativity is inherently subjective in the way it’s made, when the artist says, “This is how I want to paint this picture.” It’s also subjective in the way the finished product is judged. Some people may say, “I love it,” while others respond with an equally valid, “I hate it.”

Artistic creativity has limited application in a sales environment, which is marked by goals, expectations, and objectivity. Sales organizations demand a different type of creativity. Functional creativity is defined by its objective outcomes. With functional creativity, there is a right answer. In art school, everyone in a class can feel something different about a project’s end result; but in a sales environment, you want everyone to see the same picture.

Do most organizations understand the difference, or do you still see companies trying to get executives and sales teams to play with toys or sit in bean bag chairs to tap into their inner Picassos?


Mark Donnolo is the managing partner of SalesGlobe and author of The Innovative Sale, available in bookstores in January. To learn more, visit SalesGlobe.