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I read an article recently (ABC News) that reported on what the magical number of emails a person can “stand” a day before they feel overloaded: 50 emails! That is not the number they receive, only the number before they feel stressed. With an estimated 1.6 billion people globally using email, I have to ask, “What effect do all these emails have on productivity and performance, or more critical to a company’s bottom line, on creativity?” While we certainly could not conduct business without email today, the promise of increased efficiency and creativity is in many cases unrealized. While most emails seem distracting to organizational objectives, the opportunity to increase creativity is large. Let me first clear up the myth that creativity is something that some people have and others do not; while most people think that some people are more genetically predisposed to creativity than others are, creativity is behavior, and as such it can be increased or decreased like any other behavior. Email has tremendous potential to increase creativity but unless managers understand the science of behavior it can be more of a punisher than a reinforcer of creativity. Here are a few tips for how you might approach creativity in an email dominated world.
In the final analysis, when creativity is understood as behavior that all can exhibit, it can be increased many times its current rates. Modern technology, including email, increases that ability.
Additional Resources: Bringing Out the Best in People, Aubrey C. Daniels, Ph.D. "Generativity Theory", Robert Epstein, Ph.D., (chapter from) Encyclopedia of Creativity, Pritzker & Runco, Academic Press (1999).
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