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Creative people are found, not made

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Somebody who’s shown no creative spark in 20 years is not going to light up after a seminar. Instead, says Transmeta founder and Bell Labs alumnus Dave Ditzel, you need talent spotters.

If, among 10,000 cereal company employees, you can find one worker in manufacturing who’s ginning up an idea for a new cereal every week, that guy probably can attract and lead other creative people, Ditzel says.

And Ditzel adds that it’s a lot more productive to find 10 superinnovative people than to subject 10,000 creatively challenged employees to training.

Not that such training is worthless, Ditzel says: It does make people feel good. But he’d rather learn how to identify creative people.

“You can train people to find those supercreative people,” he says, “but you can’t train them to be those people.”

Ditzel knows something about this. Starting at a top research lab as a young man, he learned early how creative people think and operate. He worked with them for years and chalked up a few creations of his own.

His take:

“It wasn’t because Bell Labs sent me to a class on innovation.”

—Adapted from “Creative Echelons,” Shira P. White, G. Patton Wright, Across the Board.

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