You may have caught CNBC’s re-broadcast of “The Smartest Guys in the Room,” the brilliant documentary about Enron’s spectacular rise and fall.
It’s easy to view Lay, Skilling, Fastow and the rest as a creative bunch. Again and again they came up with innovative scams to fool Wall Street into thinking the company was profitable while it was sinking into debt. They themselves spoke incessantly about “creativity” and “innovation.”
But were they truly creative?
Sure, they had ideas. But, as we painfully learned, their ideas were never realized into anything of tangible value. Their creation forever remained a fantasy land.
And fantasy is not creativity.
Of course, ideas are important. But true creativity is something more: it’s about taking ideas and realizing them. Crafting them. Making them make sense. Making them work in the real world.
Enron was able to con so many by, in part, exploiting the myth that creativity is altogether different: mystical, obscure, and by its very nature, incomprehensible.
The more we understand what creativity is, and what it’s not, the better off we’ll all be.