Most folks think of creativity in terms of art and music. But creativity is important to breaking new ground in any field.
Ancient people viewed creativity solely as divine inspiration. That is still as important as ever. But by modern times creativity was viewed as a form of human intelligence that bridges the gap between routine productive talent and the vision to develop something new.
Creativity requires the ability to approach problems with both solid knowledge and a fresh eye, combining old principles in new ways. Creativity can be highly productive if it is accompanied by hard work and perseverance.
Creativity is not the same thing as IQ. The world is full of people with high IQ scores who are not creative and those with average IQ who are. Combine IQ, creativity and grit, and you really have something.
You may know of Atlantans whose creativity and perseverance made them billionaires. Sara Blakely got a creative idea for footless pantyhose, added bulge-hiding undergarments, and built Spanx from scratch within a few years. Ted Turner creatively combined unrelated elements to build a little billboard company into a cable TV empire.
Creative approaches to service abound. Millard Fuller combined old tools in new ways to launch Habitat for Humanity, which has built 800,000 homes for the poor. Gary Haugen conceived a way to enlist lawyers to combat human trafficking; now International Justice Ministry is working in many developing countries.
College degrees are not essential to creative genius. You know of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerburg leaving college to start Microsoft, Apple and Facebook. Elizabeth Holmes was 19 when she got an idea for a new way to make blood tests cheaper, easier and painless. She left school to start Thernos and is a billionaire at 30.
In law, most work is just competent use of familiar tools. When I defended cases for insurance companies, it was routine work that built a base of experience.
But sometimes we have to get creative:
- An equipment distributor substituted a defective knockoff for a workstage sold with a forklift to a family business, killing the founder’s son. Georgia law barred suit against sellers. We figured out how to base a wrongful death case on the Fair Business Practices Act due to deceptive acts, classifying a forklift as an “office supply.
- When a child was injured in a condominium pool, the condo association’s insurer was unmotivated to negotiate because it did not see that its insured had valuable assets to protect. We figured out how to levy on the condo association itself, then make pro rata assessments against unit owners. The insurer then settled quickly
- When a child was injured in a condominium pool, the condo association’s insurer was unmotivated to negotiate because it did not see that its insured had valuable assets to protect. We figured out how to levy on the condo association itself, then make pro rata assessments against unit owners. The insurer then settled quickly.
- When a truck towing an intermodal container freight trailer killed several people, the truck’s $1 million insurance was inadequate. Combining motor carrier and maritime laws in a new way, we pulled in the intermodal shipping and logistics companies. A judge denied motions to dismiss and we have a trial date set.
Ken Shigley is an Atlanta-based personal injury and wrongful death trial lawyer. He is past president of the State Bar of Georgia, chair-elect of the American Association for Justice Motor Vehicle Collision, Highway & Premises Liability Section, and a board certified civil trial attorney of the National Board of Trial Advocacy.