Outside the square

Kobus Neethling has written 87 books, and is held to be one of the top creative experts in the world. He shares his genius with SmartCompany and is open to any questions you may have for him – simply email feedback@smartcompany.com.au

Creative genius Kobus Neethling (right) holds six university degrees, including two masters, a doctorate and a post-doctorate (cum laude) on the identification and development of creative behaviour.

On top of that impressive CV, he has written 87 books (the latest out in April) including Creativity Uncovered.

He received the prestigious 1998 International Leadership Award from the Creative Problem Solving Institute, has helped top organisations in 25 countries develop their creativity muscles and is also a Guinness World Record holder (find out why below).

We asked him how entrepreneurs can be more creative.

Got some questions for Kobus? Email them to feedback@smartcompany.com.au.


What do you define as creativity in business? What’s the difference between creativity and innovation?

I try not to specifically define creativity – it would be like putting boundaries around a concept that is very uncomfortable with boundaries.

Rather find a description that most of the employees buy into – “creativity is a fresh pair of eyes” for instance would suggest that we don’t do things like we did yesterday, or that meetings, etc, always require fresh approaches and so on – “fresh eyes” become part of the “speak” of the business (and there are thousands of other metaphors that will work equally well).

There are many theories about creativity/innovation – but I believe innovation is the result of a creative process initiated by creative people. Whatever that innovation is (product, service, strategy, etc) it could only have happened if creative people were involved.

Why is it important?

Paul Torrance, Mr Creativity of the 20th century and my mentor for 20 years, said way back in 1958 that it is not high IQ, or technical abilities, or academic achievement that will ultimately give the individual or the organisation the cutting edge – creativity is the outstanding characteristic of the truly eminent. Today these words are more true than ever.

What are the creative traits that you admire in an entrepreneur?

The ability to understand his/her own brain preferences and to also understand that a successful entrepreneur is able to respect and accommodate the brain preferences of every client and colleague, plus:

  • Focused hard work (not just hard work for the sake of hard work).
  • Courage.
  • Opportunity eyes.
  • Seeing the future before others do.
  • Practical, social ideas and spiritual creativity.

Creative people often have too many ideas and thoughts. How can you tell the genius ideas from mere distraction?

There are always left and right-brain ways to separate the genius ideas from the good ones,

Left-brain approaches would require specific creativity methodologies (the very old why/why technique, for instance: asking why is X the best? X is faster… why is faster important? eventually you get to an essence that tells you this is genius or not.)

Right-brain approaches do not require step-by-step methods. It is the flash, the “aha”, the intuitive moment of knowing.

How can creativity help you sell better?

Creativity gives you an amazing edge – your ideas are fresher, you can zig-zag where others tend to stick to the orthodox, you create in the moment – you will always be a few steps ahead if you apply creativity of the mind and the heart. You see the gap first and move in while others hesitate.

How does creativity create new product differentiation when creativity has no prior market experience? How do you make your staff more creative?

You determine their passions and encourage training and development to enhance the creativity linked to those specific passions, You develop an environment where trust, learning, fun, positive language, energy and respect are the values everyone believes in and adheres to (and naturally if the leader talks and lives creativity, creativity is caught; they will get it from the leader).

How do you create a creative environment?

Answered above – the key is that the leadership does not only talk about the importance of creativity; they must live it, be it, and everyone else must see and feel the benefits of a creative life – and they must “want” to be creative. Open-mindedness, flexibility, respect for doing it differently, humour – are all part of a creative environment.

As a company grows how do you ensure creativity triumphs over process?

I think one must always respect “good process”, but a creative organisation must courageously and continously challenge every process, rule, regulation, routine, habit – and change, even dramatically if necessary.

Something that I have found to be of profound importance is the “moving from doing the process to being the process”. It is the be that influences others, that has eternal impact – that takes you way beyond the paradigm and the rule.

What are two questions you are most often asked about creativity and what do you answer?

Can one regain your creativity at any age?

Categorically yes. We have workshops twice a year for people over the age of 70 and I have seen miracles happen here. People of 80-plus leave the workshop and for the first time in their lives become successful entrepreneurs.

Can you teach creativity?

Once again, absolutely yes. My life changed when Paul Torrance started teaching me creativity at the University of Georgia. Once you open up your life to creative teaching you will never be the same again.

What were you in the Guinness Book of Records for?

I was co-author of the book that was written and published in the fastest time ever – a book of more than a 100 pages was written in four and a half minutes and published in 15 hours.


If you would like Kobus’s help and advice, email your own questions for Entrepreneur Online to feedback@smartcompany.com.au

Kobus is in Australia to speak at the International Coaching Federation’s Coach Week 2007 on 14 May. For details see our calendar.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
SmartCompany Plus

Sign in

To connect a sign in method the email must match the one on your SmartCompany Plus account.
Or use your email
Forgot your password?

Want some assistance?

Contact us on: support@smartcompany.com.au or call the hotline: +61 (03) 8623 9900.