In a recent blog, I shared a list of competencies required for today’s leaders in growth organizations. One of the most favored – yet most often misunderstood – is creativity.
“But, I’m just not creative” emerges from the mouth of many leaders when the topic comes on the table. Many times it’s someone from finance or accounting! “You know what happened when those finance folks at certain failed organizations got too creative…,” they say. True.
Recently in Harvard Business Review, Tom Perrault, the Chief People Officer of Rally Health, made a compelling case for a liberal arts degree and the potential strengths it develops – not just technical skills – because he claims the strengths developed in this degree are the ones that hold the keys to a company’s future success. And guess what skill is at the top of the list? Creativity.
Why are these “softer skills” like creativity getting more valuable? Because the ability to tell clear stories and design user friendly products and services is becoming more critical for all companies. Perrault describes the imperative of creativity this way, “When it comes to creating tech products, simplicity is hard,” writes Perrault. “Only people with specialized creative skills –honed from years of thinking, reading, writing, and creating — have the talent of making the complex simple and the difficult accessible.”
How to Approach Creativity
When we work with leaders, we approach creativity from two vantage points:
1- The traditional definition – What ideas can be birthed from conceptualization into reality? To help with this process, we encourage them to consistently ask questions and complete thoughts such as:
· “If only we had…”
· “Work would be easier if I could…”
· “Our clients need to solve…”
Setting aside time to come up with these answers can yield new product and service ideas that could never be incubated in the typical “stay busy”, reactive mode. Allocating blocks on the calendar for personal think time and/or group brainstorming or mind mapping activities holds the secret to engaging in fruitful ideation.
2- The process improvement definition – What is currently in existence that needs to be improved? In the one client’s sandbox, it’s called SMARTER. BETTER. FASTER. Some of the practices and questions that can be asked to yield the best improvements are:
· Why did we start this practice/create this product in the first place?
· Is it still necessary? If it is still necessary, is there a better way to reach the same result?
· What are the consequences of continuing to do it this way?
· What is stopping us from doing it differently?
Why is creativity misunderstood? Because most think of creativity as building from ground zero intervention. Using the broader definition and looking at it through two lenses, means that all of us can come up with ideas that could be game changers. Creativity is a learnable skill. Some of us come to the table with higher doses, yet we all have it to some degree.
Find Your Creative Place
In the coming weeks as you are focused on creating, look for your “creative place.” What and where is it? Is it a time of the day? A certain physical place? Most meaningful alone or with others? One leader I work with has a white board in his shower that is humidity resistant. That’s his best time and place for thinking. He showers every day, so it happens. That’s getting creative – in how you work on creativity!
Allowing ourselves to be creative yields many advantages. Not only does it impact company efficiency, revenue and/or profitability, it creates more personal energy. And we can all use a bigger dose of that.
You are creative.