Leadership Development: Rekindle Your Creative Thinking

  • 3 mins read

Creativity is something you practice, not just a talent you’re born with. ~ Tom Kelley and David Kelley, IDEO
According to a global IBM survey of chief executives, creativity is the most sought-after trait in leaders today. In these times of disruptive innovations, creative thinking is especially crucial for the rise and continued success of start-up to stalwart companies.
Facebook, Google, Apple, Procter & Gamble and General Electric are prime examples. Without continual breakthroughs, these organizations couldn’t sustain success. Companies whose leaders learn to innovate more quickly, cheaply and with less risk will emerge from any downturn stronger than ever.
For leaders, it starts with an innovation mindset. In my work coaching executives, this is a continuing challenge for high-achieving, results oriented CEOs and VPs. Many have become over-reliant on analytical skills.
Creativity isn’t something that’s learned, as much as rediscovered. People are born creative. Just look at children to see how naturally they use their imaginations. But somewhere around adolescence, we begin to stifle our creative impulses as we become more aware of what other people think of us.
We learn to be more cautious and analytical. This tendency becomes even more pronounced as we join organizations that favor critical thinking. As we become mature contributors to corporate culture, we are continually rewarded for our analytical abilities.
Creative thinking takes a backseat, except in breakthrough situations. But you cannot achieve such innovations unless your company’s culture supports new ideas – even those that fail.
Declining Creativity in US?
Has creativity in the US declined in the past two decades? There are some indications that it has. According to Wikipedia, creativity as measured by the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking increased until 1990 in the United States.
Thereafter scores have been declining. Possible causes include increased time watching TV, playing computer games, or lack of nurturing of creativity in schools. There may be a mistaken assumption that encouraging creativity in schools necessarily involves the arts when it can also be encouraged in other subjects.
Leadership and Creativity
In “Reclaim Your Creative Confidence” (Harvard Business Review, December 2012), Tom Kelley and David Kelley suggest strategies for rediscovering our innate creative thinking abilities. The authors are the manager and founder, respectively, of IDEO, an international design and innovation consultancy.
They identify four common fears that block our best ideas from coming to fruition:
1. The messy unknown
2. Being judged
3. Taking the first step
4. Losing control
I’m going to explore these four fears in my follow-up posts. I think they are more common than we’d admit.
What’s your opinion on the loss of creative thinking in business today? I’d love to hear from you; leave a comment.

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