Embracing the “C” word – why creativity is so important and how to ‘do it’

clayCreativity has a poor image, especially in business, where is can be labelled fluffy, time wasting, a luxury or, worst of all “a nice activity to cheer up the team”.

The term “innovation” is much preferred and has a better image, but innovation is an umbrella term which is includes the process of identifying a need for change, finding new ways forward or new products, implementing and sustaining them.

To innovate, we need creativity and we need to not be afraid to use the “C” word.

“if we don’t start to learn as leaders who people are, what they are capable of, what their potential is, how creative most people can be….then we are not going to succeed. A profound shift in our culture has to take place…that evokes our creativity and brings out the best of each person’s talent”

Margaret Wheatly Leadership and the New Science

People get very scared when they think about being creative. They start thinking of school days, when they decided that they  were  “not creative” and “can’t even draw a straight line” (which is actually rather helpful in creative terms, as creativity is definitely not made of straight lines!)

The term “brainstorm” has been overused and often sends shivers down peoples spin, or induces a big yawn.  Brainstorming  for new ideas, can be great, but you can’t brainstorm on an empty, creative stomach.  Brainstorming should come much much later in the process.

I see the creative process as being like cooking. You need:

–          a recipe

–          ingredients and tools or equipment

–          preparation

–          guidance

–          and obviously some time

A basic recipe. What prompted deciding to cook (create) something new? Do you need to create a new product, new process, new approach or system; who are you creating it for; why is it needed.

The ingredients:  creativity doesn’t just happen. Creative ideas are usually born out of exposure to different things which collide, mutate and become something new.  You have to feed creativity.  Putting people in a room without some sort of inspiration, resource materials, examples etc. and saying “go forth and create”, doesn’t often work.   This isn’t about money. It may be about showing examples of good practice or introducing a “muse” who gives a certain flavour to the process.  (I also make a stance for limiting the ingredients…having to work with just what’s in the cupboard or fridge can make us very resourceful)

Cooking and creating are both alchemic processes…you put lots of things together, mulch them up and see what occurs. Many many creative ideas come about by colliding oppositions or combining random ideas e.g.

There are tools and equipment we can use which really unlock creativity and enhance our ability to generate new knowledge.  Think of it like needing grated cheese; you could spend ages finely slicing and chopping it or you could get a cheese grater! As a creativity coach, I have all sorts of tools and equipment, including a grater or two!

Preparing to create can be as simple as getting your head in the right space: being willing to experiment, being willing to take risks, being willing to get a bit messy, being willing to be a bit vulnerable and share your thoughts, being willing to listen to others, being willing to be seen.

Having support or guidance can be essential. The nature of creative exploration is such that it takes us out of our comfort zone. It’s not something we do everyday unless we are an artist, writer etc.  Having someone facilitate the process and ensure that the best results are produced can be invaluable.

Time. Sometimes ideas appear really quickly.  Sometimes, you just need to wait a little. Sometimes three ideas will come all at once.  Creativity is not a linear process and does not play by a set of standard rules.  Thinking about our “cooking” metaphor again, if you take the cake out of the oven before its ready, it won’t have risen enough or grow to its fullest! Conversely, you don’t want to cook and idea too long, or it will be burnt and stale.

So creativity needs to be nurtured, supported and enabled.

The world is facing some real challenges right now. Policies are demanding that thrift, lean and resourcefulness drive all that we do. Financial systems are struggling to cope with the social and cultural change.  Natural resources are dwindling.  The biggest resource we have right now is social capital and our innate creative abilities as human beings.

“Being a leader in the 21st century requires creativity, artistry, empathy and the ability to cope with complexity. Relying solely on logic, analysis and problem-solving skills is insufficient if the goal is to compete globally based on value rather than price” Linda Naiman

Are you ready to take up the challenge as a leader and ensure that your business or organisation flourishes rather than just survives?

Are you ready to embrace the “C” word?  (creativity in case you had forgotten)


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