The Creative Leader Series: Part 3

“Many of us assume that our creative process is beyond our ability to influence…”  -Todd Henry The Accidental Creative

The problem is that we often believe that creativity will either happen or it won’t. We don’t work from the understanding that we have control and influence over creativity, in our thinking, our ideas, our work, and our life. We still have a tendency to treat creativity as these ‘aha’ moments of revelation that magically appear from nowhere. And while it may feel as if this is the case, it is far removed from the truth.

Creativity exists in each of us, unfortunately for many, it has been suppressed and held below the surface for so long that it has lost its ability to resurface.

Each day we are absorbing the world around us and the stimuli that it is constantly pushing out. Stimuli and information that provides us with more and more dots, dots that we are constantly trying to connect in meaningful ways that help us make better sense of our world. Which is why creativity not only requires persistence and hard work on our part, it requires mindfulness.

It requires us to not only accept these dots mindlessly, but to consider them, allowing them to incubate and percolate in our mind, twisting and turning them about, and eventually allowing ourselves to connect and smash them together in new and interesting ways that initiate and engage new ideas and new ways of thinking.

In Michael Michalko’s article ‘Creative Thinking and Leondardo Da Vinci’ from Think Jar Collective, he shares that “one particular thinking strategy that stands out about creative genius, is the ability to make juxtapositions that elude…” Which he references as the “facility to connect the unconnected…to see relationships to which others are blind.” He continues that, “In order to get original ideas, you need a way to create new sets of patterns in your mind.” And to do this, to connect the unconnected requires us to remove ourselves from mindlessly accepting the information and stimuli that we are taking in, to be mindful, creative and imaginative in taking these dots and experimenting with them in order to create new and interesting connections. As leaders, we would be well to remember…

Creativity is not just in the inventing, it is in connecting. Connecting ideas in a way that people say, “Why didn’t I see that?”

As a creative leader, we must recognize that, just like creativity, everyone has their own set of dots they connect in their own original way, and some just have a tendency to connect them more uniquely than others. And we have to learn to embrace that uniqueness. To be careful not to disvalue or dismiss those connections away, as well as the thinking and ideas of others. If we are going to extract higher levels of creativity and innovation from our organizations, we are going to have to learn to curb the quickness of our critical voices. Or we will find that our creative and innovative voices will quiet themselves and slowly wither away.

To be more creative, to be more innovative, to uniquely engage the thinking, ideas and dots of those in our organization, we are going to have to spend more time engaging what Tom Kelley in the Ten Faces of Innovation refers to as the “the learning personas.” It is these three “learning personas” or “learning roles” that keep an organization from becoming complacent. Each of which are vital to a creative leader for remaining a learner and engaging that learner mindset within and throughout the organization.

Those three “learning personas” that Tom Kelley refers to are, “the anthropologist” “the experimenter” and “the cross-pollinator”. Let’s take a brief look at those three “personas” to better understand how they can serve us and our organizations for better creativity and innovation.

  • The Anthropologist – according to Tom Kelley the work of the anthropologist is to “bring new learning and insights into the organization by observing human behavior and developing a deep understanding of how people interact physically and emotionally…”
  • The Experimenter – whereas, the work of the experimenter is to “prototype new ideas continuously, learning by a process of enlightened trial and error. The experimenter takes calculated risks to achieve success through a state of “experimentation as implementation.”
  • The Cross-Pollinator – and finally, this persona is seen by Tom Kelley as necessary to “explore other industries and cultures, then to translate those findings and revelations to fit the unique needs of your enterprise.”

All of which will be required abilities necessary of today’s creative leader. To serve as a creative leader in today’s modern organizations will require not only connecting the unconnected and engaging the three learning personas but the realization that more empathy, better listening, greater levels of observation, and a mindfulness towards the amount of influx of information and stimuli that is overloading our mental systems daily will be needed.

Today’s creative leaders aren’t just looking for the next model to implement, they are looking for those creative and unique dots to connect together in ways that change how we think and do.

It is not enough to see the value in creativity and innovation, we have to determine how we will influence it within our organizations.

“Ineffective people live day after day with unused potential. They experience synergy only in small, peripheral ways in their lives. But creative experiences can be produced regularly, consistently, almost daily in people’s lives. It requires enormous personal security and openness and a spirit of adventure.”  -Stephen Covey taken from Keith Sawyer’s ‘Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity’


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