The Creative Leader: Part 7

Most often, we don’t fear trying, even failing…what we do fear, is what others will think and what they will say…

Disruption…a word that has more recently become synonymous with the idea of innovation in our modern world.  Or as Clayton Christensen has termed it, “disruptive innovation” which, according to Christensen “describes a process by which a product or service takes root at the bottom of the market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.”  And while we have a tendency to attach this idea primarily to the business world…it can be applied in a variety of different sectors, as well as at the individual level, especially in regards to our leadership.  Applications that can lead to not only more creativity, but eventually increasing the possibility of increased innovation across a variety of organizations.

Yet, for the most part, when we think of disruption, we tend to think of products, markets and companies. What we don’t often recognize is that disruption begins at the individual level…it begins at and within us.

You might even say…

If we are ever going to disrupt our institutions and organizations, we first have to be able to disrupt our own thinking.

So while we have a tendency to think of disruption on a large level, we need to begin to scale it back down and view it from more of an individual basis. Which requires engaging, what I refer to as a ‘learner mindset’.

It is this same idea of the ‘learner mindset’ that Faisal Hoque and Drake Baer refer to in their book, ‘Everything Connects’, as the “beginner’s mind”.  Which they allude to as the “practice of approaching our experiences empty of assumptions.” Or as Ed Catmull shares in ‘Creativity, Inc.’ as having a “not know mind”. Which he sees as “a goal of creative people.  It means you are open to the new, just as children are.”

And whether we want to consider it a ‘learner mindset’, a “beginner’s mind”, or a “not know mind” the overall goal is openness.  Openness to new ideas, new ways of thinking, new ways of doing…which requires an openness to disrupting your current way of doing and operating…as an individual or as an organization.

But as Catmull shares in ‘Creativity, Inc.’, as we grow and become more successful as leaders and organizations, we have a tendency to cast off that beginner mentality.  “They don’t want to be beginners anymore.” And it is this attitude, this resistance, that tends to cast our leadership and our organizations into status quo.  Or as Catmull adds, “By resisting the beginner’s mind, you make yourself more prone to repeat yourself than to create something new.  The attempt to avoid failure, in other words, makes failure more likely.”

As leaders and as organizations, the ability to take on a ‘learner mindset’ and allow yourself to be disrupted is the very pathway to the ideas and thinking that will allow your leadership and your organization to remain fresh and relevant.  It is this idea of disruption that allows for the openness to stay in front and out of the iron grip of stasis and status quo.  As well as open the pathway towards greater creativity and innovation, as individuals, as leaders, and as organizations.

“We have to assume that everything we think is right today will be wrong tomorrow.” -Faisal Hoque and Drake Baer ‘Everything Connects’

References and quotes from…

Catmull, Ed. Creativity, Inc. Overcoming The Unseen Forces That Stand In The Way Of True Inspiration. 2014. Random House, New York.

Hoque, Faisal. Baer, Drake. Everything Connects. 2014. Mc Graw Hill Education, New York.

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