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How to be a more creative leader
Even if we don’t feel it’s our natural talent, we all need to be creative.
As the modern version of the old saying goes: ‘Nothing fails like success’, so if we keep on doing what has worked before, without taking account of advances in technology and changes in customer expectations (among other important variables), we risk being at the mercy of forces we can’t control.
The trouble is that much of good leadership is about continuity, and creativity often requires disruptive behaviour, so here are some ways to get beyond status quo thinking.
• Location, location, location
Where you and your team develop creative ideas is important. Just as it’s impossible to solve a problem using the same logic that got you into it in the first place, sitting in the same meeting room in which you conduct daily business is unlikely to prove conducive to an innovative breakthrough.
While a five-star country house hotel is not a prerequisite, somewhere outside the office that is bright, comfortable and spacious will lend perspective and help participants recognise that this is important work they’re engaged in, with rather different requirements from normal.
• Think wide
Good ideas can come from unexpected places and people, and properly devised brainstorming can provide the stimulus. Ways of engaging the right brain include drawing pictures of the past realities and future possibilities, choosing photographs or postcards that by analogy have something relevant to say about your current challenges.
Get your team to nominate organisations they admire outside your sector and explore which elements of their philosophy and practice your enterprise could emulate for greater success. After all, as Picasso said: ‘Creativity is theft’.
Recognise that the creative process is messy and be tolerant of apparently wild ideas – there may be value hidden within them. Leave time to filter out the nuggets that deserve further exploration.
• Drill down
Creative enlightenment can also come from getting to the heart of what you do. One approach is to answer the ‘Five Whys’, progressive questions designed to reveal the deeper purpose of the organisation, product or service (and it’s not just about making money for shareholders).
Once that’s revealed, you can evaluate dispassionately how, when and where you operate, to check your delivery fits this deeper purpose. Where it doesn’t, there’s a need for innovation.
Being creative on demand isn’t easy, which is why commercial creatives are paid over the odds, but it is something we can all do if we go about it in the right way.