CEO’s Identify Creativity as Critical for Leadership

Various surveys report that CEO’s believe creativity is a top skill needed for year in, year out success. When IBM interviewed 1,541 CEO’s from 33 industries and 60 countries, the CEO’s identified creativity as the most important leadership quality.

“[M]ore than rigor, management discipline, integrity or even vision – successfully navigating an increasingly complex world will require creativity.”

Yet, companies neglect building this capacity in the workplace. Sure, many organizations plug innovation and creativity in their vision and mission or values. But they don’t invest in fostering them in their people and building them into the culture. It’s great to have a top-down vision of creativity and innovation, however that has to be complemented by bottom-up strategies and processes.

If you’re feeling that there’s a lack of creativity and innovation in your organization, you’re not alone. Despite increased investments in innovation, many executives still believe that innovation efforts are falling short and not delivering a competitive advantage.
To develop creativity in your workplace, a good place to start is to identify the barriers to creativity in your organization. I’ve outlined 3 common ones to get you started:

Barrier #1. A misunderstanding of the difference between creativity and innovation.

Creativity is the capacity to develop ideas to solve problems in distinctive ways and to identify and take advantage of opportunities.
Creativity is the foundation of innovation. You use creativity to come up with new ideas and put them into practice through the process of innovation.

Focusing on innovation when creativity isn’t in place is putting the cart before the horse. Rather than break-through ideas, you get something that looks more like the renovation of old ideas. That can certainly be useful, and sometimes prudent, but it’s not real innovation.

Barrier #2. Leaders and employees believe that creativity is something you’re born with – or not.

People mistakenly believe that creativity is something you either have or don’t have. It’s common to hear people say, ‘I’m not a creative person.’ Unfortunately, that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Yet, it’s simply not true. Creativity isn’t only the domain of artists and inventors. We’re all creative. We just have different styles, strengths and weaknesses.

Creativity is the capacity to develop ideas to solve problems in distinctive ways and to identify and take advantage of opportunities. Because it’s a capacity, we can develop it in individuals and organizations.

Barrier #3. Organizations don’t know how to nurture and develop creativity.

If you want real creativity, you have to make space for it. People won’t be creative when stressed or overwhelmed or when there’s pressure to keep the status quo. Those things will keep people firmly stuck in analytic mode where creativity has a hard time breaking through. Developing a creative mindset involves releasing restrictive thought patterns and allowing yourself to tap into inspiration and dream, imagine and feel.

We know that the ability to cultivate and nurture creative thinking is directly linked to sustaining competitive relevance in today’s complex world as playing fields change and industry boundaries blur.

Do you have the right conditions to foster creativity? The following questions will help you start a conversation with your team to enhance the creative mindset in your organization.

  • What are the biggest barriers to creativity in your organization?
  • What are your and your team’s strengths and weaknesses around creativity?
  • What are the gaps in your creative capacity?
  • What specific action steps are you taking to build creativity into your organizational culture?

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