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Creative Leadership

This will be the introductory section for this page. Draw upon previous writing about Creative Leadership to set up my personal philosophy and why this is so important for leaders and organizations. Don't forget to mention that we work with a company's organizational development and/or human resources departments to utilize their tools and resources. This allows for better communication, support and tracking.

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The equation suggests that to foster a creative culture, it is important to become conscious of four dynamic variables that are present within an organization:

Creativity: The fuel for innovation is ample creativity and ideas.  An organization needs to promote fresh thinking and be cognizant of behaviors that quickly shut down creative engagement.

Logic: The nemesis of creativity is logic.  Logic takes the form of analytical thinking, data examination and organizational processes – anything rationally based.  Logic is important, but the key is to refrain from bombarding ideas with too much of it too early on in the process.

Belief: A firm’s vision, along with the executive team’s commitment to championing it across the enterprise, is a key driver of belief.  Great vision statements also inform the innovation agenda, so those charged with developing future businesses understand what it is they are trying to build.  Belief is an exponential variable in the equation because its presence tends to catalyze creativity and overall engagement.

Doubt: When individuals doubt an idea, they will use logic to build a case as to why the idea is not worthy.  In addition, doubters tend to abuse the role of “Devil’s Advocate” by exaggerating worst-case scenarios that eventually create enough doubt to halt the idea.  Doubt is an exponential variable as it commands great potential to diminish creativity and engagement.

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Seven C's Intro Copy...

1. Communication

An effective Creative Leader must be a strong communicator. If you think about it, the innovation journey should begin with visionary communication that focuses employees on deliverables and inspires them to think proactively about new solutions. There are three important components of communication Creative Leaders should address: Vision, Feedback and Informal Engagement.

2. Curiosity

Curiosity has the ability to trickle down the organization — meaning, if senior leaders demonstrate inquisitiveness and ask “Why?” often enough, employees will start to dig deeper themselves in anticipation of questioning. Creative Leaders are naturally curious and willing to search for deeper understanding before making a judgement call. In addition, curiosity and “Why?” questioning are effective antidotes to the roadblocks put up by those who favor the status quo.

3. Creativity

While Creative Leaders may enjoy the act of being creative, they understand it is not their job to come up with all the ideas. According to Warren Bennis, “There are two ways of being creative. One can sing and dance. Or one can create an environment in which singers and dancers can flourish.” The Creative Leader understands their job is to create the conditions for their innovation teams to flourish. They’ll spend much effort to create a culture of creativity by demonstrating the good habits they want to see in others. A big component of the latter is respecting the creative process which, unlike most corporate processes, isn’t so predictable.

4. Connecting

The odds of developing novel ideas increase when creative minds are connected together. This is a core task of the Creative Leader and is critical to helping build and shape ideas. It also gets diverse groups collaborating and breaks down organizational silos. The concept of connecting is applied both internally (connecting organizational resources or skills) and externally (connecting teams to thought-leaders or experts in other industries). Many stories of the inventive lone genius are myths — most breakthrough innovations happen as a result of collaboration and borrowing existing technologies from outside industries.

5. Culture

Creative Leaders have their finger on the pulse of their organization’s culture. They realize that innovation and new ideas can pose a threat to their culture. Cultural changes are never easy and virtually impossible to achieve as a lone individual. Influencing culture, therefore, requires a level of pragmatism and emotional intelligence to navigate successfully.

 

Edgar Schein describes organizational culture as being shaped by the prior behaviors and decisions of leaders. If we hold that to be true, then Creative Leaders can best influence culture by demonstrating the ideal behaviors they want to see when it comes to creativity and innovation. For example, when leaders start receiving ideas in a more considerate manner, their culture will evolve because employees will begin to abide by and pass along the new behaviors to others.  Be forewarned, discipline and consistency are key as employees will interpret any regression to old behaviors as, “See, nothing’s changed!”

6. Change Management

All innovation involves change of some degree. Whether it’s a radical innovation that renders an existing line of business irrelevant or an incremental product innovation that alters a manufacturing process, Creative Leaders are conscious of the impact their ideas will have on the broader organization. This awareness helps to sell ideas as they can address potential resistance before skeptics convince key decision makers that “it can’t be done.” In addition, their deeper understanding allows them to offer solutions and pathways to feasibility that can allay potential concerns.

 

Academic literature on change management offers an abundance of interesting models to consider when addressing the change associated with innovation. For example, John Kotter’s 8-Steps for change management provides a relevant framework as many of the steps require shared creative leadership abilities such as communication, visioning and persistence.

7. Courage

Courage may be the attribute that separates the good from the great. Creativity and innovation always involve some level of risk because novel ideas are unique and difficult to quantify in their infancy. While this perspective of creative courage is well-known, there is another aspect that is particularly important for successful Creative Leaders: they have the courage to protect ideas over themselves.

 

An idea has no voice. It is simply a mental concept manifested by the imagination of an individual or team. Most ideas are not born fully-formed and thus can look brilliant to some and absurd to others. Seasoned Creative Leaders seem to develop a sixth sense that helps them discern which ideas have potential so that they can incubate them long enough to determine their value. Sometimes, this means sticking their neck out and fighting for extra time, or pushing back and refusing to move up milestones.

 

The Creative Leader knows that if they don’t demonstrate their passion for an idea, or worse, they cave too quickly in front of senior management, they’ll lose their credibility. Yes, it takes courage to stand up for what you believe, especially when you feel like a salmon swimming against the current. But, it’s much easier to defend your position when you’re standing on solid strategic ground. So when picking your battles, defend the ideas that have a strong strategic case with direct linkage to key corporate objectives. Avoid those that feel like you’re only making an emotional plea.

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