Business may thrive on innovation, but there is also some research on the perception that leaders should not be “too” creative.
Entrepreneur and coach Katie Freiling declares, “Your business is your art… And you are the artist, the creator. Everything you do as an entrepreneur, whether it’s writing, speaking, coming up with innovative ideas, etc… is sourced from your creativity.”
From post (with video) A Powerful Strategy To Unleash Your Creative Genius.
In his article How to Inspire Creativity in Your Business (Success Magazine, republished by Rembor & Partners), creative thinking author and consultant Michael Gelb comments, “Thomas Edison is the best example for those who wish to nurture the spirit of innovation in an organization.
“More than the light bulb, phonograph and motion picture camera, Edison’s greatest invention was the process of systematic innovation.
“He created the world’s first research and development laboratory and was the first to link R & D with production, manufacturing, marketing and sales.”
He continues, “In our book Innovate Like Edison: The Five-Step System for Breakthrough Business Success, Sarah Miller Caldicott (Thomas Edison’s great-grandniece) and I introduce five basic competencies for innovating like America’s greatest inventive genius. These competencies represent a blueprint for cultivating a spirit and culture of innovation.”
He notes the first three “focus on the attitudes and skills necessary for individual innovation literacy…the last two focus on how to create an innovative culture.”
1. Solution-Centered Mindset—Align your goals and passions. Commit to continuous learning, persistent experimentation and optimism in the face of adversity. Balance your optimism for the future with disciplined, rigorous objectivity regarding the issues you confront on a daily basis.
2. Kaleidoscopic Thinking—Like Edison, keep a notebook to record your creative ideas. Practice generating lots of ideas and then look for patterns and connections. Cultivate the ability to think visually by practicing mind-mapping.
3. Full-Spectrum Engagement—Optimize your energy by balancing apparent opposites like seriousness and play, intensity and relaxation, solitude and team. For example, if you take a 10-minute relaxation break every 60-90 minutes through the course of your day, you will remember better, work smarter and increase your chances of a breakthrough idea.
4. Mastermind Collaboration—Recruit and hire for chemistry and results, rather than résumé. Create a multidisciplinary team, encourage an environment of open-exchange, and reward collaboration.
5. Super-Value Creation—Create new, sustainable customer value by tuning in to your target audience. Seek to identify gaps in the marketplace and encourage your team to think creatively about how to bridge those gaps. Focus on building an unforgettable market-moving brand.
[Photo of Edison (from the Apple ‘Think Different’ ad campaign) from my article The pluses and not so pluses of hypomania.]
In his online course How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci, Michael Gelb provides a “series of practical exercises” related to these Da Vinci principles:
• Curiosità – An insatiable quest for knowledge and continuous improvement
• Dimostrazione – Learning from experience
• Sensazione – Sharpening the senses
• Sfumato – Managing ambiguity and change
• Arte/Scienza – Whole-brain thinking
• Corporalità – Body-mind fitness
• Connessione – Systems thinking
Also see his book How to think like Leonardo da Vinci.
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But there are some “dark sides” to Edison – this “greatest inventive genius.” The Wikipedia page for Thomas Edison notes the day after he died (1931), the New York Times quoted Nikola Tesla as saying about Edison:
“He had no hobby, cared for no sort of amusement of any kind and lived in utter disregard of the most elementary rules of hygiene. […] His method was inefficient in the extreme, for an immense ground had to be covered to get anything at all unless blind chance intervened and, at first, I was almost a sorry witness of his doings, knowing that just a little theory and calculation would have saved him 90% of the labour.
“But he had a veritable contempt for book learning and mathematical knowledge, trusting himself entirely to his inventor’s instinct and practical American sense.”
The page adds that one of Edison’s famous quotations regarding his attempts to make the light bulb suggest that perhaps Tesla was right about Edison’s methods: “If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”
[Photograph of Edison with his phonograph, taken by Mathew Brady in 1877.]
Is creativity always a desirable trait?
Creativity and innovation consultant Linda Naiman comments in her post Is Creativity a Bad Trait for a Senior Leader? that “Supporters of the status quo — not the creative types — are seen as more effective.”
She explains, “A recent study warns leaders not to be too creative. Unless you have plenty of charisma to complement your creativity, thinking outside the box could keep you out of top management. Companies say they want fresh ideas from their leaders, and most researchers concentrate on the positive impact made by creative bosses.”
She notes this study looks at how stereotypes about “creative types” and “effective leaders” clash, “leading people to believe that their innovative colleagues aren’t cut out for the top spots.
“Psychologists have established that to most people, the prototypical leader reduces uncertainty and promotes stability, emphasizing shared goals and group identity to preserve the status quo. The stereotypes of creative people are at odds with that definition; the very act of advocating unproven solutions can be seen as rocking the boat.”
Linda Naiman is co-author of Orchestrating Collaboration at Work: Using Music, Improv, Storytelling, and Other Arts to Improve Teamwork.
Are your creative ideas welcomed in your business?