Discussions of creativity in a business context often include reference to the IBM 2010 Global CEO study. This research involved face-to-face conversations with over 1500 chief executive officers worldwide, 60% of whom agreed that creativity is the most important leadership quality over the next five years. David Rankin, CEO of Auckland City Council is cited in the report, “Creativity means new ways of solving tough problems. Many challenges require innovative thinking.” Though many leaders acknowledge with certainty what value creative thinking can bring to innovation efforts, they are often uncertain about how to foster a culture of creativity within their organizations. The good news is that creative thinking is a teachable skill and there are many lessons to be learned about how to successfully bring creative training and leadership into corporations.
Creativity is the Key Skill for the 21st Century [The Creativity Post] – Referencing the recent deluge of studies promoting creativity as a vital component for both individuals and organizations, this author shares seven emergent themes. Making creativity the top strategic priority not only improves employee and team performance, it is great for the bottom line and essential for economic growth. Creative leadership is, again, cited as an essential ingredient for navigating complexity and responding to rapid change.
Leaders will need to be creative (solve problems in new and useful ways) to stay abreast of rapid change. Further, they will need to orchestrate and encourage creativity across all the levels for which creativity is important. They will need to identify and develop creativity in individuals, build and nurture creativity in teams and set the culture and align processes to promulgate creativity throughout the whole organisation.
Memo to CEOs: Stop Blathering About Innovation and Do Something [BusinessWeek] – Based upon a survey of 87 U.S. product and service companies, the author suggests that the CEO must also be the innovation leader. This articles describes other useful findings including the importance of an innovation strategy and embracing risk though none are as important (or even possible) without someone with the knowledge and ability to champion creative thinking. It is essential that top leadership both understand and participate in innovation efforts. Though creativity training is invaluable for the employees of any organization, it should also be a required course for the CEOs who lead them.
I have come to realize how much time is wasted teaching managers about the practical skills of innovation. It is the chief executive officer that needs the lesson. Everything else that is central to reaping the fruits of innovation emerges from this simple observation… It is a truth that is masked in rhetoric.
Can Creativity Be Taught? [Forbes] – For nearly two decades Louis R. Mobley was responsible for training every CEO and executive at IBM. This article presents six key insights from Mobley that served as the foundation of the IBM Executive School. In addition to understanding the nature of adult learning, Mobley clearly grasped the importance of context and culture in developing creative leaders. He emphasized the importance of hanging out with creative people which is, of course, easier to do when your colleagues are privy to the same transformational learning that creativity training can provide. Mobley also emphasized the importance of permission to fail, a belief that is best nurtured by leaders who have the humbling experience necessary to celebrate lessons learned when things go wrong.
Mobley’s second discovery is that becoming creative is an unlearning rather than a learning process. The goal of the IBM Executive School was not to add more assumptions but to upend existing assumptions. Designed as a “mind blowing experience,” IBM executives were pummeled out of their comfort zone often in embarrassing, frustrating, even infuriating ways. Providing a humbling experience for hot shot executives with egos to match had its risks, but Mobley ran those risks to get that “Wow, I never thought of it that way before!” reaction that is the birth pang of creativity.