Being more creative is never easy. It is a constant challenge to keep coming up with great ideas which is why creativity scores high as a skill among great leaders. A study by IBM in 2010 of global leaders across 60 countries and 33 industries revealed that creativity outweighs global thinking as a leadership quality. In fact, creativity has become more important because of the uncertain and volatile nature of business today. It is the innovative solutions propelled by creativity that push leaders to be successful in their respective fields.

Understanding creativity

What makes one person creative and another not? In 2014, prominent scientists and doctors studied the link between creativity and the brain in a major study cosponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico. They concluded that if research on creativity and the brain is explored further, the potential for immense growth in education, health, and productivity would be better nurtured leading to amazing “Aha” moments.

Another study by the University of Haifa in Israel, a creative concept is only creative if it can be implemented otherwise, it’s a dream. They add that during a creative process, different parts of the brain are activated based on the results of an FMRI device that scanned the brains of participants asked to answer a few questions. Those who came up with original ideas registered high brain activity in the associative region of the brain or the area commonly used when we are daydreaming and the administrative region of the brain which made it possible for the idea to be reasonable and applicable. Thus, there is a magical synthesis that happens: the brain is both divergent and convergent at the same time or the brain can think strategically and creatively at the same time.

Can anyone spark creativity?

Yes! Anyone, you, can spark creativity and reinvent the way you think, solve problems, and engage with others. You can also learn how to stimulate others and create an environment that will encourage others to be creative as well.

Here are a few mental exercises you can explore to ignite creativity:

  1. Move away from the traditional brainstorming type meetings and instead, present the issue / challenge you want to change or innovate in the form of a question. The brain seems to work best in the presence of a question and creative thinking can begin. Work in pairs to generate quality thinking and then present back to the group via a round, providing the opportunity for everyone to speak, uninterrupted sharing their fresh thoughts and ideas coming from the thinking they began in working the pair.
  2. Create an environment of ease. Be free from internal rush and urgency and focus on the issue in hand. Listen to each other without interruption and that in itself will enable the mind to relax and blood flow more quickly in the brain creating new thoughts and ideas.
  3. Take a walk. Changing your environment can stimulate fresh thinking. Often I find new thoughts emerging when I am outside walking our dog!
  4. Provide space and time for creative thinking. Don’t watch over your employees back, in stead allow them time and space to create.
  5. Read books, watch movies, listen to music and make sure to venture beyond the usual genre that you are accustomed to.

How to be a creative and effective leader

There are a few traits you can adopt right now for yourself and for the people you are leading to create the kind of environment that promotes innovative solutions and ideas.

  1. Listen to your intuition. Instinct is a powerful tool to develop. It is the ability to understand or know something without conscious reasoning. Once you learn to listen to your hunch, you become better at it. A word of caution: listen but do not act on it immediately. Think about it and assess its value before acting on it. The task right now is simple to listen to your intuition.
  2. Never forget your values and convictions. Creativity without borders is dangerous and can be offensive. Your values and convictions will help keep your creativity grounded and stable. It will also allow you to remain true to who you are and what you feel is most important.
  3. Step outside yourself and your world. There are legitimate reasons why companies have team building weekends and meetings outside the office. It’s to help get a fresh perspective but you don’t have to wait for this annual or monthly events; you can disrupt your daily routine by getting your coffee from a different restaurant or taking a different route to work. You can also enroll in special classes like yoga, art, music, dancing, or take tours to museums and galleries during your lunch break. There are many small ways you can change your routine but at all times, make sure to observe your surroundings and envelope yourself around the new situation. Do not rush through it as if it were a chore.

In addition, don’t think that you have to take big chances to be creative as a leader. Mini steps are fine if that is what you are comfortable with. And be ready to keep going even after you make mistakes because the mistakes will happen and your effectiveness as a leader will depend on how you react and what you do after making mistakes in being creative.

The core strengths of a creative leader

In order to assess your leadership qualities as far as being more creative, you can look at the 5 core strengths of a creative leader:

  • One who acts with purpose and passion
  • One who is willing to think out-of-the-box
  • One who can handle creative people
  • One who can instigate, encourage, and drive change
  • And one who has a vision.

What more can you do to unleash your creative self?