As the appalling consequences of Covid-19 have emerged, so have hundreds of examples of compassion and creativity. They’ve come from all directions. Engineering companies pooling their resources to produce ventilators. Fashion businesses redeploying their factories to stitch scrubs and gowns. Manufacturing businesses turning out masks, face shields and hand sanitiser. And they’ve been joined by solo inventors, designers, makers, theatre wardrobe teams, families and volunteers of all ages.
People who contribute by helping others are rethinking their approach. Many who felt that direct contact was central to their work are reaching out through technology, sharing their teaching, advice, support, coaching and mentoring as widely as possible.
And, of course, individuals everywhere are giving their time, effort and ideas to raise funds and plug gaps. From Captain Tom’s 100th Birthday Walk to the many youngsters on their sewing machines and 3D printers, there are so many examples of creativity and resourcefulness to appreciate and celebrate.
What is creativity?
Necessity is the mother of invention, and the catalyst for this heartfelt response is need. Creativity is not a rare skill that some have and others don’t. This innate, human quality is ignited by our readiness to notice and respond to the problems we see around us. We reveal it in different ways: some by looking at things afresh, some by generating imaginative ideas, some by turning new ideas into reality. The greater the need, and the more we open our minds in response, the easier it is to tap into our creativity.
The practical acts of resourcefulness we are witnessing demonstrate different levels of creative thinking. The redeployment of skill or equipment. Learning to pivot or change tack. The honest review of a strategy or objective. Even a fundamental rethink and renewal of purpose. All of these require us to have trust in ourselves as creative thinkers.
So what can we do to build this trust? And to release and then harness our creativity?
If you’re human, you’re creative
The expression of our creativity sits in tension with competition. When competition or scarcity cause need, our creativity comes to the fore. But when our contributions are pitched against each other, the fear of failure can stifle our thinking. This crisis is revealing the limiting and even dangerous consequences of competition. The problems and needs that we face require the best of our generosity and collaboration.
What have we learned from the examples of creative collaboration around us? How can we continue to inspire creativity in ourselves, and our teams and organisations? What does this require of us as leaders?
I find that the leaders I work with respond more rapidly and creatively to questions than to suggestions. Here are a few of my favourites that have special potency right now:
To reframe the problem: If it were entirely up to you, how would you improve the situation?
To lose the fear of failure: What do you need to do today to encourage yourself?
To release creative potential: What are you assuming that is holding you back?
To inspire leadership: What have you learned about yourself as a leader?
To bring about change: What have you learned that you want to share and build into your culture?
The paradox of crisis
We find ourselves at the centre of an immense paradox right now. A time of unimaginable disruption and need. And a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for reflection and change. By responding to the problems we see around us, confronting our assumptions, and trusting our innate resourcefulness, we can meet this crisis with creativity.
Thanks for reading!
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Photo by: Georg Eiermann on Unsplash