Realizing that each of us has the ability to be creative is difficult on our best days. I've heard many say, and I've even said it myself, "I'm just not a creative person." However, I've learned that each of us is creative in our own way. For example, based on your personality profile and talents, you have the ability to be creative within certain boundaries. The problem is that we create walls that block creativity. As a leader of organizations, I've seen the blocks to creativity, most having no base in reality. We view it as something that other people have a natural tendency for and that
is beyond our capability. But, when you realize that you already possess everything you need, the reality of creativity becomes much clearer.
A good example is taken from the Bible. In the 14th chapter of Exodus, Moses had led the children of Israel out of Egypt. Pharoah, at the urging of his leaders, pursued the children of Israel with the intention of killing them. As Moses stood on the bank of the Red Sea he saw the open waters before him and Pharoah, along with his army, pursuing. Hearing the noise of adversity from his own people, he was at decision-making crossroad and had no idea what to do. Then in verse 15, God
asked Moses why he was crying out to Him. He reminded Moses of the vision - tell the people to go forward, and then told Moses to lift up the rod that was in his hand. In other words, Moses had everything he needed to solve the dilemma. The problem was that he let the situation control his thinking. Moses stretched out the rod and the rest of the story is told.
Too often leaders look for some magical solution or call a meeting in search of creative solutions to problems. Although these are often helpful, you have everything you need to be creative. It wasn't until I read this story in Exodus that I realized that my problem was a failure to exercise what I already had been given. As a leader, one of your responsibilities is to grow other leaders. Helping them re
alize their potential for creativity produces problem-solving initiatives and brings out talents and strengths that many may not even realize they possess. One of the paths to creating a culture of creativity is removing the blocks that hampers the beliefs, norms, and values that urge your people to think outside of the box.
Four Blocks to Creativity:
#1: We've Always Done it This Way
We are creatures of habit. However, understanding the power of habit is critical to feeding creativity. I had a rule, "when I ask a question as to why we are doing something this way, never tell me because we've always done it this way". Habits are difficult to break but creating a culture of creativity helps individuals recognize the power of habit and it's OK to question paradigms and perceptions of why they believe and act a certain way. You can't feed creativity without breaking habits.
#2: Why Can't We Leave Well Enough Alone:
In general, people hate change, which is structured from habit. However, fear of change hampers growth. Change creates conflict and nothing grows without conflict. The fear of the unknown creates anxiety in the workplace. However, creating a culture of change as a necessity for growth and adaptation to the changing external environment helps alleviate the anxiety of moving from the familiar to the unfamiliar. Think of the problems that would occur if leaders, managers, and employees at companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft were not comfortable with change.
#3: That Wouldn't Work Here:
It's easy to fall into the trap that you have cornered the market on an idea, tradition, or method. However, when it comes to leading, there is no problem that is unique to you. Yet, we are prejudiced about our ideas and routines. As long as you hang on to your traditions and artifacts of thinking and behavior, you can't unleash the creativity inside of you. Creating a culture of brainstorming and radical thinking helps individuals realize that no idea is too crazy and unworthy of discussion. The mentality of dismissing an idea only on the basis of it wouldn't work in your organization, goes along with #1, a culture of habit.
#4: Don't Rock the Boat:
Albert Einstein stated, "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten." We've all heard the phrase, if it's not broke, don't fix it. However, moving forward demands a continual analysis of your talents, strengths, and value to your organization and yourself. While looking at what you're doing and being content with it working, consider how things may improve if you shook up the cultural artifacts and thinking patterns. In his book, Leading Change, John Kotter, former professor at Harvard University, provided the first step in his eight step process as Creating a Sense of Urgency. This cognitive process helps individuals recognize that what they are currently doing needs to be changed because they can't survive without doing so. As a leader, it becomes your responsibility to create this type of culture. Success is realized through intertia and creativity helps feed it.
No one likes change. We all want to be creative. Unfortunately, many want creativity within the confines of being comfortable. Stepping out of your comfort zone creates the atmosphere to allow you to recognize and implement your creativity. It's already there. Your job is to evaluate and bring it forward. Don't allow Habit, Fear, Prejudice, and lack of Inertia become blocks to your creativity.