Creative intelligence = "the ability to go beyond the given to generate novel and interesting ideas" (Robert Sternberg)Innovation has become the key to ongoing business success. Career-wise we are regularly reminded of the need to recreate ourselves several times over the span of our working lives.
In our personal lives yesterday's solutions fail to fit our complex, high- pressure, high-expectation, fast-changing world. Instead we are challenged to design our own customized answers to how we live our lives. No wonder, then, that creativity has become such a highly valued attribute.
Indeed, if we are interested in increasing our effectiveness and building our capacity for success, then developing our creative capacity is a high leverage activity. Below are six basic, yet effective, strategies that I use in my work with coaching clients to help them bring more creativity to how they live and work.
- Acknowledge and recognize your own creativity. Using creativity more effectively starts with the belief that you are inherently creative. If you doubt your own creativity, then intentionally notice where you currently exhibit creativity in your life. You may be surprised to notice where and how you are creative. Even seemingly mundane activities such as cooking, gardening, or making lifestyle choices can provide you with evidence that you do have novel and interesting ideas. More important, by paying attention to your creativity you will also discover how acting upon these ideas adds value for you. Gradually you build the foundation for bringing more creativity to your work and life.
- Nurture your imagination. Einstein said that 'Imagination is more important than knowledge.' Practice your imagination muscles by making time to fantasize, to create new possibilities. When faced with a specific challenge, devote time to brainstorming ideas. Deliberately make space for the outrageous and way-out when considering options and possible solutions. Nurturing your imagination - giving it room to play - is essential if you want to live creatively.
- Cultivate curiosity, avoid judgment. A habitual negative judgment towards new ideas and suggestions is an effective way to close off new explorations. It keeps you firmly in the box of your existing expertise and prejudices. Curiosity, on the other hand, opens the door to new explorations and holds the possibility of new discoveries. Maintain an open, curious attitude towards new ideas and suggestions that come up - both your own and those of others.
- Strive for independence. Just as creativity requires letting go of your own judgment, you also need to be willing to let go of others' judgment. To the extent that you shape your actions and thoughts to meet with others' approval, you may miss out on the opportunity to explore creative new ideas and possibilities. This is quite a price to pay. If you find that you have a pattern of holding back on creative solutions for fear of others' disapproval, it helps to start experimenting in one or two small, safe areas.
- Take creative risks. Playing it safe is tempting, because it reduces the chances for spectacular failures. If we don't risk such failure, we also eliminate the chance for coming up with new possibilities. When we fail in the process of stretching into our creativity, we know we are learning and growing. And painful though the failure might be, know that stepping out also holds the possibility of you realizing more of your unique, valuable potential.
- Make creativity a normal part of your life. In the words of John Chaffee, creativity "is not an add-on, something extra that you have to find time for in your busy life. Instead, creativity is a better, richer, more productive approach to doing what you are already doing."
Copyright Melinda Sinclair 1999-2011
Please visit MelindaSinclair.com for blog posts, articles and other resources about executive coaching, leadership development, and the power of creativity.
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