What individuals and organizations need for speedier and greater creativity is skills, processes, tools and a common language to speed up creative work.

Who’s got time to be creative?

Gone are the days when a company could assign creative work to a select group, in the marketing or R&D departments, and wait for something big to happen. Organizations today face complex challenges like global competition and technological advancement daily and must enlist everyone in their organization to seek creativity, to find and solve problems and to capitalize on new trends and opportunities. Managers working in functional silos can no longer solve important corporate problems alone. A more complex world calls for the combined expertise of multiple functions to solve problems.

Lack of Problem Finding and Problem Solving

At all levels, individuals, teams and organizations suffer from a number of common short-comings in finding and solving problems and people within these levels are prone to the following:

  • When considering new ideas, they are often prematurely critical and shut down the flow of productive thinking.
  • They hope, above all, to be perceived as practical and economical and they allow judgment to enter into play too quickly.
  • Rather than build upon promising but imperfect ideas, they discard them.
  • Taught to be logical, they assume that every problem has only one right answer.
  • They test new ideas mentally, in the abstract, rather than trying them out and welcoming the opportunity to learn and perhaps uncover unexpected outcomes and opportunities.
  • Attempting to equate new and old experiences, they search for what is similar and use available solutions rather than what is unique or new in a new problem.
  • Decisions are directed toward a single goal, even though most problems involve multiple goals that must be addressed at the same time.
  • People tend to wait for others to find problems for them to solve rather than take the initiative to seek out or anticipate problems, changes, trends and opportunities.
creative in less time

Few assignments come precisely defined and it is this condition that provokes frustration and anxiety as they try to adjust to continual and accelerating change.

How to navigate uncharted territory?  How to know what to do?

It’s challenging enough to encourage people to think in innovative ways on their own, it’s even more difficult to encourage people to think creatively together as a team or group. People understand things in different ways: some gain understanding through experience, others in the abstract or through theory. Lacking awareness of these differences in their cognitive styles, most people lack the necessary tools or skills to discuss what and how they are thinking.

The creative process is a cognitive process, one that requires people to think well together in new ways and one that requires a leader to synchronize the thinking of everyone in the group. Leaders need defined skills and tools to implement the process and help people think creatively together. To be effective, leaders must learn and recognize distinctly different cognitive styles within the creative process and convey to team members the complementary nature of these styles.

Adaptable Organization

People must learn to think differently and leaders must lead them to think in new ways. Leaders can also help others to:

  1. Execute basic creative thinking skills to overcome shortcomings in solving recognized problems.
  2. Follow a synchronized process for innovative thinking (that goes beyond solving obvious problems) to find and define new problems and to solve and implement those new solutions.
  3. Follow this process with other individuals or within groups or teams.

Additional shortcomings include a lack of basic creative thinking skills, such as the inability to defer judgment or to keep an open mind or to think divergently. These inadequacies have been documented by many researchers, notably Elbing, 1978, and Basadur, 1994.

Methods to overcome shortcomings in solving identified problems have also been documented by Basadur, Graen and Green (1982) which showed that training made people more open-minded to new ideas and approaches, more open to new and unusual product ideas and more likely to defer critical judgment. They spent less time in negative evaluation during idea generation and were more open to trying new, unusual approaches to problem solving.

creativity in less time

Think Innovatively Together

Creative leadership means leading people through a common process or method of finding and defining problems, solving them, and implementing the new solutions. This process requires a common language that enables everyone to quickly understand which stage of the creative process they are in at any given moment. Recognizing that people favor various stages of this creative process, leaders need skills in managing individuals and teams in a fluid but orderly fashion through the creative process.

Effective leaders must learn and recognize distinctly different cognitive styles within the creative process and convey to team members the complementary nature of these styles. Mastery of this process provides a blueprint for innovation leadership that gets results. In short, we all need a process formula to guide us and skills and tools to make the formula work – effectively, becoming more creative in less time.



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