Leadership for Creative Thinking

21 December 2011

Companies in the UAE struggle to quickly train new entrants, get them productive and may give up on them before the end of the ubiquitous probationary period. One skill high on the most desirable attribute list both for new and current employees is  ‘creativity’. It is especially difficult to source and inspire creativity to fuel innovation- considered fundamental to business success in today’s competitive marketplace. However, what exactly are the leadership of companies doing to create a culture of learning, an essential stimulus for this rare ingredient of business sustainability?

There is a world of difference between critical thinking and creative thinking. Critical thinking is analytical, focused, convergent, reasoning and objective, involving left brain thought .Creative thinking on the other hand is generative, divergent, novel, subjective and decidedly more right brain. Creative people think “yes and….” rather than “yes but”.

There are various ways to encourage evolution, synthesis, revolution, reapplication of ideas and creative insight but first the barriers to creativity blockers need to be removed. Common barriers include:-

  • Problem denial. This wastes an opportunity to aggressively tackle them and rise to the challenge
  • Too difficult. Well the sceptical might have said that about space flight and snow domes in Dubai. Difficult takes longer, that’s all
  • I am not qualified! Neither were half of history’s great inventors, join the club! In sometimes takes someone from the outside looking in to solve a problem.
  • I am not creative! Oh yes you are, think back to all the creative uses you had for Lego!
  • I have to conform and appear rational. It makes me uncomfortable to let go, people will think my ideas ridiculous. You may recall Andrew Goodman laughed off Dragon’s Den for inventing a “StableTable” Device. Making millions now though.
  • Making judgements based on assumptions
  • Overanalysing.. bound to kill the creative juices
Stable Table
"The biggest advice I’d give anyone is to think of it like being at school when you’re given an item and asked to think about how many different ways you can use it. " Andrew Gordon

Leaders are vital to the creation of a corporate culture which values new ideas and should actively encourage sharing and discussion of ideas. It is not just your own work colleagues who can see new approaches to problems or open up new markets, there is a role for customers using your product. In the current social media climate, they are open to commenting and suggest really interesting changes or placements.  Creativity can be instantly stifled in bureaucratic workplaces where top down leaders quash ideas too quickly as unworkable. They should, if they expect innovation and market leadership try to find the good in each idea, let them incubate, build on them, work with them and then implement them. Don’t forget though that Vijay Govindarajan said , “innovation is creativity multiplied by execution”, so all these ideas  now need to become workable business models.

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