1. Have modest intelligence
In summarizing the personal characteristics of creative leaders, much of the research into creativity would say that they must be intelligent. The paradox is that they generally are not TOO intelligent. Excessive intelligence cripples creativity by imposing an examination of self and ideas that is too strict, too ‘logical’, a little like Dr Spock in ‘Star Trek’! For now, research says yes, you need some intelligence to be creative, but after a certain threshold, creativity and intelligence are no longer related. And we are not talking about geniuses. Geniuses are unique because they use both their intelligent minds and creative thinking to unlock the secret of the problems that they encounter. Geniuses like Einstein, da Vinci, Edison and Aristotle shared a set of strategies that very few people use. They had a common pattern of thinking.
2. Are well informed
A profound knowledge of a problem area is needed in order to understand the limits of current dogma and to identify those areas where creative thought will be most fruitful. However, too much knowledge impedes the creative process, producing that thinking-process disease known as “hardening of the categories.” This becomes a special problem when the knowledge is focused in a small specialty area because the breadth of alternative information that could be used in creative synthesis is missing.
3. Are original thinkers
It is true to say that new (original) ideas often stem from other ideas, new solutions from previous ones, the new ones slightly improved over the old ones. To that end the creative leader has the ability to create and embellish that which has gone before. Maybe, that whilst thinking about an incremental improvement he/she stumbles across an idea that is truly original, ground breaking and fresh. Making something a little better here, a little better there gradually makes something a lot better - even entirely different from the original. Creative leaders have bags of that spark.
4. Ask the right questions
Creative leaders generally have trained themselves to ‘let go’ and allow their minds to
roam freely and unhindered by protocols, organizational dogma, rules and norms.
Creative leaders have that ability to ask the right questions. Try running a session using
these phrases: ‘what about’, ‘what if’ , ‘imagine if we could…’ and so on. By asking
others to really think outside the normal, you are inviting them to connect with their curious and creative mind, just like when they were children. Rule out self-criticism of ideas and insights and suspend judgment for a certain period of time, be willing to explore everything; to be open, naive, innocent before rejecting anything.
5. Are prepared to be creative
Being creative can be a lot of fun – and it should be! When you are having fun, ideas flow, laughter and absurd ideas pour out and embryonic ideas are born. Creative leaders will also ensure that any imposters of fun are kept away from the creativity process. When I say imposters I am referring to two particular de-railers. 1. Time - using time as an excuse to cut short or abandon creative thinking sessions. 2. People themselves. Negative and obstructive people do not need to join your creative circle. They suck the life and energy away from the fun aspects of creativity. We all like to be challenged and questioned, that's ok, but repetitive and unhelpful remarks kill creativity. Use scratch and doodle pads, paint canvasses, children’s building blocks and play dough – anything that gets everyone engaged. On, and remember to use sound as well!
6. Use words to generate ideas
This is an unusual idea but one that can help kick off a creativity session. Open a thesaurus or dictionary at any random page, close your eyes and point to the page with your finger. Whichever word you end up pointing at becomes a word to discuss with the team (or just yourself). You can really let your imagination go with any word that comes your way. Better still collect five or more words to form phrases which you can build on. Exposure to the stimulus of random words will immediately trigger associations to experiences buried in your subconscious mind.
There will be times that you feel that you are getting nowhere, walking up a dead end street or banging your head against a brick wall. This is very normal in the journey to being creative. The main thing here is to keep going and not to give up looking for solutions and new ideas. Creative leaders do not give up easily. Thomas Edison and the light bulb is such an example of keeping going even when you repetitively fail to find a solution. If you keep going the likelihood is that you will find a solution eventually.