There’s a new Q in town
Move over IQ, EQ and even SQ. Today it’s about CQ or your creative quotient. Every knowledge worker, whether in a creative profession or not, is tasked with being creative. This means solving problems, generating ideas and adding value on a daily basis. If you’re a manager, the pressure to demonstrate creativity is even more. Did you know that a 2010 survey by IBM of 1500 CEOs highlighted ‘creativity’ as a management skill more valuable than operations and marketing? Yet very few of us are formally trained in creativity or even have any exposure to it in school or university. All is not lost though. Bruce Nussbaum, author of Creative Intelligence, says that creative competence is like a sport. You can train for it and increase the capacities of yourself and your organization.
Inspired by Bruce’s call to action, I started researching the topic to find practices that I could put into action and increase my levels of creativity. While I found ad hoc techniques that seem to work for others, the light bulb only went off when I read The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry. I discovered a potentially lifestyle changing, long term approach to systematically improving the daily odds of creative success.
In his book, Todd suggests we examine five elements – Focus, Relationships, Energy, Stimuli, Hours - that we can consciously manage to establish a creative rhythm that will better prepare us for the rigors of on-demand creative thinking. A chapter of his book is dedicated to each element. And most valuably, Todd shares strategies and tools to put each element into practice in our daily lives. I’ve picked one or two ideas from each of these chapters that resonated with me.
Often, the most urgent is not always the highest priority. Constantly sift through your list of to-dos and zero in on what’s really critical. Hone in on your ‘Big 3’ creative challenges and always have them top of mind. These are what you should focus on when you are able to disentangle from your daily tasks.
It’s not always about disconnecting from everyone and everything. In fact, cultivating a broad network is beneficial. Know whom in your network to call on to bounce off ideas on different challenges. Fix a lunch appointment. Take a walk together. Or simply shoot the breeze after work. Just know that others can be a great source of inspiration and may offer more than you expect.
Get enough sleep. Learn to say no - keep pruning your work and personal tasks prudently to keep the load manageable. Don’t shy away from leaving work at 5 pm. Take health and fitness very seriously. Believe it or not, managing your energy well is directly correlated to your ability to be more creative.
The saying goes that you are what you eat. Todd says that you are also what you read! Garbage in = garbage out. Your diet of stimuli contributes to your creativity (or not!). Read voraciously. Go outside your area of expertise. Draw inspiration from far and wide. Maintain a ‘stimulus queue’ of the books, movies, plays, places you want to experience. Also, it’s good to explore the real world. Get away from computers and books every now and then. Take a walk in your neighborhood. Visit a factory. Observe, think, create.
Lulu Raghavan is the managing director at Landor Associates, India. When she's not obsessing about branding she is either cooking up a storm, checking out a new restaurant or traveling somewhere exotic. Follow her other adventures at http://lululovesbombay.blogspot.com.