Adaptive versus Innovative creativity

Adaptive versus Innovative creativity

We often hear talk of adaptive creativity versus innovative creativity, and in this blogpost I will reflect upon the differences and implications of the two types. Everyone has the capacity to be creative, and everyone expresses creativity in their own way. Some of us express our creativity by taking something already in existence and make small changes to it. This is adaptive creativity. Others may be inclined to develop something totally new. Both are creative. ‘Adaptors desire to do things better; Innovators seek to do things differently.’  In organisations, probably the most frequent type of creativity is the adaptive type. For example, when Apple or Samsung update their mobile phone ranges, or Nikon and Cannon, their cameras. Occasionally companies have a need or desire to take bolder steps and create something completely new in the market.

This requires innovative creativity in order to think ‘outside the box’.   This can equally apply to individual creativity. The person who takes inspiration from a well-known artist and copies and builds upon their style to paint, or take a photo is demonstrating adaptive creativity. On the other hand, the person who develops their unique way of painting, or of any creative activity, is expressing innovative creativity. Michael Kirton developed an adaption/innovation theory to explain these differences. The theory is based upon two assumptions. The first is that creativity, decision making and problem solving are outcomes of the same brain function, and the second assumption is that everyone can solve problems, take decisions and be creative. What differs is their style. Kirton developed an instrument, KAI, to measure and define where someone falls on the spectrum of adaptor to innovator. This is useful for pulling together teams for work on creative projects. As with all differences in style, conflict can arise between people at either end of the spectrum. Adaptors may see innovators as too risky, argumentative, not focused, whereas adaptors can be seen as too methodical, and rule bound. However, both styles are needed for diversity of thought and balance. So in creative problem solving, the adaptor limits the scope of their ideas to solve problems. The innovator would go for the wild ideas, which when developed would be ‘out of the box thinking’. However, I believe that it  is  possible to develop our style of creativity, with the use of creative techniques. There are a couple of other factors to consider here that I believe influence style:

  • The first is that differences may be as much about our own limiting beliefs as about style. Sometimes we put up our own boundaries and limit the extent to which we allow our ideas to roam freely. If we give ourselves permission to think more widely then more ideas may flow. Creative workshops which encourage people to use techniques to expand their ideas can be helpful here.
  • Secondly. the more adaptive person may be limited by the role they have at work, for example, working in finance. Whereas the innovative person may be in a role that allows more freedom to express their ideas. On the other hand, people may choose their work domains to reflect their style.

So, to sum up, everyone can be creative:

  • Some people express creativity in an adaptive way, others are more innovative.
  • This may be due to their individual style.
  • It may also be due to their limiting beliefs or the roles they have taken on.
  • It is possible to expand our style and experiment with different ways of being creative, especially if we give ourselves permission to do so.

Barbara is an executive coach, leadership and creativity facilitator. She has coached  in a variety of corporate settings, and has developed a unique approach to using creative techniques in her coaching and workshops to enable change at a group or individual level. She has recently co-authored a book on creativity for leaders, called Creativity Cycling , with Dr. Tracy Stanley. 

Reflections on creativity in 2020

Reflections on creativity in 2020

What a year it has been. Crazy and scary with some hopeful signs. Covid 19 for me was  probably the most impactful occurence in 2020, and the one that has caused the most disruption, particularly in Europe. In this blogpost I review its impact on creativity from a personal perspective and offer some takeways that may help with your creativity..

Together with Tracy Stanley, I have been recording podcasts all year under the umbrella title of creativity snippets. These have come from the book, Creativity Cycling that we jointly wrote, and from our blogs on creativity.

We have looked at some of the changes that were occurring as the world faced the health and economic impact of the spread of COVID. For example, the shift in Europe to more home working has led to an extensive use of online platforms for meetings and conferences. We looked at how we could apply some creativity to these in order to raise energy and continue to develop teamwork.

My experience has been that many people have found creativity harder during this period of Covid 19. It may also be that the anxiety around the pandemic was creating a huge wave of procrastination. A ‘rabbit caught in headlamps’ type of situation.

So, what are my personal reflections of the effect of covid 19 on creativity in 2020?

I have found it difficult to work on creative projects this year. We were in a lockdown situation in spring, which meant little opportunity for inspirational inputs from outside the home. This illustrated to me how important it is when encouraging creativity to be able to change one’s surroundings and have a variety of stimuli to inspire.

This lack of inspiration occured in all of my creative pursuits. With writing, through developing a habit of daily practice, I was able to keep up some form of writing. This was  sufficient to allow some space for creativity to grow.

What I found helpful through the emotionally draining times was discovering and listening to  podcasts. One of the most inspiring was that produced by Brené Brown.  Her ‘Unlocking Us’ series of podcasts touched on creativity, neuroscience and play. One of her references that resonated with me was to a blog produced on the Medium platform by Tara Haelle. She  who wrote in August last year about how our surge capacity is depleted and why we feel awful. She took us through the stages of grief, because in lots of ways this is what we were all dealing with. I particularly like this quote from her article:

Our new normal is always feeling a little off balance, like trying to stand in a dinghy on rough seas, and not knowing when the storm will pass.’

Another podcast I  enjoyed listening to was that of Elizabeth Day interviewing Alain de Botton as part of her ‘How to Fail’ series. Alain was talking about how to cope with anxiety in a time of Coronavirus.

So, to summarise my learning about creativity in a time of anxiety, I would offer these points:

  1. When we are worried, anxious, preoccupied with things, we don’t have the mental capacity or space to be creative.
  2. We need at times to stand firm and spend time without purpose until we can regain our strength to move forward.
  3. We need to be kind to ourselves and others around us and not strive too hard.
  4. Allow the space for creativity to re-enter.
  5. Develop small daily habits that can enable creativity to grow.
  6. When possible get out to seek inspiration and then renew and regrow as people.

With these thoughts, I wish you all a healthy, successful and much better 2021!

Barbara is an executive coach, leadership and creativity facilitator. She has coached women and men in a variety of corporate settings, and has developed a unique approach to using creative techniques in her coaching and workshops to enable change at a group or individual level. She has recently co-authored a book on creativity for leaders, called Creativity Cycling , with Dr. Tracy Stanley. 

Six barriers to being more creative.

Six barriers to being more creative.

In July, I wrote about the benefits of creativity and offering ideas on how to be creative.

Today I will reflect upon the barriers that get in the way of us being creative.

1 Negative thinking –  prevents us from seeing opportunities because it changes our perception about the world around us. We see a glass half empty rather than half full. It is of course the same glass however it is how we perceive and frame it that makes the difference in terms of our attitude and our behaviour.

Negative thinking can be seen often in the answer of ‘yes but’ to new ideas.

If this is you, try a ‘yes, and’ next time and consider what merit there might be in the new idea before stepping in to offer the negativity. Positivity is about seeing opportunity and having hope, even when things do not look so good.

2 Imposter syndrome  – is a syndrome where people feel that they should not be there because they are not good enough. This is more typical of women, and can result in less confidence in ourselves to propose new ideas. This happens because we don’t believe we have the legitimacy to do so. It can lead to a heavy amount of self-judgement.

To overcome imposter syndrome, it is important to be able to recognise it, and then to work on self-confidence to overcome it. With self-judgement we live with the critic always sitting on our shoulders and looking on, influencing our thoughts.

3 Not being open to new ideas  this can be due to negative thinking, however, it may also be due to the assumptions we develop over time. I am reminded here of the ladder of inference developed by Chris Argyris, where assumptions form a step on the ladder to fixed attitudes.

We need to challenge our own assumptions when we start to review problems or evaluate new ideas.

One way to do this is to try a simple exercise. Draw three columns. In the fist write the heading facts, the second, feelings and the third assumptions.

Then take a situation where you may have felt that the outcome could have been different. Firstly draw out the facts as you saw them and in the timeline you lived it. Next to each fact, note the feelings you had at that stage, then the as a result of those feelings what assumptions did you make?

Look back over the this and check out whether any assumptions were made based on feelings and not fact and how this influenced your actions. What can you learn from this?

4 No time to spend on creative pursuits – Often this is because we don’t put enough value on play in our lives. We have a need to play and with play a more creative side of us opens up. Take that time out and have a play – even if it’s a playful walk. Recapture that spirit of enquiry, observe closely what is happening around you. When we play, we bring our imagination to the fore and let all sorts of possibilities take place. Look at young children when they play with cardboard boxes and the range of ‘things’ that this can become; a train, a car, a house for example. Somehow as we grow older, we lose this ability and start to value a logical, rational way of thinking.  This can inhibit our creativity.

Take time out to just stand and stare, to look at things mindfully, and then see what thoughts arise.

5 Not taking risks  – The fear around risk is that we may fail. However, if we never take a risk, we may never live life at our best, and we may never know if we would have failed. In fact, failure can often lead to greater success if we can be positive around the learning from it.

This fear of failure is prevalent in organisations.  Failure is often punished and the consequences of this is a reluctance to start or try anything new or different. This is detrimental to creativity and innovation.

6 Rigid goal settingI am not a fan of setting SMART goals. I accept that there are times when it works well, however it can be too rigid to allow the flexibility and breathing space that creativity and innovation need.

Planning and goal setting are important activities that keep us moving forward. However, none of us can really predict the future, although some try, so whatever we plan cannot cover all possibilities. We cannot plan for every eventuality as Mintzberg stated.  What would be helpful and inspirational for creativity to flourish is to develop a vision  to guide us, and then to create intentions from this. This will allow us to be flexible and open to new opportunities as and when they happen. The vision is our guiding light here and the goals are intended and can be changed if the need arises, for example due to external change or new opportunities occurring. So, we craft our own strategy towards emerging goals and stay aware that life happens, and we may need to adapt these goals.

I hope that these ideas have helped you to reflect upon any barriers you may have to being more creative.

Barbara is an executive coach, leadership and creativity facilitator. She has coached women and men in a variety of corporate settings, and has developed a unique approach to using creative techniques in her coaching and workshops to enable change at a group or individual level. She has recently co-authored a book on creativity for leaders, called Creativity Cycling , with Dr. Tracy Stanley. 

On being creative

On being creative

Being creative is good for the soul. This is, I know,  a sweeping statement. However, let me explain what I mean by this.

Creativity is about using all parts of our brain, both our logical, rational minds and our intuitive, more ‘open to possibility’ minds. This surely can’t do us any harm. In fact, I would argue that by doing this, we are more likely to be taking wiser decisions and living our lives in a fuller way.

So, what does it mean to be creative? 

That depends upon each individual. Each of us has our own possibilities for becoming more creative. Some people will have an interest in the arts, some will be interested in developing creativity and innovation at work. Some will be developing their writing or photography, and others may express their creativity through activities such as cooking or sewing.  There are many ways in which we can develop our creativity. What is important is to search out and find your own path to being creative.  If nothing else it will offer you a richer experience which you can carry with you throughout your lives.

What are the benefits of creativity?

A blogpost I shared last year offered some benefits of creativity and they are summarised here:

Working creatively can be motivating. It energises and can build up a strong sense of self-confidence.

Creativity can re-ignite our passion. When we are lost in working creatively we are in what  Csikzentmihalyi  calls a state of flow. Being in a state of flow leads to a sense of happiness. It is a form of mindfulness in which we are in the present, absorbed by our creative pursuits,  and not focusing on the past or future.

Developing a creative pursuit can open ourselves up to new opportunities and possibilities. A sense of positivity can result from creative pursuits. It is great to see and reflect upon something tangible that we have achieved. Who knows where this may lead in terms of personal change and development?

Becoming more creative is about doing things differently. Enjoying doing things differently will impact on our whole life and generate more sense of fun in our lives.

Working creatively can reduce stress levels. There is some evidence that stress levels fall when we are absorbed in a creative task, whatever our level of ability.

By becoming more creative we can become more productive at work. We begin to challenge the existing way in which things are done. and search out new and better ways of doing them.

By introducing a creative approach in the problem-solving process, we find that our skill at solving problems develops immensely. Creative problem solving enables and encourages us to see the big picture and not to go down the same road each time we encounter a problem.

Finally, being more creative will be less boring and you will have fun!

Bene Brown had this to say about creativity:  

“I’m not very creative” doesn’t work. There’s no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t. Unused creativity isn’t benign. It lives within us until it’s expressed, neglected to death, or suffocated by resentment and fear.

 So, suppressing our creativity can be negative for us.

During the recent lock-downs due to the COVID pandemic many people have turned to creative pursuits, and there seems to have been an upsurge in interest in these.

So how can you become more creative?

  1. Start by reflecting on what creative activities in your past have brought you joy.
  2. Start with small amounts of time and dedicate this on a regular basis to that activity. It need not be ambitious to start with, half an hour a day is good. Build up a habit of doing this.
  3. Find a buddy who has a similar creative interest and support one another. Arrange to meet/ chat regularly so you can make progress.
  4. Seek out workshops/training to follow to develop your creative pursuits. There are lots around that have free offerings. For example, social media, such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter have interest groups or people to follow in different creative fields.
  5. Seek out other more experienced people in your creative field to follow and to gain tips on your development.

Finally, just do it. Start small and take baby steps and you will start to reap the benefits.

Barbara is an executive coach, leadership and creativity facilitator. She has coached women and men in a variety of corporate settings, and has developed a unique approach to using creative techniques in her coaching and workshops to enable change at a group or individual level. She has recently co-authored a book on creativity for leaders, called Creativity Cycling , with Dr. Tracy Stanley. 

Create your vision with a storyboard

Create your vision with a storyboard

Many organisations talk about creating a vision for their future. However what many do is to create a vision statement. This just doesn’t work for me. Visions need to be inspirational and for this to happen they really need to soar above the limitations of words.

For this reason, I usually recommend creating a future vision through image work, at least in the first instance. To check out ideas for creating a vision using drawing, take a look here. In my next blogpost I will take a look at some other tools for creating vision, such as collage.

Ok, so you have an inspirational vision and you have shared or even better co-created it with your employees, colleagues, family. What next?

One process that you can try, is to create a storyboard to show both your future vision, where you are now, and the steps to get there.  This seems to be versatile enough to satisfy people who need a structured approach, and is also attractive to people who dislike a structured approach. For this latter category it can be fun to complete all the boxes using images.

To complete your storyboard

Take a large piece of paper and create 6 numbered  boxes as shown.

  • Put your vision image into box 6,  and in box 1 you put a picture to represent where you are now.
  • Brainstorm the gap between where you are now and your future vision. Find other people to work with on this.
  • Turn the ideas coming out if this brainstorm into actions.
  • Put all the actions down on a separate piece of paper and then work out where they fit on the journey from box 1 to box 6.
  • It  is often difficult to take those first steps from box 1 to box 2 . It’s a bit like stepping into treacle and you may get stuck. Working backwards from box 6 can help in this process. so ask yourself, what is the last action I need in place before I achieve my vision.

For people who are less structured, this can remain as a loose journey based upon some big action steps. Drawing them can be fun and inspiring.
If you are a more structured person then you can work with defining each step and adding targets etc to them.  Bullet proofing can be helpful at this stage to check out what can prevent and what can help achievement of the final vision.

This process can be used in many different ways. for example, I have coached people to use it to develop their strategy, or to map out their personal and professional development. It is also very useful as a process withing creative problem solving to pull together the different stages of the process.

I hope this has given you some ideas for working with putting vision into reality. The next step to take is to do exactly that – take some action!

Barbara is an executive coach, leadership and creativity facilitator. She has coached women and men in a variety of corporate settings, and has developed a unique approach to using creative techniques in her coaching and workshops to enable change at a group or individual level. She has recently co-authored a book on creativity for leaders, called Creativity Cycling , with Dr. Tracy Stanley. The use of storyboarding and how it fits into creative problem solving is covered in this book.

How to be creative – learning from creative writing

How to be creative – learning from creative writing

I hear many people make statements like, ‘I am not creative’. Well, I believe we are all capable of being creative. This blog offers a overview of how to be creative, tapping into my learning from creative writing.

To be creative, we need to allow our imagination to be free to roam wherever it will, and not be censured by our logical, rational mind. In this way our ideas can flourish and not be shut down prematurely.

This can be very difficult, however it is worth pursuing if we want to develop our creativity.  In creative problem-solving workshops we work on suspending this critical mind by introducing tools and techniques that allow the intuition in. Image based techniques  fall into this category.

When we work with word-based tools, we can often revert to a logical rational mode which censors ideas.  It’s only at the evaluative stage that we start to consider the appropriateness of our ideas and apply some logical thinking to them.

As someone who has always encouraged imagery to express ideas, it seems a contradiction in terms to talk about creative writing. However let me show you what I have learned from creative writing that can be applied more generally to creativity.

Some guidance on ways in which you can encourage ideas to flourish.

  1. Write daily, preferably at a fixed time, and for a similar amount of time. I have made this a ritual in my life, so I write in the morning for at least an hour when I have a coffee. What can you create as a ritual around your writing?
  2. Take a random word or phrase and use this as a starting place to write from, then free-write and see where it takes you. Allow yourself to move into a state of flow.
  3. Observe people  and notice details about them, note them down, then write about them, developing a story around them. Who are they, what were they doing at that place, where do they live etc? If you keep a notebook with you at all times this helps.
  4. Write longhand, and don’t edit as you go along. Editing allows the rational logical mind in.  Perfectionism is the enemy of achievement, so leave the editing as late as possible.
  5. Be happy to write badly, trust to write rubbish. Don’t judge. In time these ramblings will develop into words you can use and develop ideas and projects from.
  6. Incubation works well. When you have written something and have come to a point of closure or stuckness, put it aside and leave it for a day, a week, even a month before looking at it again. You will then see it in a fresh light and will know whether and how to move on. Insights will have occurred in the meantime which can be very helpful.
  7. Don’t be hard on yourself. We are our worst enemies when it comes to self-censure.
  8. Reward yourself for small achievements.

Finally, what are the main points to take from this and apply to creativity in a general sense?

  1. Allow your imagination the freedom to roam. In writing we can do this by using daily writing times, in creativity we can use techniques such as image work. don’t leave room for the censor to enter!
  2. Don’t be afraid to incubate your ideas. Leave them, put them to one side, do other things, then come back to them. This can be for any amount of time. Trust your intuition here.
  3. Allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes.

What would you add to this?

Barbara is an executive coach, leadership and creativity facilitator. She has coached people  in a variety of corporate settings, and developed a unique approach to using creative techniques in her coaching and workshops to enable change at a group or individual level. She has recently published a book on creativity for leaders with Dr. Tracy Stanley, entitled Creativity Cycling .