Leadership and conditions for Creativity

This week I have been developing a workshop around creative problem solving as well as marking assignments for the MBA programme Creativity, Innovation and Change (Open University Business School.)

A set of concepts that I particularly like are the conditions that encourage and discourage creativity, developed by James Adams (1987).

Examples of these which are particularly pertinent (and challenging) to leaders are:

Deal as an equal

Give up all rights to punish

Take responsibility for understanding

Waste no energy evaluating early.

Charles Handy also considered the three principles of Curiosity, Forgiveness and Love to be essential to creating the best climate for creativity to flourish.

So linking these to leadership, I will take each in turn and explore  what leaders can do to encourage this dimension in the work environment.

First I will address Curiosity. which implies to explore, enquire, experiment, probe, challenge and seek to understand.

This can be a bit risky; as the saying goes, ‘curiosity killed the cat’, however without some risk there is no creativity and innovation and anyhow cats have 9 lives!

So how can leaders encourage and develop a sense of curiosity? Here is my list of 10 actions leaders can take :

  1. Encourage challenge, use why? how? and what? and encourage others to do so
  2. Take a coaching approach to leadership and ask questions that will enable enquiry, such as what do you think the issue is?
  3. Motivate and reward  people who are prepared to ‘step outside their box’
  4. Develop techniques to use in team meetings that enable differing perspectives to be taken, such as stakeholder analysis
  5. Change the way meetings are held, break the habits.
  6. Check out the assumptions you are making about a situation
  7. Change the mental models by developing intuitive techniques such as mapping to explore a situation
  8. Encourage your team to listen to one another – that is, actively listen
  9. Bring in outsiders and ask for their perspective
  10. Last but not least: Be prepared to challenge your self

Can you add to this?

Next week – Forgiveness.