Creativity And Confidence As a Leader

      “I’m not very creative!” Are you one of those people who uses this phrase often? What is this thing called ‘creativity’ and how can your confidence level in your creativity impact your leadership and your teams performance? 

      When things change in an organization, whether by intention or by having to respond to the world around you, leaders are expected to be innovative and creative to lead their teams through this change.  What if your ‘creativity confidence’ is low? How does this impact your ability to move through change and support your team? 


      The “I’m not very creative” discussion 

      I was having such a conversation with an executive last week. The discussion went something like this… 

      *Dave: We’re being asked to get creative about how we do business in the future. I’m not a creative guy so I’m concerned whatever I and my team come up with isn’t going to be creative enough. 

      Me: What makes you believe you are not a creative guy? 

      Dave: Oh I’ve never been creative. Even as a kid in school I struggled when we had to think of something creative to do for projects or art class. My dad used to joke and say, “Don’t worry, some people just aren’t creative. Pick a job where you don’t need to be creative!” 

      Me: So, can you tell me about a time when you were proud of how you solved a particular problem or issue? 

      Dave: Oh yes…and went on excitedly to explain. 

      Me: Hmmm…that actually sounds pretty creative! 

      (*name changed to protect confidentiality )

      We went on to explore Dave’s definition of creative…you know, that definition we make up in our minds about what a certain word or concept means followed by our self-judgment of whether that quality exists in us! 

      Once Dave was able to explore his current perspective and discuss several stories of how he has demonstrated creativity and problem solving abilities over his career, he was able to shift his perspective and come up with a new definition on his level of creativity. 

      This newfound confidence spurred some additional discussion on how he might be unintentionally holding his team back around this very issue. 


      Where did my creative confidence go? 

      As a small child you were the most creative person in the world! You made up imaginary games and perhaps friends. The sky didn’t have to be blue in your drawings, it could be pink or green or purple

      Perhaps you even colored outside the lines, oh my!  When did it all change? Suddenly, you started receiving feedback from others that your version was ‘not the right’ version! Your ‘friend’ doesn’t exist. You should color the sky blue because the real sky is blue.  

      In a TED talk, “How to Build Your Creative Confidence,” David Kelley explained his thinking about creativity

      He shares this point…We can be inhibited by fear of judgment. Kelley says he hears from people all the time about “how a teacher shut them down or how a student was particularly cruel to them” in a creative endeavor. 

      It’s at that point, he says, that “some opt out thinking of themselves as creative.” Kelley sees the fallout with IDEO clients, especially when they’re asked to work side-by-side with IDEO staff. “Eventually these big-shot executives whip out their Blackberries and they say they have to make really important phone calls, and they head for the exits. And they’re just so uncomfortable.” 


      So how does that translate in leadership? 

      “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” ~ Andre Gide 

      If you are not confident in your own creative abilities how comfortable are you in having conversations with your team and inviting them to engage in creative brainstorming and inviting off the wall ideas and discussions?  

      This article shares the concept that a leader “confident in their own creative capabilities engage in more behaviors that encourage creativity in the people around them.” 

      They get more involved in discussions about new ideas or work methods…

      Therefore, they are likely to be more receptive to creative ideas generated by followers, avoid severe criticisms, and strive to find value even in less promising ideas, which are behaviors that encourage creativity.”  

      Research by the Adobe® (Nasdaq:ADBEState of Create global benchmark study reveals a global creativity gap. Research shows 8 in 10 people feel that unlocking creativity is critical to economic growth and nearly two-thirds of respondents feel creativity is valuable to society, yet a striking minority – only 1 in 4 people – believe they are living up to their own creative potential. 

      The study reveals a workplace creativity gap: 

      • 75% of respondents said they are under growing pressure to be productive rather than creative, despite the fact that they are increasingly expected to think creatively on the job.
      •  People said they spend only 25% of their time at work creating.
      • Lack of time is seen as the biggest barrier to creativity (47% globally, 52% in United States).

      The confidence to invite creativity 

      David Kelley shares the story of Doug Dietz, who designs medical imaging equipment.

      “He was in the hospital looking at one of his MRI machines in use when he saw a young family.

      There was a little girl, and that little girl was crying and was terrified.” It turns out that nearly 80 percent of the pediatric patients had to be sedated to deal with the machine, which crushed Dietz.

      He was at the at the time, “learning about our process about design thinking, about empathy, about iterative prototyping.” His solution: Turn the MRI machine into an adventure.

      Dietz painted the walls, painted the machine, got the operators retrained by staff from children’s museums.

      “Now when the kid comes, it’s an experience,” says Kelley. “They talk to them about the noise and the movement of the ship. And when they come, they say, ‘Okay, you’re going to go into the pirate ship, but be very still because we don’t want the pirates to find you'.”

      Result? Only about 10 percent of children need sedation, and some even look forward to coming back. 

      Dietz kept his eye on the outcome he desired and also his audience…his audience was children and his desire was for them to have as least scary an experience as possible and ultimately reduce the need for sedation.

      From this desired outcome, the idea was born and built upon.  

      What would have happened if Dietz’s boss had said…you can’t change the look of the MRI machine, it’s just not acceptable! 


      What can you do today to shift the conversation with yourself and your team? 

      Albert Einstein said, “I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking”.

      How can you play around with ‘irrational’ thinking? 

      1. Start with yourself. Explore your perspective on your own level of creativity and reconnect with the times you have come up with solutions to problems. 
      2. Connect with the end in mind. Who are you serving? What do you want your customer or team to experienceWhat’s the impact you want to have with your ‘creative’ idea?

      3. Get comfortable with not having the ‘right’ answer. Play the facilitator role with your team and challenge yourself to only engage in encouraging ‘the crazier the better’ concept.

      4. Let go of needing to ‘control’ the conversation. Once your team has agreed on the intended audience and end goal, force yourself to sit in silence. This can be an extremely uncomfortable challenge for some…we dare you to try it! 

      What is YOUR creativity confidence level? How is this impacting your leadership and your team?  How often are you inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes and having fun? 

      We would love to hear your experiences and your creative ideas! 

      Simple steps to boost your creativity (2)