As our world becomes more interconnected and complex, so do our problems. Uncertainty threatens organizational stability, and straight paths to solutions are nowhere in sight. So, what is needed for organizations to adapt and thrive in the unknown? A 2010 IBM Global CEO study of 1,500 leaders suggests that creativity is at the heart of generating new social realities.
While this idea may not seem revolutionary, engaging in innovation is risky and renders you vulnerable, especially if you don’t see yourself as the ‘creative type.’ Creativity is often perceived as a quality possessed by a lucky few, and for the rest of us, it seems to ignore our summoning and only appears in short, unpredictable bursts. However, organizations are recognizing that creativity is not necessarily a trait embodied by elite members. Rather, creativity is a group process, which means that everyone is worthy of a seat at the table. In fact, the innovative capacity of the organization depends on it.
Fortunately, many leaders are responding to this need by developing more creative organizational cultures that leverage diverse backgrounds and experience, embrace inevitable failures, and let go of “the way we’ve always done it.” Yet, regardless of the organizational culture, we must take responsibility for our own individual engagement in the creative process. This requires us to pay closer attention to how we get into the mindset of maximizing our contributions. In my experience of working with organizations and idea generation, the greatest barrier to the creative process is judgment.
Researcher Brené Brown offers, “vulnerability is the birthplace for innovation, creativity, and change,” and nothing squashes vulnerability faster than judgment. Whether we fear being criticized by peers, disparage our own ideas, or dismiss our colleagues’ suggestions, the result is the same: judgment constricts what is possible.
As hard as we try to reinforce a culture of innovation with reassuring quips like, “there are no bad ideas!” our minds inevitably judge. The sooner that we accept this as fact, rather than resist or ignore it, and begin to take notice, the sooner we can transform judgment with its antidote: curiosity.
Judgment contracts. Curiosity expands.
Judgment withdraws. Curiosity explores.
Judgment separates. Curiosity connects.
Judgment ‘knows’ the answer. Curiosity asks questions.
Whether you take on the role of brave risk-taker, thoughtful observer, or somewhere in between, approaching the creative process with an intention of curiosity towards yourself and your colleagues cultivates the essential foundation required to generate bold, innovative solutions.
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