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Thought Leadership 03 November 2014

Are creativity and innovation for everyone?

Creativity is seeing what everyone else has seen, and thinking what no one else has thought - Albert Einstein

At a time when organisations are under pressure to be increasingly creative and innovative, it is no small irony that so little time is spent considering the human aspect of these closely related concepts.

From 'blue-sky thinking' to competitions to annual events, organisations try all sorts of approaches to encourage people to be more innovative and creative. Yet these initiatives are doomed to failure – or at the very least, mediocrity – unless time is spent understanding the human processes which underpin them.

Viewed through the lens of the Insights Discovery model, a person leading with any one of the primary colour energies can make a significant contribution to creativity and innovation, yet they will do it differently and in a unique way.  Consequently, different techniques might be needed to help them access their own creativity and, to reference Einstein, see what everyone else has seen and yet think what no one else has thought.

For example:

  • Those leading with Cool Blue energy may take a more methodical and rational approach, using data and analysis to test out different alternatives before arriving at a logical conclusion.  They may benefit from having structured time to reflect and consider.
  • Those leading with Earth Green energy may take a more nurturing and possibly team-based approach.  They may involve others in the process and be comfortable allowing others to take the lead, whilst making vital contributions to support the team process and hold the team together.
  • Those leading with Sunshine Yellow energy may be excited by fun team approaches where their natural energy can be harnessed.  They may enjoy the cut and thrust of bouncing seemingly mad ideas around with others, yet may move on to other, more exciting ideas before they are fully formed.
  • Those leading with Fiery Red energy may see creativity and innovation as an opportunity to challenge convention.   They may be willing to take a step into the unknown or go out on a limb in order to test an idea.  While they may put pressure on others in driving creativity and innovation in a team or organisation, chances are that they would be even tougher on themselves

The Insights Discovery model aside, it is important to ask whether some people are more creative and innovative than others?  Yes, absolutely… but only in the same way that some people are better at playing sport, learning languages or doing mental arithmetic. While certain traits may be more desirable in supporting creativity and innovation (persistence or an ability to cope with ambiguity, for example) personality type in itself has no bearing on how creative or innovative a person may be.

When it comes to creativity and innovation the key to successfully engaging your people may well boil down to the following points:

  • All members of the team have something to contribute: once you have understood a person’s preferred style, the key is to respect those differences and enable them to access their creativity and innovation in their own way.
  • When it comes to creativity and innovation, diversity in terms of personality type is just as important as any of the more typical aspects such as gender, professional background, nationality etc.  Always ensure to allow the “creative abrasion” inherent in diverse teams to play out.
  • Don’t be afraid to be creative when it comes to driving innovation. There are hundreds of techniques and approaches available to you.

For a leader seeking to foster creativity and innovation within their team, it's important that they facilitate each team member's personal style, in order to get the best from every person in the team. Only by appealing to the creative nature within each of the distinct colour energies can leaders make sure they are maximising the full creative potential of their entire team.

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