IBM recently released the results of a global study called Capitalizing on Complexity, in which they interviewed over 1500 CEOs across 60 countries representing 33 industries. One of the key survey questions was on what these CEOs considered to be the most important leadership qualities over the next five years. 60% of the CEOs regarded creativity as the number one leadership quality, with integrity a close second at 52%. I have attached a full list of all the leadership qualities to this post.
Creativity is needed to tackle the complexity that leaders face in running their organisations. For more information on the challenges of complexity, read my post titled “The Two-Headed Dragon”. I stated in that post that clarity is an antidote to complexity, but today and next week, I will explore how creativity can also help in tackling the challenges of complexity. A key component of both creativity and clarity is perception. How leaders perceive the challenges of complexity determines how they will act, because perception determines action. Creativity is a skill – a mindset which can be learnt or cultivated. Edward De Bono stated that ‘Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.’
Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman in their Newsweek article stated that ‘To be creative requires divergent thinking (generating many unique ideas) and then convergent thinking (combining those ideas into the best result)’. They argued that highly creative people are very good at utilizing both their left (logical deductions) and right (lateral connections) brains, and the more creative they are, the more they dual-activate. Most people tend to be stronger in one brain region over the other. Creative leaders hire those who compliment them in areas in which they are weak.
The CEOs in this IBM survey recognize that for their organizations to be creative, they needed to discard long held traditional beliefs about their industry and global marketplace that are no longer relevant in order to succeed. They also cited the need to be willing to be comfortable upsetting both personal and organizational status quo. Business as usual is no longer a safe anchor for forward-looking creative CEOs who desire to navigate their organisations through the storms of a global economic recession. Creative leaders are comfortable dealing with ambiguity and much more willing to experiment than play it safe. They are constantly searching for novel and alternative ways of looking at and thinking about their organisational challenges.
The drive to make any organisation creative and innovative starts at the top. If leaders want creativity to permeate their organisation then they need to show their staff that they are serious about it by prioritising it. It is clear from the IBM study that creativity is now the number one thing on their mind and agenda going forward.