Creativity is crucial to leadership
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Creativity as the most important leadership Quality

The Csuites are finally talking about creativity’s role in leadership of an organization.

When I read IBM’s global study titled Capitalizing on Complexity, I couldn’t help smiling because this means that they have finally recognized that creativity plays a crucial role in leadership quality.

Why is creativity the topic of interest all of a sudden in the Csuites? Because the business challenges that they are seeing today is something that they have not anticipated in the traditional business models.

Everything around is interdisciplinary and calls for diverse skill sets. Too many cooks spoil the broth is an old dictum, today they come together from distant geographical boundaries to produce a distinguished broth that tingles the taste buds of the hungry audience around the globe. Yeah, consumer taste buds have changed; we can’t feed them the same old recipes.

The crucial leadership skill required today is that of innovation on the go, perhaps with Spartan resources which, calls for the spirit of collaboration and sharing of available resources, of being able to deliver with whatever we have in a complex environment.

Indeed capitalizing on creativity to turn complexity into financial advantage is the focus and strategy of progressive companies like in the crowd sourcing arena, for instance. How do we do it? This calls for original thinking. Put on your thinking caps and start doodling your solution to the problems you perceive, one at a time.

Recipe for creativity

  • Flush your ego in the toilet.
  • Instead of stealing your neighbor’s idea, suggest, and collaborate to produce better and faster.
  • If you still think your idea is better than others, prove it
  • If this idea fails, don’t brood, take a walk and start working on the next one.

What’s your recipe for creativity, i would love to hear from you…

33 Responses

  1. Samson Ratnakar
    March 23, 2015 at 5:54 am

    This post reminded me of a statement that I read earlier, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes”. Every successful entrepreneur/organization fails at some point of time during their journey in one way or the other. Even Apple and Steve Jobs have some failures which helped them to evolve and make some of the greatest products that we cherish to own. The key here is to being creative, making new mistakes and act on them. I strongly feel curiosity and creativity should be the brain and heart of an organization !

  2. Deepti
    February 19, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Creativity for me is when you put forth an idea or a suggestion, people
    think “Oh, why did i not think of that” and that is what makes for a leader. Brainstorming can also fuel creativity, in which case there is definitely no space for ego.

    This process is constant, inspirational and applicative.

  3. Anil
    December 26, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Hi sir i like your recipe for creativity..

  4. Abhinethri R S
    September 1, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    Great recipe to be creative and successfull leader. Making use of skill sets and resources will give the great product finally.

  5. Amit DSouza
    June 5, 2014 at 6:18 am

    Hi Muki,
    Creativity in leadership has more to do with harnessing the creativity of the team. A good leader is able to identify the ‘ticks’ in his/ her team and harness it for maximum efficiency. Creativity is also about taking that regular, calculated risk, and then inspiring the team to contribute towards pulling it off. The ‘risk’ could be creating something new, trying a different approach at maintaining something or destroying a model to create a lighter, more flexible model (In business).

    The one important aspect to be creative is throw the ego into the trash can!

  6. Subhash
    January 31, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    Yes creative is some thing thats attracts each and every one. its the leader. and also i think its the same old mother’s recipe with a creative touch which makes more lovable and beautiful…

  7. Nirbhay
    December 20, 2013 at 4:53 am

    Good information, but i have a different stake in this, I believe innovation is also the key. We wouldn’t have a less price car, eg. if Ratan Tata would not come up with his innovative idea to give a car to a middle class Indian family. His innovative idea made India outstanding. Largely I think both creativity and Innovation should go hand in hand.

  8. Ashish Didwania
    December 17, 2013 at 6:13 am

    Refreshing read.It feels great to read logical thoughts having the courage to go against the pre-set thinking models. Also, this post by you promotes a sense of support for people (I count myself one amongst them) who takes the leap of faith and stand against.

    My recipe for creativity would include:

    1. Be down to earth. Do not consider your self as god’s gift to mankind.

    2. Be open to listening ideas of others.

    3. Develop the quality of empathizing. You might rate your idea very high, but it is valuable only if it fulfills the need of consumer. So think from the customer’s perspective, always.

    4. Develop courage to implement your idea.

    5. Worry less about the end result when you start.

    6. Develop child like attitude, to try different things.

  9. December 9, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    Hi Muki,
    I loved your recipe for creativity! there’s so much of profoundity in these approaches. Creativity is something that enables huge scope for learning and improvising something and if we can comprehend that, there’s nothing in the world that can stop us from achieving what we want to.

  10. Rahul Matthew
    December 9, 2013 at 1:42 am

    Creativity for me is a person to take an ordinary situation and find different ways of explaining it.These different ways could come from experiences,different ideas from other people and observation of the world around them.

  11. R Pavan Kumar
    November 25, 2013 at 7:33 am

    Creativity for me is originality and to come up with original ideas, one must be original, the way he/she was created.

    Our surrounding, education system and our inherent heard mentality has led to pollution of our body, mind and soul.

    Our society is changing so fast that we just can’t apply the age old techniques to deal with issues we still don’t know are the issues yet!!!

    Major universities world over are now divided on 2 methods of teaching, one is to use past as an example and train students to face future challenges and the other is to train them to face uncertainty at every point.

    In the first scenario it is assumed that future will essentially look like past, in fact the entire science of Statistics is based on this premise.

    Being a firm believer of the school of thought which says leaders are not necessarily born, I believe there is a need to discard/revamp majority of our current knowledge base.

  12. Ruchi Kumari
    November 23, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Good topic for putting one’s ideas.This can also be called as creativity.Creativity is not necessarily creating something new but presenting in a different and unique way which attracts others.It is one of the important leadership qualities which when combined with other produces great leaders.For example we can take taj mahal. Its a rare piece of architecture that came out through the minds of architects.They did not create a new layout of building but took designs from the older monuments and combined them to create a magnificent monument which till today or maybe many more years from now will still remain a unique monument in the world.This was the creativity of the architects. So I can say creativity does not only mean creating something new but it also means the way you present it to others which has to be the quality in leaders so others can see them as their ideal.

  13. Linto Thomas
    October 29, 2013 at 11:24 am

    Hi Mr.Muki
    Very interesting thought sir. Creativity is the ability to generate new ideas and new connections between ideas, and ways to solve problems in any field or realm of our lives. Many of us think of creativity as making something new—like a new song, poem, painting, or novel. Creativity is certainly involved in making art.
    However, creativity is much more than that. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to work or solve problems in our daily lives. All people have the capacity to be creative. How we are utilizing that ability is the important thing.

  14. Ranjith R-MAX
    June 15, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    Creativity is a compound of artificial program composite by new and old, Bad and Good , Bright and Dark visual and audible experience, that till now we get from the existence.

    Without Creativity nothing become a leading one. Technology.. the tool filled bag which is hanged in a carpenter’s (creator’s) hand.

  15. Dina Jacob
    October 13, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    Stimulating read, Muki. I like your recipe for creativity, especially the one about not brooding and starting to work on the next idea.
    Creativity to me is a constant process. One who is creative is never satisfied. She constantly improves what she has already come up with and builds it tirelessly, lovingly. Even sometimes with other people’s help (ego goes out the window). I can totally see a creative person work her way to the top and stay there because she has the ability to work out different solutions to the many problems on her plate. And this is what businesses the world over demand. That you innovate, reinvent, pull up your socks. Or perish.
    Creativity also flows through in the way you walk, dress and carry yourself. Creativity builds with everything we touch, see, hear, feel, taste and experience.
    All in all, creativity is a process, albeit long and arduous. We have to be patient and persistent. And yes, when we give it our all, we will come up with something so mind-blowing that everyone’s gonna sit up and take notice.
    Like what this guy came up with: a million dollar website! http://www.milliondollarhomepage.com/

  16. October 5, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Creativity is about ‘doing’. Therefore, show and tell.

    C-Suites or agencies have to align themselves to this thought in the increasingly networked world. The one thing they can take respite from is that ‘failure’ is not such a bad thing as long as you show your earnestness.

  17. September 28, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    For me being creative means “Think in a way nobody can even think of thinking and then do it”
    Excellent post Muki. I had shared this creative piece on few of my LinkedIn groups and would like to share the response I got from people there:

    Group: Innovative Marketing, PR, Sales, Word-of-Mouth & Buzz Innovators
    I agree with Sneh…creativity is the important leadership quality. But the most important leadership quality is execution and vision. Posted by SOURAV DUTTA

    Group: Society of Professional Journalists
    I never do the same thing twice the same way, and I teach creativity! Check youtube for ITM 582. Hope this qualifies for my T-Shirt:)
    Posted by Praveen Gupta

    Group: Networlding

    Great point Sneh. IBM did a study recently that shows that creativity if the number one requested skill of CEO’s now. Yet, and I am sure you know this, few CEO’s are rich in this ability.
    Posted by Melissa Giovagnoli-Wilson

    Group: India Leadership Network
    Leadership is about managing creative people
    Posted by Nagarjuna Nandivada

    Group: Innovative Marketing, PR, Sales, Word-of-Mouth & Buzz Innovators
    Wow nice move to get the idea stolen against a T-Shirt :p
    Anyways for the sake of sharing, I am sharing my views else it will soon likely to be rotten…Its not a rocket science, this is a need of time in order to cater the needs of prospect in best possible way and a leader who has creativity skills along with other leadership qualities could make the difference. [Now when will you deliver my T-Shirt... ;) ]
    Posted by Muhammad Hassan

    Group: eMarketing Association Network

    I have grown to understand that all humans are creative but the extend of your creativity is determined by your ability to implement, the lack of fear, the courage and the determination to unlock your talent which lies dormant in your brains. Creativity is the ability to improve a situation, a product or the way other people think hence it can be received violently by mediocre minds. It is therefore vital to understand that you can not be creative unless you are ready to face the world. I’m creative and i have proved it by changing people’s minds.
    Posted by Sibert Maponde

    1. Joy
      September 29, 2010 at 2:32 pm

      1. Creativity is establishing a connection, which did not exist before.
      2. Leadership is convincing people to believe in you/your idea.
      3. Creative leader connects 1 & 2
      Chetan Bhagat is a creative Five Point Someone, but Amir Khan is a creative leader who laughs his way to the bank by telling us not to be like the 3 idiots.

  18. Mamta Singh
    September 28, 2010 at 2:56 am

    So many thoughts….

    For me reciepe of creativeity is something that everyone knows but only few apply it with simplicity ( in technical terms we say “user friendly’).

    Its not at all rocket science its just right idea at right time for maximum user, which can be useful for every coming generation.

    Its just being true to yourself and to someone who is using your idea or your product or your services.And nothing comes for free.So your idea should pay you a lot and lot of money. :-)

  19. Sutapa
    September 27, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    I feel creative thought is when you think different, actually not different, think just opposite of what the entire world is thinking.
    And only leaders have the ability to do so.

    But i must say, the process that are made to maintain discipline in our so called “Civilized society” restricts us from thinking out of the box.
    That’s why life is beautiful when it’s on the canvas, even if it’s a scene of war.

  20. Abhijoy
    September 27, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Creativity is all about our state of our mind and existing perceptions about products and services. The more we dwell on creativity, the more brilliant ideas are initiated. Experimenting and testing are a must for your ideas to be implemented successfully. It acts as a great leveler for anyone who believes in mediocrity, so opening your minds to crazy levels is a fitting reply for the mediocre.

    Creativity can take any shape and form, what matters is our intent and the end objective in mind. Path breaking innovations and paradigm shifts are of great significance.

    In short, continuous learning and unlearning is creativity defined for you. It’s a fact globally recognized.

  21. Jyothi
    September 27, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Everybody is creative in some way or the other, but only they can become leaders who can take the team along with the shared vision. I think this is where the great challenge is. Otherwise there is no dearth for creativity and talent in India.

    The top 3 leaders who are innovative according to me are:

    1. First and foremost is Gandhi for his most creative approach of winning independence without weapons
    2. Tata for its affordable products like the recent Nano
    3. Bharti Mittal for its contribution to the telecom industry

    I have mentioned only the Indian leaders and ignored the global giants Apple and Google because; leadership traits need to be localized and contextual. As R. Gopalakrishnan, the executive director of Tata Sons remarks, “The Indian manager thinks in English and acts in Indian”.

    I am sure there are plenty of others that can be added to the list like Kiran Mazumdar of Biocon and SBI chairman Om Bhatt.

  22. September 26, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    My rules of creativity are:

    1. Decide to be creative.
    2. Creativity is about combining two or more things uniquely.
    3. Become a fast combiner!

    With this process everyone becomes creative quickly.

    Best,
    Praveen

  23. September 25, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Although I haven’t read the IBM study but if the importance of creativity, as a trait, in leaders is gaining importance only now, I feel lost.

    My limited understanding tells me that creativity is the breeding ground for innovations in any industry and any leader therefore, must be equipped with it.

    I realize I might have just missed the whole point of this post, maybe.

  24. Mario Lewis
    September 25, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    Some rambling thoughts:

    A leader, by definition, is one who produces a vision and is able to inspire others to join him towards reaching it.

    Producing that vision requires creativity.

    That creativity is also the minimum amount of creativity required to be a leader. Inspiring others to join him and help the business reach it is the rest of what makes a leader.

    Artisans and artists also need to be creative. But they need not be leaders of thought, not leaders of execution. They need to be creative about content, whether that content is produced for business purposes or for the sake of art.

    A leader may or may not be the chief artist/artisan. Think about Steve Jobs vs Sam Palmisano vs Bill Gates vs Larry Ellison.

    Beyond creating a business vision, a good leader needs to be able to set up and sustain a culture of creativity amongst the rest of his artisan team so that they continue to create products that sell, and continue to think of ways to innovate every aspect of the business. All the leader needs to do in this scenario is be a good manager or a good leader of execution.

    It helps, of course, if he’s also a creative manager, but its not absolutely necessary.

  25. September 25, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Well said Muki!
    When services and quality is becoming commodity, only Innovation, blended with creativity and collaborative model will give an edge to companies to compete and survive for NEXT business.

    Like my colleague Sam Devanand says beautifully “EXTEGRATION “
    Extegration: There is no dictionary meaning as there is no word “Exteger”. But it can be an extension of integer meaning extegration is the word coined to indicate integration of various external organizations by an organization to achieve corporate goal. The other synonyms for extegration can be collaboration or networking.
    As you may know: Integration is a process of combining different entities within an organization to achieve a common corporate objective. There can be three types of integration. Vertical, Horizontal and Conglomerate integrations. Vertical integration can again be divided into forward, backward and balanced vertical integration
    In simple terms if integration is 2 dimensional then extegration can be 3 or 4 dimensional. In other words, extegration is going beyond the beaten paths.

  26. Manjunath
    September 25, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Creativity comes from within. External factors should in no way affect ones internal purity and creative attitude. External factors forming part of the nature could influence the creativity. But artificial or man made things either tangible or intangible should never affect the generation of creativity in a person. Creativity is natural and everyone would definately have one. We should allow the Ceativity to Flourish in oneself and also encourage others to feel free to express their Creativity. Creativity comes out when one breath freedom in air.

  27. September 25, 2010 at 9:15 am

    A lot of what you say makes complete sense. I would just like to add that large corporations need to foster a culture of creativity, coupled with a strategic business vision that enables them to identify opportunities and focus efforts in that direction.

    Corporate management also needs to be ready to accept change, and like someone rightly noted empowerment and an open mind that is willing to hear out and appreciate and leverage ideas even from the rank and file of the organisation is critical.

    Came across an interview of a CEO who is comfortable with a future where value creators for the organisation stand to earn more than the CEO. Such a mindset is what is needed. It breaks down quite a few barriers and can catalyse the creative process in large multinational organisations

  28. Ravi Reddy
    September 25, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Creativity is not the most important aspect of leadership.
    Creativity is one of the aspects needed for leadership.

    Creativity is the begining
    Maintainence is in the middle
    Destruction is the in the end

    And you keep on repeating the Cyle, actually it repeats itself.
    A leader must be proficient in all of the above

    For example:
    1) you create a web site
    2) maintain a web site
    3) destroy the desgin and create again, new looks, keep repeating this in a cycle, if you don’t do this with fresh ideas it becomes stale and the entire business group will be destroyed but nothing to worry something new will arise it is just a cycle

    Another example
    1) Creativity = Know when to Hire
    2) Maintain = Know who much to pay
    3) Destroy = Know when to layoff, layoff only those who are not growing in skills
    1) Create = Hire people with new skills

    This cycle continues like day and night, in astronomy everything is a cycle.

    What is created in time will be destroyed in time, what is born in time will die in time

    A leader has to retire old products and go for new products, the most important job of the leader is to know when it is time for a particular product to be retired and in parallel start new products before the cyclic nature of the first product has ended

    The leader’s job is to know the timings and cyclic nature of products, people and have a vision of the past, present and the future; better yet have a vision of the market growth areas.

    Vision itself comes to life in time, the Vision of yesterday will be no longer valid 5 years from now.

    Actually it is very simple
    As long as you see growth keep that, when you see growth stagnating maintain it but start creating something new in parallel and kill the staganting product as soon as possible. The key to remember is growth.

    Business can be measured with money, a leader must know measurements of time and money.

    My final answer is very simple.
    The man who knows how to manage time, money and people is a good leader.
    Time and Money are the samething (I checked this with my bank, damn it they just raised the interest rates); People are hard to please no matter what, show them growth of the company, allow them to grow in the company. For them growth is a promotion, for the company growth is the profits.

    The man who knows that time does not exist is immortal.
    The man who knows that time is man made is not a man he must be god, time is a concept, I hate concepts actually my soup is getting cold, I like my chicken soup
    Ravi

  29. Tommy
    September 25, 2010 at 5:15 am

    Historically, all things being equal, the company with the most creative leadership will always live to thrive and rise above its competitors. However, in recent times the trend has been to ignore internal creativity and defer to committee or delegation. This is especially true with serious decisions, like executive hiring. Few companies over the past 20 to 30 years have rewarded, promoted or even hired individuals because of their ideas. I can hear my dad saying “…there was a time.” As a result, it’s common practice for a CEO of a large corporation to be enlisted from outside a company’s industry. Little regard is given towards familiarity. What counts is name, visibility, and numbers from past campaigns (any numbers, any industry). The most prized characteristics are team-player and correct-fit.

    Sadly, with the the economy being what it is today, the football player approach has not worked out. The IBM report is simply reflecting a return to the old style of management. The result is digging up an old-fashioned CEO who can simply “think on his feet”. This may not be new, but it raises questions about the possibility of it working in today’s organizations, companies that have already turned themselves inside-out, to appeal to the mold-cast CEO candidate.

    If creative guys are the answer, how the hell can we get screw-ball creative types to fit into today’s executive locker room? Could a Michelangelo, Beethoven or Einstein actually manage a large company, let alone cooperate on the same soccer team? The answer is yes and they have! Names like Glenn Curtiss, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford come to mind. These men were incredibly creative and idea driven, as creative as any artist, musician or theoretical mathematician. The difference between them and today’s stereotype CEO is that they required the help of others that thought like themselves. Everyone of their original hires had to be able to “Think on their own feet”. The clerks, administrators and bean counters came later, after the foundation was poured.

    Today, we are presented with a different hill of beans. It would be unlikely for most U.S. and many overseas companies to morph into IBM’s proposed creative posture. There have been too many years of easy investments, convenient downsizing and black ink pushed deliberately into the corners of quarterly ledgers. Today, most hirings within corporations, even of executives, is controlled by the every present HR department. That army of clerks whose only contribution to the bottom line is its die-cut new recruit, delivered to the lobby with a freshly updated corporate guide book. No, most companies today will have to reinvent themselves to survive. The days of corporate royalty are approaching their end. They will be replaced with an old style company managed by leadership of the same creative mentality that built former business. I agree with the report’s viewpoint and yes it will mean truckloads of those quirky creative types. However, most HR departments doing the hiring will be presented with a unique quandary, for as Abraham Lincoln once said “It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.”

  30. September 25, 2010 at 5:02 am

    Hi Muki I guess innovation was always a key success factor but got overshadowed and suppressed by corporate bureaucracy. It is no surprise that firms which work actively to keep bureaucracy out and empower their employees to make mistakes, learn and in the process create something new are more successful than large bureaucractic ones. Simple mantra to me is success=empowerment + innovation – bureaucracy

    1. Muki
      September 25, 2010 at 11:09 pm

      Hi KK, I like the Success mantra. It should be corporate “bureaucrazy”. Yeah i often comes across people working on projects tend to forget the objective of the project from the company’s perspective, but focus on fueling their ego. Projects fail when ones ego overshadows their job.

      More than getting things done companies spent lot of time and money in fixing people’s ego. So it is important to have project assessment model using a real time method to see the transformation step by step.

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