January 3, 2012
Posted by Joan V. Gallos
It’s resolution time. I’ve made my list and share five suggestions for yours to boost creativity in 2012.
Times are tough, and every industry is rethinking how it does business. Creativity and the capacity to think deeply and flexibly can pull an organization ahead of the crowd. How can you enhance your capacities and help your organization claim its competitive advantage? Suggestions to boost your innovation brainpower:
1. Read more fiction. There are plenty of benefits. Build new neuronal circuits. Deepen your knowledge of the human condition – and learn about yourself as your reflect on your responses. Improve your vocabulary, beef up those communication skills. Expand your cultural intelligence. Leadership is all about influence, communication, relationships, and seeing the simplicity on the other side of complexity.
No time for major tomes? Try The Art of the Novella Series: short novels by some of literature’s greatest – Melville, James, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Twain, and more. The tiny classics tuck easily into a brief case, purse, or pocket – and their colorful contemporary covers are great conversation starters.
My first was a holiday gift – The Dialogue of the Dogs by Cervantes. Turns out the creator of Don Quixote also wrote the first talking-dog story. Ever wonder what your pet is really thinking, and what Fido can teach you about ethics and fairness? I loved it: a quick read and deep ideas. I was hooked on the novella.
The Duel by Heinrich von Kleist (a 19th century German author I knew nothing about) was next. Read it, and let me know how your thinking about loyalty, everyday assumptions, and trust have changed.
I’m on The Lifted Veil by George Eliot now — her only work in the first person with eerie similarities to Eliot’s claiming her public identity as a woman author. Next in line The Lemoine Affair by Proust — and a look at why humans are so easily conned! Think shades of Bernie Madoff.
2. Discover the power and joy of quiet. We live in a world of 24/7 stimulation and news. We text, email, surf, and sit in front of screens (computer and TV) more and more (and Nicholas Carr in The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains paints a dire portrait of the neurological, intellectual, and cultural consequences). Creativity requires quiet – the time and space to think. Find ways to build that into your day. Mindfulness is not a luxury for strong leadership.
3. Break the work addiction. All work and no play makes for dull, burned-out people – and maybe even dead ones. The Chinese pictograph for “busy” is two characters: “heart” and “killing.” Loving your work isn’t the same as being a slave to it. You’ll work better and smarter when refreshed. Play is productive.
4. Think gray. It’s simple and counter-intuitive: train yourself to not make decisions quickly. You’ll fall into your regular thinking patterns easily: you need to push yourself to think slowly and carefully about what you’re not thinking about. That’s where you’ll navigate through the shades of gray to identify the best course of action. It’s hard to think gray: humans love binary, right-wrong, yes-no, black-white thinking. The concept comes from Steven Sample (the highly successful president emeritus of the University of Southern California) and is developed in his chapter in Business Leadership.
5. Embrace the novice role. Experience the world with new eyes. It’s good for mind and soul. A good way is to try something you’ve never done but have always wanted to or that you know you don’t do well. The process of learning slows life down, encourages mindfulness, and fine-tunes your skills as a reflective practitioner – a definite leadership plus. You might discover a new talent or passion in the process.
Onward to a creative 2012 for us all!