We need new ways of thinking

Contemporary workplaces and workplace problems are becoming increasingly complex. We need new and augmented ways of thinking and doing in order to rise to the challenges of the Innovation Age. But one of the most important and effective tools to help us with these challenges is also one of the most misunderstood.Consequently, we tend to underutilised it.

I am referring to our creativity and creative problem-solving abilities.

While the last few years have generally brought higher levels of    awareness about creativity as the new core leadership and workplace competency, there is a long way to go. Until we have a situation where the MAJORITY of the workforce sees themselves as creative problem-solvers, we have work to do. The good news is that it is improving. A few years ago, when I would ask the question during my conference keynotes of workshop presentations “Who considers themselves to be creative?” very few hands would go up. Now there are more – but not enough.

But it is neither a quick nor easy task to reshape decades, even centuries, of perceptions about creativity. For so long it has been thought of as the exclusive domain of the lone genius beavering away in a studio, a lab or in their parents’ garage.

Creativity is a universal human capacity.

But the last several decades of research from the fields of cognitive science, cognitive psychology and brain science have ushered in a new way of thinking about the skills and capacities generally referred to as creativity. These disciplines have revealed that – what for so long has popularly been considered the exclusive domain of a relatively small number of innately talented individuals, is in fact, a universal human capacity. What differentiates performance in this area is not just inherent giftedness born out of genetic predispositions (which some researchers say accounts for about 25% of performance) but factors that are much less mysterious – such as desire, focus, practice, persistence, and learning methodologies.

This is wonderful news! This conceptualisation of creativity and creative problem-solving comes precisely at a time when we need a tidal wave of fresh and original thinking to address the complex challenges facing our world and our workplaces.The Institute for the Future placed creative thinking in the form of mental flexibility as number three on the list of top 10 workplace skills for 2020. The 2016 World Economic Forum Report entitled The Future of Jobs: Employment skills and workforce strategy for the fourth industrial revolution reports that by 2020 creativity will be third on the list of top ten workplace skills behind complex problem-solving and critical thinking.



Develop creative talent rather than import it

The question therefore is no longer “How do we find and recruit talented and creative people and leaders to supercharge our workplaces for advantage in the Innovation Age?” but rather “How do we tap into and develop the natural capacities of all our people to become adept at creative problem-solving, able to rise to the challenges of the Innovation Age?”

But organisations typically go looking for ‘talent’ because it is the easy option. Much faster to hire someone with a reputation for creative leadership to head up a new team. But it is a short-term solution. Much harder to change the culture and bring everyone on the journey. But if the culture is not supportive of creativity even those who have been brought on-board will struggle.The result? They will either lose their spark or leave. If you drop ice cubes into a glass of room temperature water, they cool it down for a little while but soon melt and then the whole system returns to the original state.

There is no substitute for doing the hard work of transforming the culture, implementing extended learning and development programs that develop people’s mental flexibility and creative problem-solving skills on an everyday basis.  We can help with that.  Email us to find out how.


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