When we think of creativity, we tend to imagine something diffuse and shifting, an unmanageable idea it’s hard to hold on to. It doesn’t quite fill the rigid shoes of business management with its straightforward thinking and profit-seeking agenda. Likewise, when we are presented with creative individuals, we see them as somewhat chaotic and inspirational - an individualist, if you will, but not someone who immediately fits a leader position.

The truth is, creativity is no longer a luxury that some privileged business owners have time and resources to invest in; it has become a survival mechanism for those who want to keep up with the innovative game of producing the best idea.

Those who fall behind is quickly out of the game, and businesses everywhere are finally starting to invest in creative thinking.

What makes a great leader?

Creativity and business have been hand-in-hand for years already. It’s not a new concept that to produce cutting-edge ideas and kick off a start-up, we need imaginative thinking. We’re in desperate need of original thinking when we hatch up a brand new product concept, when we learn how to write a marketing strategy, and even more so when we attempt to imagine the voice of the customer.

In fact, to produce anything at all we need to be able to imagine it first, look at it from different angles, and finally come up with something original - but it’s only the most recent years that has made us ask for creativity’s role in leadership.

When looking at what makes a good leader, the characteristics are usually mentioned in a mouthful: honesty, delegation, empathy, and communication. The manager needs to reflect her employees, set an example for the rest of the team, and lead them with integrity. She is in possession of great management and organizational skills - but still able to trust her employees and delegate important tasks to them.

The most common traits of a leader all tick the box of what we expect; they’re the characteristics of a people person, someone who takes charge but is not afraid to trust others. All of this should make for an excellent leader and innovative ideas - but, increasingly, the best ideas do not come from the management as much as from creative individuals further down the management ladder.

Managing for Creativity

An employee at Google shared his eye-opening story of innovation when its founders tracked the progress of concepts they had backed compared to those that had been executed without the support from above - and found a higher success rate in the latter. Of all the skills we looked at above, delegation seems to be the most important one. Trusting one’s employees enough to assign them important tasks is just the tip of the iceberg, though, and a great leader needs to go further than this.

creative people in business management

To recognize the potential of the workers, to tap ideas from each corner of the business, and to realizing that the most successful ideas come from the employee's’ own initiatives. A business that wants to incorporate creative thinking needs to look at ways to manage for it - rather than looking for ways on how to manage it.

Creativity and Collaboration

When we think about the great thinkers of our time and innovative, revolutionary ideas, it often takes the shape of a lone figure. An eccentric individual, perhaps, with vast imaginative abilities and an enormous intellect; although this may very well be true, he was not alone. Most of the large corporations we look up to today are the results of a large network and a company culture that focused on having a flat structure, rather than the traditional top-down approach.

The flatness ensures that every mind is put to use, making connections we never thought of before reality and a network of individuals that are dependent on each other for success.

It sure is quite a different leadership style than what the traditional leader might have in mind - but then again, a traditional style will often find it difficult to produce something new and original. To manage for creativity in the workplace, the business leader needs to look at different ways on how to open up for greater collaboration and work towards a flat business structure.

Think of it as becoming the channel for your worker’s original and potentially successful ideas; an exceptional leader is able to open for communication at each level and make use of their creativity,

Collaboration Tools

As a leader, the best thing you can do for your business is to provide it with tools for collaboration. The team you’re leading is in possession of greater creative thinking than a lot of the people who are higher up in the administration; by furthering the collaboration, you can hear the voices you rarely get to hear. In meetings, for example, you may notice how some people are more energized and louder than others - while those you actually want to hear from are holding back.

Blame it on the hierarchy of your business, first of all, and then blame it on yourself.

A difference in status amongst your employees contributes to this kind of culture - where you, as the leader, only hear the loudest ones and keep receiving the same input. Figure out ways of silencing the loud voices and bringing forth the quiet ones who have much better ideas for problem-solving, and you’re already well on your way towards a more creative and original business structure than your competitors.

As much as technology is changing, we’re still not taking as much advantage of it as we should. A great collaboration software is able to make the structure of your company flatter, raising the voices you’d like to hear, as well as connecting people across your business who are working on solving the same problem. By keeping them separated and depending on the management to cough up the next great idea, you’re in reality suffocating the potential of your workers.

Make use of their creative talents, connect them with each other, and take advantage of the inspiration they find in each other.


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