Creative Thinking and Leadership: Are You Too Analytical?

I’m curious. What do you think about at the end of the year? Are you thinking about what you accomplished in 2012? Or dreaming about what you could do differently in 2013?

You probably do a little of both, but it seems to me that most people have a preference for one over the other. And gathering from the conversations I have in executive coaching sessions, many of us favor analytical thinking over daydreaming and speculating. We’d rather deal in facts and charts and graphs than “what if…?”

According to a global IBM survey of chief executives, creativity is the most sought-after trait in leaders today. In these times of disruptive innovations, creative thinking is especially crucial for the rise and continued success of start-up to stalwart companies.

Facebook, Google, Apple, Procter & Gamble and General Electric are prime examples. Without continual breakthroughs, these organizations couldn’t sustain success. Companies whose leaders learn to innovate more quickly, cheaply and with less risk will emerge from any downturn stronger than ever.

For leaders, it starts with an innovation mindset. In my work coaching executives, this is a continuing challenge for high-achieving, results oriented CEOs and VPs. Many have become over-reliant on analytical skills.

Creativity isn’t something that’s learned, as much as rediscovered. People are born creative. Just look at children to see how naturally they use their imaginations. But somewhere around adolescence, we begin to stifle our creative impulses as we become more aware of what other people think of us.

We learn to be more cautious and analytical. This tendency becomes even more pronounced as we join organizations that favor critical thinking. As we become mature contributors to corporate culture, we are continually rewarded for our analytical abilities.

Creative thinking takes a backseat. But you cannot achieve innovations unless your company’s culture supports new ideas—even those that fail.

Declining Creativity in US?

Has creativity in the US declined in the past two decades? There are some indications that it has. According to Wikipedia, creativity as measured by the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking increased until 1990 in the United States.

Thereafter scores have been declining. Possible causes include increased time watching TV, playing computer games, or lack of nurturing of creativity in schools. There may be a mistaken assumption that encouraging creativity in schools necessarily involves the arts when it can also be encouraged in other subjects.

I’m going to explore this in my follow-up posts. I think there are several common fears that block us from using our creative thinking and they are more common that we’d admit.

What’s your opinion on the loss of creative thinking in business today? I’d love to hear from you; leave a comment.

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