Survival distracts from creativity. Leaders say they want innovations, but don’t take action.

Let’s discuss three notable stories currently in the news about creativity:

1. Taking care of basic survival needs aids in creativity

Earth’s creatures test new ideas every day.  This Scientific American article shows that survival helps and hinders creativity. One study discussed notes how the economically challenged find solving problems in new situations more difficult.

Further studies of this effect show that financial help positively impacts cognitive performance. Meeting basic needs makes us all more able to take advantage of opportunities.

2. The best CEOs want to be imaginative, innovative, and flexible

In a cross-industry and international survey, CEOs agree that they want to be ahead of their industry. They want to hire highly creative employees as a top priority.

In a piece for Harvard Business Review, Emma Sepal writes about how executives are cultivating their own innovation. Terykson Fernando – who is Creative Director at Sativa – tries to integrate observation into everyday activities:

“The entire universe is filled with ideas and has in it what I am trying to create, so I take clues from everyday life by observing every little thing and being inquisitive about the how, why, what of things around me.”

Leaders also look for a variety of feedback from diverse sources, create space by taking walks, use mindfulness meditation to clear their heads and embrace natural and artificial limitations.

3. Strong cultures encourage leaders to play it safe even when customers want innovation

Managers tend to evaluate ideas based on cultural fit rather than possible positive outcomes. This research discussed in the Wall Street Journal notes this. Leaders say they want creativity. Their decisions don’t often match. They fear taking a risk on a less proven idea.

That prevents employees from discussing controversial or unpopular ideas.  More support needs to be built into the workplace system to show employees how to accept and implement creative ideas. They have to reward thinking like artists in ways that encourage action.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

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