Expert advice on Business Leadership and tips on becoming a more effective Leader.

Creativity by Bobb Biehl

On a one-to-ten scale, how would you respond to these questions?

• How creative do you think you are?
• How competent are you at solving problems?

I believe that creativity for leaders is bringing together new, workable solutions to problems. It’s a fundamental misconception to think, “To be creative, I have to be artistic.” If you can solve a problem, you’re creative.

I’d like you to focus on the one thing you have the strongest desire to create. Asking yourself the following questions can enhance your ability to be creative:

Do I have an attitude of readiness for creativity?
I’m told that the director of the U.S. Patent Office in the late 1800s wanted to close that agency because he believed all the best ideas had already been patented. Do you believe the best has already been, or are you convinced the best is yet to be?

In the area I want to apply creativity, what is the need? As you think about this, how can you state the need—and then solve it using your problem solving skills? I’ve published a book called The Memories Book. Many people have told me the idea was creative. It’s a gift book (that includes 600 questions) in which parents or grandparents can record their memories. It lets them leave a priceless legacy for their descendents.

However, the Memories Book began as an attempt to fill many lonely hours for my wife’s elderly grandmother, Frances Shupe. I saw the problem and worked to solve it; the solution was a concept that could be passed on to others.

When a problem is “burning a hole” in your mind and you think, “There has to be a solution to this,” recognize that need as the soil for creativity. Reflect deeply on the problem, and the solution will “jump out at you.”

Should I try to find an original solution, or is there a model I can follow?

There are at least two types of human creativity. Both are valuable and effective.

• Original creativity is the process whereby you arrive at a solution without having seen anything like it previously.
• Adaptive creativity is the process in which you take existing models and tailor them to fit your situation.

How can I expand my perspective?

By temporarily adjusting the context within which you approach a problem, you may see new solutions. For example, if you’re trying to solve a problem with a budget of $100.00, consider what changes you would make with an unlimited budget. With more dollars available, you could identify a variety of solutions you hadn’t even considered. You can then identify ways in which some of those ideas could be pursued on a “scaled-down” version.

Another idea for expanding your view: Take five minutes to list as many options as you can. Don’t worry now about any drawbacks—just quantity. You may be surprised by your creative solutions.

When something is simple—keep simplifying it! (Make sure you have big sheets of paper to write on when brainstorming.)

Is this need worth a lot of time?

Make sure the problem is worth the amount of time and mental energy you’re exerting.

How do I feel about the problem?

Often, simply realizing how you feel about a problem will prompt creative solutions.

Has someone already solved this problem?

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. (On the other hand, never stop refining the tire!)

Who could help me think creatively about this problem?

Who’s the most creative person you know? Call that person, explain the problem, and ask for input. Expect to hear creative alternatives!

Could this solution be a “Big Winner”?

Some solutions are “ten-dollar ideas” while others might be “million-dollar ideas.” Identify and invest yourself in the “big ideas.”

REMEMBER…

Whenever you’re tempted to doubt your creativity, ask yourself:

• Do I have an attitude of readiness for creativity?
• In the area I want to apply creativity, what is the need?
• Should I try to find an original solution, or is there a model I can follow?
• How can I expand my perspective?
• Is this need worth a lot of time?
• How do I feel about the problem?
• Has someone already solved this problem?
• Who could help me think creatively about this problem?
• Could this solution be a “Big Winner”?

By knowing the right questions, you’ll continue to increase your leadership confidence.

Note: This material has been adapted from a book called LEADING with Confidence…available at www.BobbBiehl.com
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Bobb Biehl is an executive mentor. He is the founder of Masterplanning Group International. As its president, he has consulted personally with more than 400 clients. In that time he has met one-to-one with over 2,500 executives (board members, senior executives, and staff members) and spent an estimated 35,000 hours in private sessions with some of the finest leaders of our generation. You can visit him at www.BobbBiehl.com.

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