By Christian Stadil

The most important starting point is to decide to be a creative business and to act like one. Creativity needs to be prioritized and the business leader plays a key role in maintaining this. The leader must lead the way and set the overall tone and be a role model to be followed by the team.

If you suddenly decided to become a French chanson-singer you’d probably start by taking singing lessons. Then you’d maybe browse YouTube to be inspired by old videos of Yves Montand, the young Serge Gainsburg, Edith Piaf and Charles Aznavour. You might even start smoking Galouises, wear a beret, eat baguettes or even better – just put the baguette under your arm while you drink Pernod and read Le Monde. If not I’d recommend you try.

As is the case with most things when it comes to optimizing personal performance, as well as in an organization and between coworkers, one of the most important things is to live the part. This especially goes for people with the ambition to build a creative and innovative business or organization.

The most important starting point is to decide to be a creative business and to act like one. Creativity needs to be prioritized and the business leader plays a key role in maintaining this. The leader must lead the way and set the overall tone and be a role model to be followed by the team.

The leader is also the one who must create the framework for creativity to blossom within. Don’t think creativity can work wonders by itself, it needs to be controlled in a framework of sorts and when that’s in place one can start improvising, generating ideas and thinking outside the box – or to be more precise; start to think on the edge of the box.

Creativity primarily occurs when borders are crossed, when ideas arise on that edge of the box where customs like Standard Operating Procedures, routines, personal experiences and go-to-market strategies meet creativity and spontaneity. To use the words of Otto Scharmer “It’s the place where we stop downloading and start listening without forgetting what lay before; it’s when existing things meet new things that creativity arises, when so far unconnected ends connect and create synthesis”.

The leader’s role on an overall level is to create a culture where a certain amount of risk is accepted and a bit of humor is encouraged and supported; a culture where creative processes have plenty of time to develop and where ideas are received with an open mind.
Fear and insecurity are definite creativity-killers.

These elements of leadership are extremely important since one of the most central operational ground rules in creative processes is that quantity breeds quality. If an organization comes up with 50 new ideas to market a product in new territory through brainstorming, at least 20 of them will be duplicates and 30 will be new ideas. There’s a good chance that the first suggestions are poor – too many organizations would have stopped the process after the initial few ideas – but quantity breeds quality.

So you need to give processes plenty of time and you need to play the part through physical initiatives. Make a creative corner or room at your office where employees can be inspired by various media, books, magazines, mood boards and art. Put up a brainstorm-board where people can list their ideas and the best ideas can be chosen and celebrated. Supplement the best-idea selection with a most-absurd-idea selection – remember that creativity is a term for how to think, not what to think. In order to be creative the brain must learn to follow new and alternative neural pathways. We often associate in a way that’s accustomed to us through previous experiences – which is fine in most cases, for example when we need to use the bathroom. But when dealing with creative thinking we must learn to produce alternative and divergent associations.

We need to learn to look at the world from a new perspective in order to solve problems in a creative and innovative manner, so my guess is that a wannabe Serge Gainsburg can end up being an even greater Chanson-artist.