Keys to creativity and successful organisational leadership in 2013

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These are probably the two issues that will most affect your company’s value in the year ahead: creativity and leadership. You need to find where your company can grow, can improve and can enhance its value. And you need to be able to move the organisation – all its people, its resources and its structures – in those directions.

Two articles caught my eye at the start of this new year. Each one gets you thinking and offers a mere introduction to much deeper issues. But it’s still early in January, so maybe all you really need right now is just a nudge in the right direction. We’ll be writing more on these issues in the next few months (if you really can’t wait, please contact one of our team to make an appointment to speak to us about these issues).

So, let’s start with creativity: what you want is fresh thinking, seeing what others can’t (or won’t), making connections, finding new things. Fast Company’s Co.Create magazine recently carried an article on how we need to use our intuition to develop creative thinking. It’s written by Douglas van Praet, author of “Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing” (get it on Kindle) and the team leader behind VW’s iconic “Star Wars” advert. Read their article here. The summary is deceptively simple: there are seven steps to engaging creativity consistently:

  1. Interrupt the Pattern
  2. Create Comfort
  3. Lead the Imagination
  4. Shift the Feeling
  5. Satisfy the Critical Mind
  6. Change the Associations
  7. Take Action

Probably the best book our team has ever read on the topic is “Strategic Intuition” by William Duggan (Buy Kindle edition here). You can read a summary of the book here, and an article I wrote some time back on “How AHA Happens” which gives more information from the author on the four step process he outlines.

The second article that got me thinking is from November 2012’s S+B (Strategy + Business) magazine from Booz & Co. It was entitled “Leadership and the art of plate spinning” and highlighted three paradoxes that all leaders need to deal with at the moment. Read the article in full here.

The three paradoxes highlighted are:

  • Change and stability
  • Control and empowerment
  • Consistency and variability

The best leaders gain – and maintain – just the right balance between these three sets of competing realities. As the author, Colin Price – a director in McKinsey’s London office – says:

Embracing the paradoxes described in this article can be uncomfortable: it’s counterintuitive to stimulate change by grounding it in sources of reassuring stability or to focus on boundaries and control when a company wants to stir up new ideas. Yet the act of trying to reconcile these tensions helps leaders keep their eyes on all their spinning plates and identify when interventions are needed to keep the organization lined up with its top priorities…. This approach makes it possible to avoid the frustration of many executives I’ve encountered, who pick an extreme: either they try to stifle complex behavior by building powerful and rigid top-down structures, or they express puzzlement and disappointment when looser, more laissez-faire styles of management expose the messy realities of human endeavor. Far more centered and high performing, in my experience, are those leaders who welcome the inconvenient contradictions of organizational life.

All the very best of success to you and your teams in 2013.

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