There is hardly an industry that has not been disrupted in the last few years. Where we used to read newspapers, we now read blog posts. Where we used to buy merchandise from physical stores, we now buy online. Where we used to turn to broadcast television for entertainment, we now are more captivated by cat videos on YouTube, Facebook and other social media platforms.
Viral videos, e-commerce, the blogosphere, social media, crowdsourcing, and a lack of self-censorship … These are just a few of the shifts toppling major corporations today. If your organization is not thinking ahead to what it needs in the next two, three and five years, you are missing out on huge opportunities for growth. Worse, your business may not survive.
The good news is that disruption creates opportunity for the people who are mindful of trends and have developed the skill set to spark new ideas themselves and with their teams. Indeed, the most coveted skill of the future is not technical know-how; it is creativity.
Why did Leonardo Da Vinci’s canvas painting “Salvador Mundi” create such a frenzy among buyers and sell for $450 million in 2017? Because people are willing to pay a premium for Leonardo Da Vinci’s creativity. The buyer purchased his ability to inspire awe in a way that many other artists have not managed to do.
So how do you unleash this superpower? Here are three specific ideas.
1. Break the Rules
Approach problem-solving with a beginner’s mind. Often, we sabotage new ideas before giving them the time of day — all because we are attached to the rules that we (or others) have created. Rules like “We can’t do that,” “We don’t have the money” or “‘We’re not big enough” slow us down.
Tip: Explore the alternatives that open up if a particular rule weren’t in place.
2. Practice Non-attachment
In business, non-attachment is the practice of detaching from the outcome before you make important decisions. While you need to attain certain results, without the ability to detach, you might inhibit new thinking because of a bias toward outcomes that no longer serve you or your company.
Have you ever continued to invest in a project just because you had already poured time, energy or money into it? If so, you’re not alone. This phenomenon affects all of us. While many business leaders like to think they are logical and rational, the reality for most is that when emotions are high, intelligence is low.
Tip: Learn strategies to master your mind. Seek impartial peer review, and encourage dissent. Remember: Diverse thinking spawns creative thinking.
3. Create Structured Freedom
Often, being — or asking someone to be — creative seems akin to getting a cow to jump over the moon. It’s a lofty goal that can feel daunting and impossible (especially for people who don’t consider themselves “natural” creatives).
Creating structured freedom is about creating constraints. Consider the value of scaffolding: Despite its drawbacks (e.g., costs, need for skilled staff, time), it enables the safe construction, maintenance or repair of a large building or other structure.
I recently published a book to help leaders innovate and think differently during times of change. When I started writing it, I stared at an empty page. Where to start? I began with a constraint: Every strategy I share must inspire action. This one constraint led to a creative solution: Every strategy I share will end with an action step. The constraint gave structure to my writing while helping readers take the first few steps to build momentum and implement the idea.
Tip: Create a constraint around a project you want to tackle creatively. See what new possibilities emerge from implementing the constraint.
We may never create a painting that will sell for $450 million. But we can become more creative by cultivating an innovation mindset and using these three strategies to unleash new thinking and improve products and processes. Try them out, and see for yourself!