Every leader, change-maker, and entrepreneur (you included) is out there fighting the dragons of our time — from painful personal challenges to outrageous social injustices, from difficult career choices to the million other things you weren’t taught to master in school, and for which there are no rule books, no blueprints, and no maps.
So many of us are sailing in uncharted waters —not only in our personal lives and jobs but as a whole society, our whole planet: humans are facing many, many challenges.
Many of these challenges are the unintended consequences of ideas put in motion years or centuries ago. And to navigate these challenges, a kind of creative competency is the most important, most essential skill-set for surfing this complexity. An IBM study of CEOs from around the globe said, creativity is “the single most important leadership competency for leaders seeking a path through this complexity.”
Creativity is the archetypal ability to structure and thrive in complexity and chaos. It is so highly valuable and essential because it gives us abilities to operate in and endure unknowns — and to get unprecedented, outstanding results.
Another very important benefit of creativity is that it changes you.
The act of navigating chaos and unknowns to bring something new and important to life has a way of really stretching you as a human being. It stretches your mind, your feelings, your sense of what is possible. And it works this way because whenever you create, you work within a creative medium — artists use oil and clay; leaders use organizations and strategies. The medium doesn’t do what you want: it throws you back on yourself. AND it KEEPS throwing you back on yourself until you learn to have a dialogue with it, to partner with it. Only then can you do great things together.
The medium is wise — wiser than we are — and it will yield, but only if we learn its ways. But you have to grow into this. This principle is crucial to understand because it’s more or less absolute and unyielding. If you want to create something real, you have to learn from the medium.
Think of the most challenging time of your life so far: a failure, a relationship breakdown, a real crisis — and how it forced you to look at yourself, and ultimately to see some not so great stuff about yourself — stuff you had to grow out of and let go of in order to move forward. That experience — that pain of hitting a wall and having to really change your thinking, your feeling, your way of looking at life, of being in the world — that is you, within a creative process, struggling against the medium of you: your habits, your assumptions, your conditioning.
Eventually, you win through. But now imagine if you could get the growth without all the pain and dramas that turned your life upside down. That would be really valuable, right? Because you’d get the benefits of growth and transformation without the all-consuming collateral damage.
Self-transformation is at the heart of the creative process: the medium throws you back on yourself; you have to change and grow to master the lessons. This is how creative work teaches us profound lessons, life lessons even, in a really, really helpful and efficient way. It’s not “frustration free,” but it is very efficient, and if you stay with it, very effective.
It’s also not easy. Every time anyone tries to create something amazing, there is always the question whether the work will pay off because remember, there are no roadmaps, no guarantees, and no blueprints. This is what it means to bring something NEW to life. So, challenges and upsets are highly likely. You’re forced to make choices without a menu. But the medium is wise; it can teach you — if you can learn. In this sense, creativity is a mental and spiritual training for life.
Creativity is like a paper tiger: it will show you EXACTLY where you need to improve, but in a way that is gentler than those life-shattering events that every leader endures from time to time. Creativity will show you in very exact, precise ways — if you can learn how to navigate it.
Sometimes, the chaotic or turbulent phase is really, really tough. Like one of those times your life turns upside down. But, and here’s the key — if you can learn to surf the chaos with creative competency, you can get through the chaos to outstanding results with minimal upset.
Towards the end of this month, we’re going to share more of how you can grow your own creativity skills to help get you get breakthroughs even when you’re navigating challenging experiences and chaotic times. We’re going to give you some exercises and ideas that you can use right away. And we’re not talking about having you learn to draw, paint, or otherwise become some kind of artist (though if you’ve always wanted to, you might be inspired!).
We’re going to give you helpful creativity skills you can use no matter how uncreative you believe you are. It’s really NOT about being creative so much as it’s about developing creative know-how — that you can use in practical ways.
So stick around to find out what we’ve got in store for you.
Love to you!
Jeff and Louisa