Leadership’s Next Jump: Meta-Creativity

Woman in Infinity Room, an art installation by Yayoi Kusama, at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles.


When’s the last time you or your team struggled with “people problems?” Disagreement, ego, culture of fear, meanness, power-over… This morning, maybe?


Now think of a huge, messy challenge you care about: climate change, racism, political corruption, war…


These are two sides of the same coin. And in order to do anything about them, we have to be creative.


Which takes me to my topic: leadership, the future, and the ability to bring forth new realities. Not only to fight what we don’t want — but to create the world we want. To do it, we have to get good at creating ANYTHING. And to that, we have to understand and DEVELOP creativity.


I recently stumbled upon a new word: metacreativity.


The word “Metacreativity” was first used to describe a study of the inner and outer conditions for optimum creative work. Not “creative” in the sense of novelty or unusual genius, but creativity as in the capacity to bring forth new realities.


 This is a picture of meta-creativity. The X in the middle is creative potential as such; the dots around it are things created: art, lifestyles, relationships, identities, philosophies, and electric cars (and everything else).


“Creativity” is often defined as inventiveness. But in reality, creativity is the capacity to bring forth new realities.


And the human capacity to “bringing forth new realities” is shaping the world, today and in the future. The fact is, leaders are becoming increasingly responsible for stewarding and directing the creative power of the people.


And metacreativity is the ability to shape, direct that creative potential.


This makes metacreativity a thing.


If you’re a foundation director cultivating a community of fellows, a teacher cultivating the next generation of leaders, a guide leading others through complex and emergent terrain, an entrepreneur pointing the way forward, a leader in a company — you’re trying to become metacreative — that is, you’re creating the conditions for creativity. So do it right.


I mentioned inner and outer.


Metacreativity has to cover the whole range: not only the best techniques, frameworks, methodologies and tools for innovation and impact, but also the creative consciousness that precedes, organizes, and pours into those frameworks and tools.


I say “precedes,” because before every methodology, there is the creation of that methodology.


I say “organizes” because this is what frameworks do; they organize our creative power.


I say “pours into” because we invest our cognitive, perceiving, feeling, and volitional capacities into them; without this, they are empty and soulless.


In other words: our inner capacities must be illuminated, organized, and developed. For real.


The future of leadership is leading us from being dependent on frameworks, methods, and structures (all created things) to leading others in the work of bringing forth new realities (the capability to create any new thing). That’s Metacreativity.


This way of thinking about creativity goes way beyond “novelty.” It is our ability to make anything — the core ability to think, speak, and work in unprogrammed, unpredetermined ways.


This has to do with creating the world we want, and not just fighting the world we don’t want — because we need to know HOW we can be (and become) creative in ALL walks of life.


Many thinkers are pointing the way forward, describing the roads to take in order to survive and thrive. But all those things are visions of outcomes. And it’s easier to imagine outcomes on paper than it is to actually bring them to life.


The next generation of leaders will be those who can lead creative work in any direction, for any purpose, in any medium.


That’s metacreativity.



  1. Stephen Hanman on June 21, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    Great direction. That is the work.

  2. Pamela Wirth on June 23, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    Thank you for sharing inspiring, practical wisdom! It feels essential for true change to happen that we develop our inner space and it’s important to speak about this with each other.

    • Louisa Barnum on June 27, 2017 at 8:08 pm

      Thank you Pamela! I totally agree with you.

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