Real Leaders

How to Be More Creative in Any Field and in Life

Just as IQ is an indication of your share of intelligence and EQ connotes your share of empathy, it is also possible to have a share of creativity or CQ. A creativity quotient is not fixed. It is dynamic and increases as you practice building it and exercising it. What’s more, CQ isn’t reserved for artists. Anyone in any field—farming, law, plumbing, architecture, perfumery, real estate, medicine, education, and technology, to name a few—can learn to be more creative and apply creativity to be more successful in their work.

Exactly how do you raise your creativity level—especially if you don’t think of yourself as particularly creative? Specifically, your share of creativity can increase as you expand your capacity for inquiry, become more willing to improvise, and hone your intuition. Moreover, creativity can be scaled: both individuals and organizations can have a creativity quotient.

Here are five questions to ask yourself and pose to your team to build a culture of creativity and your CQ.

1. Do you have a hobby outside of your daily job?

If you practice a craft or hobby diligently outside of your paid work, you regularly put yourself into a beginners’ mindset. This is crucial because it primes you to get good at embracing being clumsy, learning from mistakes, and asking the naive questions. Inevitably, the beginners’ mindset that hobbies cultivate transfers into your work environment. You will get better at questioning the status quo, one of the first steps towards innovating.  

2. Do you play regularly?

I mean, really play, have fun, and do activities that bring you joy. Joy is distinct from happiness. While happiness is something we expect to sustain long term, joy is episodic and all about your perspective. A corollary to being more playful is developing a sense of humor. A sense of humor signals your capacity for abstract thinking—instead of only focusing on what is literally in front of you. Note that having a sense of humor will also be developed from question No. 1 above: having a hobby. How could you not chuckle at your clumsy attempts while tinkering away at a hobby?

3. Do you deliberately do things outside of your comfort zone?

At least twice a year, visit a place outside of your comfort zone or go to a conference that is totally outside of your sector, where you will be sure to learn something new. This helps you to practice lateral thinking. You can also practice getting outside of your comfort zone daily. For example, if you do not consider yourself an artistically visual type, begin to doodle. Set the timer for 5 minutes, and doodle away. It is one of the best ways to make the mind more limber.

4. Do you experiment with technology? 

Sometimes we forget that at the end of the day, technology is a tool. It is there to help amplify what is uniquely human about us and free us up to do more creative work. In addition to the usual suspects of workshare platforms like Slack, Basecamp, and Zoom, also try experimenting with augmented reality tools and visualization tools such as Canva, Mural, or Ziteboard. Rather than fear artificial intelligence, welcome it. AI has the potential to up the ante on what makes us uniquely human.

5. Do you incentivize collaboration?

Even superheroes don’t go it alone, so why should you? It’s one thing to say you value collaboration, but until you incentivize it by linking collaboration to compensation or time, chances are your employees won’t put collaboration into practice. One of the best outcomes of collaboration is the necessary thought diversity that results. You quickly learn to invite in and lean on people from different departments and backgrounds. Remember: the more diverse the inputs, the more innovative the output. 

If you answered YES to at least 3 of these questions, you’re doing a good job. Make it your goal over the next 12 months to tick off YES to all five questions and share your techniques with others. Better yet, start with just one of these suggestions today!   

As you move forward, keep in mind: increasing your creativity quotient is about building on what has come before you. And that requires, well, building. Building can be messy. While you may start with a plan, plans shift, agendas change, and assumptions are challenged. It requires taking leaps—from prioritizing deep specialization to valuing broad experience and from deferring only to what’s rational to embracing ambiguity.