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Leading for creativity: 10 ways to cultivate creativity in others

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Leading for creativity: 10 ways to cultivate creativity in others

Nurturing individuals and building their confidence is crucial if creativity is going to thrive.

Leading for creativity enables the right culture and environment for others to be creative.

A change to traditional leadership

As a leader, it’s likely that you had the chance to flourish in your own bit of space and/or time.

A question we have is this: Do the people in your team have the same opportunities? If the answer is ‘no’, then now’s the time to think about how that could be changed. Some years ago, ‘traditional’ leadership would have seen leaders as the ‘ideas person’. Time, however, has moved on, and to quote educationalist and author Sir Ken Robinson,

“The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas; it’s to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and feel that they’re valued.”

We think a huge difference could be made, both for the organisation and the individual, if everyone was allowed to have some time to be creative. Being creatively thought-led in business is vital in today’s world. A study by IBM of more than 1,500 CEOs across 60 countries found that creativity was seen as one of the most important leadership qualities. To quote Tim Brown, CEO & Director of global innovation company Ideo,

”Creativity is what keeps organisations ahead in the marketplace. That means you, as a leader, need to empower your team to generate and execute bold ideas.”

Empowerment is crucial in building on your team’s efforts in creativity. Employees who have encouragement and creative freedom are generally more fulfilled, and that’s almost directly affected by the type of leader they have.

Three different leadership styles

Ideo outlines three types of creative leader styles; the Explorer, the Gardener and the Player Coach. Each one has their own unique way of leading:

  • THE EXPLORER – The leader who points to the horizon and says, ‘let’s go this way’. They paint a picture of where they need to head and lead their team towards it.
  • THE GARDENER – The leader who nurtures and creates an environment for their people to be creative in. In this case, the environment is not only the physical space (which is important) but also refers to the non-physical environment such as team dynamics, workflow and mindset.
  • THE PLAYER COACH – The leader who has hands-on experience and applies it to a creative challenge.

10 ways to help you and your team

You may have identified with similarities from each of these leader types. Whatever your combination of attributes, a great leader may need to pull on all of these styles if the conditions call for it. We understand that leading and motivating teams is no easy task; the following are 10 ways that we think will be a help to both you and your team:

  • Permission: Allowing your team to find a way of working that suits them best, making sure they know it’s okay to be creative and to do things differently.
  • Trust: Trusting each other to explore without criticism. When you need to make decisions about one idea over another ensure that everyone knows that their input has been important in the process. Things might go wrong, you might fail, but people need to know that that’s okay.
  • Playfulness: Stepping away from the challenge, giving the brain the opportunity to move away and return with fresh perspectives. Playfulness also helps to build an environment of trust.
  • Constraints: Recognising them, working within them, using them to your advantage and knowing how far they can be pushed. The brain responds positively when presented with certain limitations. Constraints give us the ‘space’ to be creative within.
  • Collaboration: Working effectively as a solid team, benefiting from diverse characters. Learning from others. While communicating with colleagues across an organisation can be achieved through various social channels, physically getting a team together to share and discuss ideas cannot be beaten. While collaboration is great and is a hot topic with virtually everyone, let’s not forget that people need time and space to think, sometimes alone!
  • Persistence: Continuing towards your end goal positively. Persistence in reaching, and possibly breaking just clear of the constraint boundary is key. A project or challenge can be slow moving so you’ll need to keep bringing focus to this. Grit and determination are essential qualities when leading for creativity.
  • Presence: Actively being part of the team and the creative vision.
  • Resilience: Coming back from challenges, learning from failures.
  • Confidence: In yourself, each other and the end goal. Having belief in your own work. This shouldn’t lead to arrogance or mean that you need to be extroverted when sharing your ideas. It’s about being comfortable with who you are as an individual and encouraging others to do the same.
  • Strong Communication: Listening, empathy, questioning, reporting, providing feedback and constructive criticism when required.

Creativity thrives with leadership support

Leaders are not, nor should they ever be the sole source of creative ideas, it is the leader’s responsibility to encourage team members to think, collaborate and be present in creative ideas, have the confidence and resilience in the face of challenges and to embrace the constraints in which they work.

Leading for creativity is something which we understand and can help with. We’ve recognised that this is a subject that organisations are putting increased focus on, and we’re currently developing a workshop based on what we’ve highlighted here and more.

If you’d like to know more about our workshop plans, or if you think we could help with your IC needs, get in touch with us today.

Well worth a listen

Teaching Creativity to Leaders – Tim Brown, CEO and president of IDEO, on breakthrough problem-solving.

How to be creative – Can anyone be creative? Does working in a team help or hinder? What about your office environment?

Learn how to create the right culture and environment for creativity to flourish in the Academy masterclass…

6 Steps to Successful Creative Campaigns

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Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

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Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

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Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

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Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

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DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

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Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

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Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Alive were professional, friendly and great to work with. Most importantly they were creative, helping us to bring an extremely important safety campaign to life.”

Jack Grasby — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“This looks amazing - brought a smile to my face scrolling through it :-)”

Jack Ford, Head of Marketing — streamGO

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
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