The Challenge: In an Era That Demands Innovation, You’re Lost

Innovation is “in”. Lacking creativityDue to economic trends, technological development, and globalization, coasting is not an option. At the same time, opportunities have never been greater for those who can innovate successfully.

Innovation involves much more than creativity, but it starts there. What if you’re not creative?

The Question: HOW Are You Creative?

Researchers have found that 98% of five-year-olds—but only 2% of adults over 25—are “highly creative.”1

You had it once. Where did that little creative genius go?

To revive your native genius and develop your creative capacity, start by exploring what kind of Creative you are.

Consider This

“The action of the child inventing a new game with his playmates; Einstein formulating a theory of relativity; the housewife devising a new sauce for the meat;  a young author writing his first novel; all of these are, in terms of our definition, creative, and there is no attempt to set them in some order of more or less creative.”

—Carl R. Rogers, On Becoming a Person

Try This: Find Your Creativity Combination

Creativity Comes in Many Flavors

When we say “creative,” what type of person do you picture first? Perhaps a contemporary painter or a jazz musician? Or a “mad scientist” in the lab? Some of the most obvious expressions of creativity are found in the arts and sciences, but there’s potential to express creativity in every field.

“Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.”—Donald Trump

Your Unique Creativity Combination

Your creative capacity comes from a combination of factors that form, activate, drive, and sustain it. Creativity combines with your Motivation, Interests, Multiple Intelligences, Style, Personal Qualities, and Experience to form a powerful unique Creativity Combination.

Motivation: Where You’re Driven to Apply Your Creativity

We are usually most creative in activities we love. Consider:

  • What do you love to do or think about?
  • What are you naturally curious about?
  • What do you get so “into” that you “lose yourself” and lose track of time?
  • What do you care about most?

The willingness to concentrate and persist is a key factor in creative endeavors. You are more likely to dedicate your best energy and persist in spite of failures if it’s for something you deeply care about.

Interests: Where You Like to Play

Think back to the playground or playtime when you were a child. How were you creative then? Did you invent games? Make up your own rules? Build “forts”? Act out stories? Start clubs? Draw on the sidewalk or make mud pies? Imagine other worlds? Come up with moneymaking schemes? What did you like to play with? Look for hints there to find your natural creative territory.

As adults, we usually gravitate toward and develop expertise in activities that involve one or more of these four areas: People, Idea, Data, Things. Each area provides a distinct realm for creativity. Consider, for instance, Benjamin Franklin and the American Founding Fathers being creative with Ideas when they worked out a system for democracy. In pioneering social media with Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg was creative with People. Thomas Edison, who accumulated more than a thousand U.S. patents, was creative with Things. Billy Beane, former manager of the Oakland Athletics portrayed in the movie Moneyball, showed creativity with Data by looking at player statistics in a new way.

Multiple Intelligences: Your Kind of “Smarts”

Your natural combination of different types of intelligence also contributes to how and where you might be most successful creatively. Howard Gardner, professor of psychology at Harvard University, identified seven different types of intelligence: Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Visual-Spatial, Musical, Interpersonal, and Intrapersonal (and later added two more— Naturalistic and Existential). According to Gardner, each individual has a unique combination of these intelligences.2 To find yours, start by considering: What kinds of problems can you solve? What are you good at? What kind of “smarts” do you have?

Processes: How You Go About Creative Work

Depending on our natural thinking preferences, we may go about our creativity in very different ways. Some of us get energy and ideas from outside of ourselves, while others draw best from inside. Some people may do their best creative work, then, by being out in the world and bouncing ideas off of others. Others may do best by themselves with quiet for deep concentration. The creative process may look very different for these different types.

Practical vs. Conceptual Creativity: The Form Your Solutions Take

Are you drawn more toward ideas and concepts or toward practical solutions? Your answer may determine the type of creative problems you are inclined to take on and the form of creative output. For instance one music teacher might come up with creative ways to practice scales, where another might combine art, history, literature, and music in a multi-disciplinary program. One marketer might devise a new three-step customer follow-up process, while another might imagine a whole new product line.

Creativity and Innovation Process: When You Shine

In the process of creativity and innovation, ideas go through several stages—Idea Generation, Evaluation, Activation, and Refinement. Some people shine during the “wild idea” stage, while others contribute most naturally to designing practical solutions, putting the pieces together, or refining them. All of these are necessary to bringing creative ideas to fruition.

Qualities: Your Character Strengths

Your personal character qualities also contribute to how you show your creativity. Certain characteristics are particularly associated with creativity—openness, ability to see things differently, courage, and curiosity, for instance. What else do you bring to the creative process? Discipline? Persistence? Compassion? Resourcefulness? Initiative?

Creative Fodder: What You Have Experienced

Lastly, everything you have taken in provides material for creative work—your knowledge, the places you have visited, the people you have known, the books you have read, the art you have seen.

Apply & Evaluate: What Do You Notice?

Put together the pieces to explore your Creativity Combination:

  • In what type of activities can you most naturally express your creativity?
  • What personal qualities, abilities, and experiences enhance your creativity?
  • What is your creative style?

Take Action: Now What?

Knowing your Creativity Combination prepares you to find places to contribute in the innovation process. Explore and develop your creativity by experimenting with idea generation methods and other creativity tools. Claim your creativity and practice it. Give that little creative genius a place to come out and play!

Find More Articles Like This in Leaders Lab: 66 Ways To Develop Your Leadership Skill, Strategy, and Style


1Ainsworth-Land, George and Jarman, Beth. (1992). Breakpoint and Beyond: Mastering the Future Today. HarperCollins Publishers. In a test of divergent thinking, 98% of kindergardeners scored at the genius level; at age 10, 32% scored at that level; at age 15, 10% did. In a test of 200,000 adults over the age of 25, only 2% scored at the genius level.

2Gardner, Howard. (2000). Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century. New York. Basic Books.


©New Century Leadership LLC 2015