Complexity, Creativity and Collaboration
May 30, 2012 2 Comments
By Linda Fisher Thornton
How are Complexity and Creativity Related?
We are living in a complex world. Dealing with complexity is easier when we utilize collective knowledge and creativity. IBM interviewed more than 700 Corporate Human Resource Officers and found that creativity, flexibility and collaboration need to play a major role in leadership development:
Based on the key capability gaps revealed in this study, we believe organizations should focus on three critical workforce imperatives: cultivating creative leaders, mobilizing for speed and flexibility and capitalizing on collective intelligence.
Complexity is the Path We’re On
It’s tempting to repeat the same strategies we’ve always used successfully as leaders – but those same approaches may not work well when we’re solving complex problems. To be successful leaders in a global society, we need to learn how to navigate through complexity.
The world’s private and public sector leaders believe that a rapid escalation of “complexity” is the biggest challenge confronting them. They expect it to continue — indeed, to accelerate — in the coming years. They are equally clear that their enterprises today are not equipped to cope effectively with this complexity in the global environment.
Creativity is a Way Through It
In his article in Psychology Today, The Creative Personality , Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes that ”Creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals. If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it’s complexity. They show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an “individual,” each of them is a “multitude.”"
In his Note to Fellow CEOs, IBM Chairman Samuel J. Palmisano shares that “We occupy a world that is connected on multiple dimensions, and at a deep level — a global system of systems. That means, among other things, that it is subject to systems-level failures, which require systems-level thinking about the effectiveness of its physical and digital infrastructures.” The IBM report Capitalizing on Complexity found that Executives are realizing that creative thinking is critically important for business leaders.
…they identify “creativity” as the single most important leadership competency for enterprises seeking a path through this complexity.
Diversity of Ideas Provides Perspective
When dealing with complexity, we need fresh thinking. We need to listen to all ideas that may help, regardless of where they come from. We need to build solutions together. To do that successfully requires giving up the notion that we are “right.” In their HBR article “Creativity and the Role of the Leader” Amabile and Khairi recommend that we foster creativity in those we lead by:
- Not thinking of ourselves as the source of ideas and bring out and champion the ideas of others
- Opening our organization to diverse perspectives
- Knowing when to impose controls on the creative process and when not to
- an open mind
- the collective wisdom of the groups and organizations we lead
- respect for others
- respect for ideas, and
- respect for differences.
Linda Fisher Thornton is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Leadership for the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies. She is also CEO/Owner of Leading in Context LLC, a consulting firm helping business leaders lead responsibly in a complex world. Her publication “Ethical Implications of How Leaders Perceive Different” includes a continuum of 5 perspectives (some more ethical than others) and helps leaders understand how their thinking and behavior impact the organization and those they lead.
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