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December 2005

Welcome to the many new subscribers who have joined us over the past couple of months. I hope all readers find this issue, like others before it, full of practical ideas and techniques that help you and your organizations apply the principles of the Breakthrough Creativity approach and the eight creative talents to enhance your creativity, innovation and competitiveness.

Happy Holidays to you and your family and may you have a wonderful, healthy, and very creative new year! And make a new year's resolution to push forward on your journey toward greater creativity!

in this issue
  • Can We Be Too Creative?
  • Tapping Creativity for Top Performance
  • Managing for More Creative Results
  • More Tips for Achieving Greater Creativity on Your Team
  • Tools for Using the Eight Creative Talents

  • Tapping Creativity for Top Performance

    One of the topics I covered in the LiveMeeting webinar on October 18, was the use of the eight creative talents to help leaders deal with ambiguity and change. Using the knowledge of the eight creative talents to extend your repertoire of responses to challenges requires the ability to switch into another talent which may not be one of your favorite ones.

    A participant asked "How can I learn to flex into my non-favorite talents?" That's a great question! Listed below are some suggestions:

    1. Be aware of the talent that you are currently using. Self-awareness can't be overstressed! Until you are conscious of the talent you are using to take in data or make some judgment about that data, you won't know what talent you need to flex out of!

    2. Take a short break. Before plunging ahead stuck with the same perspective, take a break for just a moment. Whether it's a short walk outside or a stretch or a mental break, disrupting your routine can give you time to pull out one of the other talents to help you reframe and see the situation differently.

    3. Develop an image or symbol to spur flexing. This image could be your favorite cartoon character who reminds you to think big like the Explorer talent (perhaps, Calvin from the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon?). Or it could be someone who reminds you of a particular talent, such as Thomas Edison and his use of the Navigator talent to work through hundreds of experiments to discover the incandescent light bulb.

    4. Think about the talent you are most unfamiliar with and find a creative force -- a piece of art or music or a favorite spot in nature -- that evokes that talent. Perhaps it is jazz music that calls forth your improvisational Adventurer talent or some piece of sculpture, such as Rodin's Thinker, to call forth your Inventor talent.

    5. Have a list of questions to ask that draw on the other talents. Questions could include: For the improvisational Adventurer talent, you might ask: What does the problem look, smell, taste, feel like? Or, for the thoughtful, adaptive Navigator talent: Where's the evidence and what's the history of the problem? Or for the pulsing possibilities of the Explorer talent: In what ways might we...? Or, for the prophetic and synthetic power of the Visionary talent: What might the future look like ten years from now?

    To bring out the people-focused energy of the Harmonizer talent, you can ask: Who is and is not involved? For the values-based power of the Poet talent: What's important to everyone? For the strategic power of the Pilot talent: What's our purpose and goals? And for the analytical force of the Inventor talent: What framework or model will help us understand the problem?

    for more questions

    Managing for More Creative Results

    Managing for more creative results (adapted from BREAKTHROUGH CREATIVITY: Achieving Top Performance with the Eight Creative Talents)

    Question: I have one person on my team who seems to be forever focused on the far distant future. She can almost be clairvoyant at times. Yet, she seems to have a hard time sharing her ideas with the rest of the team and explaining how we would be able to get from the present to that future. What can I do as team leader to help her be more productive and effective as well as creative?

    Answer: For such individuals, who prefer what I call the Visionary talent, their creativity, or their ability to consistently produce different and valuable results, comes in the form of being able to synthesize ideas from a wide variety of disciplines and generate incredibly insightful and far-reaching ideas about the future. They excel at asking creative, provocative questions that challenge the group to find profound answers and big solutions.

    At the same time, they can be sidetracked because of:

    * A neglect of relevant facts and details
    * Constant pursuit of new ideas
    * Perfectionism and need for mastery over the topic
    * Being overly independent and private and unwilling to share their ideas

    As team leader, you can help them improve their creative capacities by encouraging them to:

    * Work on their communication skills, to share their far-reaching thoughts and ideas
    * Ask them to take time to explain how to get their ideas accepted
    * Take breaks to their reduce intensity
    * Partner up with a colleague who excels at detailed action planning to ground their ideas with necessary details
    * Support their use of their decision-making talent to balance their constant pursuit of ideas

    Previous newsletters have highlighted the other eight creative talents. In addition, the book "Breakthrough Creativity: Achieving Top Performance Using the Eight Creative Talents" devotes a chapter to each one of the talents and provides tips for enhancing that talent's creativity and for managing individuals with preferences for certain talents. See "about the Book" below!

    More Tips for Achieving Greater Creativity on Your Team

    In the last issue, we continued to explore techniques to improve the productivity of a creative problem solving session. In this issue, you'll find additional tips on getting the most from such sessions.

    Mind-body researcher Herb Benson's article in the November issue of "The Harvard Business Review" had some excellent suggestions for elevating the levels of creativity in your team, particularly when dealing with a tough issue. In such situations, Benson encourages the use of a four-part "breakout" process:

    1. First, lay out the totality of a difficult project or pressing problem. To do so, gather the details of the problem, its roots and current challenges. All team members are instructed to come to the meeting prepared to provide this background. During this step, the team "struggles mightily with a thorny problem."

    2. Next, lead the team through a relaxation exercise, have them take a walk, or have the team sleep on the problem, to get them away from the problem and do something totally different.

    3. Inevitably, these two steps lead to new insights. Be sure to have the team capture them! Benson calls these insight experiences "breakouts." Others call them "peak experiences" or "being in the flow" or "in the zone."

    4. Bring the team back together and have them apply their insights to the problem.

    Benson and his Mind/Body Medical Institute have lots of data to support the effectiveness of this technique. Having used a similar approach when I was writing my book, I can certainly attest to its usefulness!

    Tools for Using the Eight Creative Talents

    For readers interested in building more creativity into their own lives or those of their clients or their team members, I recommend the "Breakthrough Creativity Profile Participant Workbook" and the "Breakthrough Creativity Profile Facilitator's Guide," both available through HRDQ.com.

    The Participant Workbook features an introduction to the Breakthrough Creativity approach, a 16-item assessment with pressure-sensitive scoring form designed to identify favorite talents, an overview of the eight creative talents, a team talent matrix and questionnaire, and action planning exercises. While the Participant Workbook was developed for use in a workshop, it can be used by individuals seeking new insights into their creative strengths and challenges and by coaches working to help their clients reach their creative potential.

    The Facilitator Guide is packed with a wealth of material providing background information on the Breakthrough Creativity model, a step-by-step guide for conducting several different workshops based on the Eight Creative Talents, exercises to expand learning, and a copy of the Participant Workbook. It also includes a section for coaches on using the Breakthrough Creativity model with clients. Finally, the Guide comes with a CD-ROM containing overhead transparency masters, activity handouts, and more.

    Can We Be Too Creative?

    In a journal I read last week, the question is asked, "Can we be too creative?" What would your answer be?

    My answer would take two parts. The first is that given all the challenges that the world, our organizations and nations, as well as ourselves are facing, it's hard to imagine that there could be too many ideas leading to different and valuable solutions.

    Indeed, studies by Bain & Company and Boston Consulting Group continue to see global executives overwhelming listing innovation, creativity's closely-linked cousin, as a key driver of long-term success. So it is hard to imagine that we could have too much creativity!

    But what if the poser of this question was equating creativity ONLY to idea generation?

    If that's the case, perhaps it is possible to have too many ideas. In fact, recent research continues to underscore the fact that it is not the number of ideas that is lacking. It's finding ways to make those ideas work. So maybe the question is right on. Maybe we can spend too much time just generating new ideas. What we need to do is develop the other side, the often underappreciated creative contributions of the detail loving talent of the Navigator, the project management proficiency of the Pilot talent, or the political skills of the Harmonizer talent to translate ideas into solutions.

    It is also very clear that we can stretch our creative efforts too far and may need at times to take a break. Remember, creativity is "the ability to consistently -- but not necessarily constantly! -- produce different and valuable results." Several researchers have recently advocated just that! See More Tips for Achieving Greater Creativity on Your Team for information on what one researcher suggests!

    "Greater awareness of your creative nature brings a sense of self-esteem, and heightened self esteem brings a confidence that you can handle anything life tosses your way, including change, uncertainty and ambiguity!"

    "Challenges exercise your creativity muscle. It is a muscle. If you use it, it gets stronger." (with thanks to A.J. Lafley, CEO of Procter and Gamble.)

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    Copyright (c) Lynne C. Levesque. All rights in all media reserved.