Sixty percent of CEOs ranked creativity as the most important leadership skill to develop over the next five years, according to IBM research. It makes sense. To keep ahead of the crowd, to stay nimble, and to inspire others to push themselves, you have to think like an artist — you have to be creative.
The most important thing to realize about creativity is that you don’t have to be a creative genius to be a creative leader. You just need to be flexible, agile and able to shift your thinking. We’ve all met people who are stuck in their ways, who do things a certain way because they have always done them that way. That’s a recipe for failure in a today’s digital world, which requires us to constantly adapt and change.
Why should we bring more creativity to digital transformation? Creativity inspires us to think outside the box, crucial for digital transformation initiatives that require cultural change, including shifts in long-held assumptions and an embrace of new ways of thinking. As leaders, creativity is a skill that we want to inspire in others — as well as nurture in ourselves. If you’re looking to bring some creativity to your digital transformation initiative, here are three ways to get started.
Give Yourself Room to Be Creative
The first thing about creativity is that you aren’t going to be creative in a day of nonstop back-to-back Zoom calls. Creativity requires time. It requires you to find uninterrupted blocks of time to think. Slowing down, going on a walk, being mindful — that’s the first key to embracing creativity and coming up with new ideas.
If you or your team are struggling to find the time to be creative, here are some tips:
Don’t Wait for Creativity to Strike
Inspiration doesn’t magically happen while we’re answering emails or on Slack with colleagues. You can’t wait for the flash of insight or you might end up waiting forever. Instead, focus on doing something — anything! — and seeing what results.
Try Blocking Out Focus Time on Your Calendar
Inspiration doesn’t happen in half hour blocks between meetings. You need space and time to come up with ideas that really move the needle. Block out time for deep thinking, and when you do, close your email, put your Slack or Teams on “Do Not Disturb,” and turn your phone to airplane mode so you aren’t interrupted. You need to give yourself space to think differently.
Embrace Your Inner Child
Much to the detriment of their parents’ mental health, children are famous for asking, “Why?” They are trying to figure out how things work and why they work the way they do. They don’t have preconceived notions. When you’re trying to envision the future of your digital transformation initiative, try channeling your inner 2-year-old. Why do you do it this way? What would happen if you did it differently? What if you involved a different department? Or outsourced the work? Ask all the questions. You might be surprised at what answers you find.
When it comes to creativity, you need to escape the whirlwind, the day-to-day that “has to get done” to get to the ideas that really move the needle. So, make sure you’re giving yourself the room you need to truly be innovative.
Related Article: Why Curiosity Is the Key to Business Transformation
Commit to Lifelong Learning
We all know the importance of lifelong learning to our creativity and mental health, but why does it matter in digital transformation? Leaders of digital initiatives need to try new things and deliver change quickly, which means they need a supply of new ideas. You can’t keep trying the same old things and expecting new results. Instead, you need to have an agile approach — creating and iterating quickly so you can discard ideas that don’t work and move on.
It can be a challenge to integrate learning into your weekly routine. You might try taking a few hours every Friday afternoon to catch up on your reading or set a goal to attend one webinar each month. Maybe you set aside 15 minutes every morning to listen to a podcast or read an article on a favorite website, then share what you learned on LinkedIn or Twitter. Or perhaps you block out one day a month as “out of office” and use it for deep thinking, where you can read and brainstorm new ideas. Whatever you choose, making time for learning will help keep you engaged and inspired.
It’s easy to see learning as a distraction because the benefit isn’t immediately apparent. But if you expand your horizons, you’ll do wonders for your creative thinking — especially important when it comes to solving the often-interconnected problems of digital transformation.
Related Article: Are You Ready for the 100-Year Career?
Be Open to Inspiration From Anywhere
Channel surfing inspired “The Hunger Games.” The Slinky was inspired by clumsiness. Walking home on a cold night inspired instant ramen. It’s true — inspiration can come from anywhere.
So how do you find inspiration when your digital transformation seems stuck?
- Look outside your industry. Like our customers, you sometimes need to think outside the box for a truly innovative idea. If you’re looking at vendor case studies, don’t silo yourself into industry solutions. Think about the problem and what it has in common with other processes, then start looking widely and open your mind to the possibilities.
- Seek new ideas. Ideas won’t just come from reading business books and watching documentaries on business leaders. History, science, politics — all can help you shake long-held assumptions and spur new ways of thinking. Just don’t take this as a pass to spend all your time watching true crime documentaries!
- Choose your mindset. Inspiration tends to flourish when we are open to it. If you’re looking for new ideas for your digital transformation, try talking to a colleague, either inside or outside your organization. While we tend to be protective and proud of our ideas, share what you’re thinking and be open to their suggestions. You might leave with a new perspective on how to solve your problem.
Leadership lessons, ideas, they’re all around us. Stay open, stay curious — and you’ll be surprised by the ideas you’ll find. Because when it comes to digital transformation, you don’t know where — or who — the next great idea will come from.