“Creativity is intelligence having fun,” quipped Albert Einstein. He wasn’t wrong. It’s in the playful freedom of intelligence that innovation happens — and with innovation, growth.
Don’t just take Albert’s word for it. Alongside think tanks and research organizations, the World Economic Forum pegged creativity as the third most important skill for thriving in the modern world — specifically for leaders shaping the future of government and business.
The problem is, leadership work has become a time-sucking drudge. As the Harvard Business Review reported, many CEOs are trapped in an email spiral, responding to unceasing messages from employees, shareholders, customers. On top of this, they have to ensure the day-to-day work of the company is on track and, where necessary, respond to in-the-moment crises. Fold in a sliver of time for family, and that leaves… almost no time for creativity.
A big part of the problem is that we think of creativity as a fickle muse that comes when it wants and leaves when it wants. We don’t intentionally make time for it. The reality is, however, creativity is a muscle — and, to a large extent, we can flex or use it when we want. But we have to be intentional about it.
Here’s how: Schedule 10-15 minutes in your day for creative work. Turn off your phone. Close the door. Pick a medium for creativity that’s comfortable to you — writing, drawing, sculpting. Then, go freehand. If you need a prompt, pick one thing from the last 24-48 hours that really stands out in your mind. Then write about it, draw it, or sculpt it.
There is no measurable outcome here. The goal is simply to give your mind the freedom to explore new possibilities. This stretches and strengthens your creativity muscle, which will, as a result, be easier to leverage at other points throughout your day.
I urge you to think “outside the box” as you create. The goal is to build something new, something unlikely, something unusual. These are the keys to innovation that you can use when it comes time to map a path to business growth.
One last thing: You’ll get stuck. You’ll have days where it’s difficult to come up with something. Just like you have sore, tired muscles some days, your creativity won’t always be buzzing. Keep at it — the more you make scheduled time for creativity, the likelier it will come easily to you. As the great Maya Angelou said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”