Spark your creative genius

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    by Jeannine McGlade and Andrew Pek

    Imagine yourself drawing inspiration and fresh insights from the world around you everyday, surrounded by a workspace that encourages your creativity and inspires you. Imag-ine your team and colleagues valuing play as a way to spur serious business results andmake the leap into the unknown with fresh, new ideas that change the way business isdone. Picture an organization that learns from both successes and so-called failures, advo-cates celebration as the rule, not the exception, and reaps the benefits of a stimulated, pas-sionate workforce!

    Successful leaders around the world know that this scene is not only possible but is the ob-vious outcome from thinking, living, and breathing five key practices of innovative lead-ers: scouting, cultivating, playing, venturing, and harvesting.

    These practices make up what we call the creative genius. This creative genius is thatpart of each and every one of us who is stimulatedfull of excitement, energy, andideas. It is the part of each of us that has a possibilities-oriented, can-do attitude and wayof being that communicates to the world around us that anything is possible. When weadopt this attitude, we consistently explore ourselves and our environment, bring creativeenergy into our work, meetings, and interactions with others, work more with imagina-tion than with knowledge, and pursue big, bold ideas. As leaders, not only do we needto exemplify these practices on a daily basis, we need to encourage those around us todo the same. The result is a stimulated team that knows how to get and keep inspired,come up with fresh ideas, and maintain the creative energy that sustains personal and or-ganizational growth.

    H E S S E L B E I N & C O M P A N Y


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    To attract what we call spark momentsthose momentswhere you get the seedling of an idea, feel excitementand passion for the possibilities, and propel your cre-ative energywe need to get out and about and shakethings up. As leaders, we know how easy it is for us, andthose around us, to run on autopilot. Without the guid-ance of our creative genius, this is really the only op-tion we have. How often have you heard of unfortunatestoriestragedies or difficult timesthat have sparkedgreat creative endeavors? Well, we dont have to wait foran unfortunate circumstance to give us the spark that weneed to take hold of the wheel and steer ourselves inthe direction of our dreams. Implementing scoutingpractices will get you there while enlivening your cre-ative spirit.

    Scouting forms the backbone of our creative anatomy.What is important about this practice is keeping youreyes wide open and immersing yourself in the experienceat hand. Scouting is the time for total ob-sorp-vation.That is, observing, being absorbed in, and recording whatit is that you see, hear, and readnot analyzing whatthose observations may mean. Its all about taking in dif-ferent stimuli and seeing what sparks happen for you.Here are some quick ideas to start scouting today:

    Get out and aboutinstead of working at yourdesk this morning, go to a local coffee shop andpeople-watch for a bit. See what sparks occur andhow they might help you come up with new ideasfor something you are doing at work.

    Begin journalingrecord what you see, hear, read.Do this for a month and pick a time to reviewyour observationsany insights?

    Pick up a new magazineone you normally dontread. See what you can learn.


    Pause for a moment and think about the places orspaces that you like to frequenthow do you feel whenyou are there? What does it do for your energy and cre-ativity? Hows the vibe? What is it about that space orplace that makes you feel the way you do? Creative ge-nius needs fertile conditions in which to thrive. Culti-vating the right spaces and places will put you in theposition of attracting spark moments.

    It can be simple, really. You dont need a huge budget torearrange your office furniture or buy a new inspira-tional picture. This practice of cultivating is about cre-ating, developing, and experiencing spaces and placesthat will help you be in a creative state of mind. Even alittle music can provide the right state of mind foryou as you go about certain tasks. So, why wait? Hereare some things you can do right now to get yourselfinto the right space:

    Clear your deskjust keep the current item youare working on, nothing more. The aesthetics ofclean, streamlined surfaces will help give you thespace you need to think creatively.

    Grab some paper and colored markers and writedown three of your favorite quotes. Post themwhere you can easily see them.

    Scouting forms the

    backbone of our creative


    Picture an organization

    that reaps the benefits of a

    stimulated, passionate


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    Visit a new environmenta museum, caf,libraryand see how it makes you feel. Howmight you recreate this feeling in your workplace?


    The results of applying your creativity to generate freshideas can be very serious. However, the process you usedoesnt need to be. You can still get results (and wedargue, better results) if you inject play into the processto spark creative ideas and action. In organizations, fewwould consider that play is a legitimate way to spurbusiness resultsbut we see play as serious business.Creative genius needs a steady diet of fun, expression,and an imaginative spirit in order to flourish. Carl Jung,a Swiss psychiatrist, said, The creation of somethingnew is not accomplished by the intellect but by the playinstinct acting from inner necessity. This play instinctis something we can all tap into. Of course our creativ-ity naturally flourished in childhood, but who says evenwith our grown-up world, grown-up responsibilities,and grown-up rules, we cant have a little fun? To add alittle more fun, try these ideas:

    Watch a funny movie tonight when you gethomeor better yet, bring one in to watch withyour team. Instead of reviewing your monthly re-ports, view the movie. See what happens.

    Call the friend who always makes you laugh. Orthink about the fun times you have (or had) withthat person!

    Think of at least 100 uses for the chair you are sit-ting on right now. Go ahead, try itthe sillier thebetter!


    Leaders who embody the venturing practice are risk tak-ers, courageous and adventuresome. These leaders ap-preciate that during our creative journey there may bereal or perceived risks and that making the leap with acreative idea takes courage and faith in ourselves and apassion for our pursuits.

    In the business world, we expect things to be clear,exact, and predictable. In fact, we are valued and re-warded for making things happen, for being consistentand effective. Now, were not suggesting that these arentgood things, but what we are saying is that these thingsalone will not make a leader innovative! When wechoose a path of creativity, a journey that expresses ourcreative genius, we choose a path that is unknown, ab-stract, and possibilities-oriented. Venturing is excitingand scary at the same time, for it is with this practicethat you commit to moving forward with your creativeideas and work wholeheartedly to make those ideas real.So put on your venturing cap, take a deep breath, andmake the leap right now:

    Do something today to advance an idea or sparkthat you have. Call a friend and talk about theidea, sketch out a plan, visualize how youll feeland what will be different after having imple-mented the idea.

    Become an advocate for others ideasbe support-ive and encouraging. Seek out others ideas andhelp them make the leap.

    Trust your instinctsdont worry about exactnessor the right answer. Next time you find yourselfsearching for certainty, take a leap of faith andtrust your gut!

    Play is serious business.

    Creative genius needs a

    steady diet of fun,

    expression, and an

    imaginative spirit.

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    Imagine an organization that thrives by harvesting thefruits of its effortsan organization with passionateleaders, teams who can freely express their creativity,and organizations that celebrate. What would it be liketo work there? What would it feel like to lead a teamthere? In our parlance, harvesting is the consequence ofall our creative activities (scouting, cultivating, playing,and venturing) that advances spark moments into realresults. The harvest is the sum total of all of our effortsand the celebration of those results. It is transformingyour sparks and ideas into real and tangible outcomesthat in turn continue to stimulate additional sparks andideasa continuous loop of creativity!

    Harvesting ensures that this continuous loop of creativ-ity will persist. To increase the likelihood of boostingyour creative output, three ritualscustoms or condi-tions, if you willneed to be present. The first is pas-sionmaking your ideas real through harvesting shouldbe enjoyable and pursuing those ideas for which youhave passion is essential to the production of stimulat-ing outcomes. Passion got you this far in your creativejourney, and it will continue to be an important ele-ment of harvesting. True passion expressed through theideas you bring to life is your creative genius actualized.

    The second condition is creative harmony. Our abilityto stimulate creative outcomes is largely dependent onour working collectively as a way to affirm the cooper-ation and success of our mutually aligned ventures. Inother words, while we each crave to