I love the beginning of a year. It’s a great chance to set the scene for what I aspire to learn and achieve in the coming year. We’re sharing the lunch room with robots and AI is everywhere – which got me thinking, as a human, what can I dial up to best ensure a successful leadership career? Two key areas that stand out for me are the rise of creativity as a key leadership skill and the continued importance of innovation.

By 2020 creativity will become one of the top three skills leaders will need. The unrelenting and unprecedented changes in today’s world present problems and opportunities never before faced – by anyone. We cannot expect success by applying old solutions to new problems. More than ever before, creativity is required to be competitive.

Innovation is about the implementation of our ideas. I love ideas and unleashing my creative spirit. But it’s not just about ideas, it’s about making those ideas happen, and that’s where innovation comes in. Innovation can be anything apart from business as usual. Innovation to me is any change, big or small that unlocks new value. 

So, how can we add more creativity and innovation into our daily lives when we might have challenges that are beyond our control? Our companies might be risk-averse; our goals might be too lofty or maybe the sheer size of the to-do list feels like we will be busy until 2020 and we can’t add one more thing.

Here are some areas that I’m going to focus on to keep the creative tank flowing and build my innovation muscle this year.

 Focus on continuous improvement versus massive change

We often think innovation is about big ideas that are transformative and game-changing. But often it’s the accumulative impact of lots of little changes that add up to make a big difference. The benefits of smaller-scale innovation are huge – not only do they happen more quickly with less fuss, they pave the way for bigger projects to follow.

 

Keep my eyes open. Inspiration is everywhere

I see inspiration everywhere and am a self-confessed magpie for bright shiny things. I keep an ideas folder (and a notebook) on the go always – and there are so many things that go into it! Anything that evokes a strong (positive) emotion is considered. It’s like an inspiration board, but for work. The more open we are to new ideas and opportunities the more we will see.

 

Draw it

It’s not enough to have a great idea, you have to be able to sell it to people who can support, fund and nurture it. I think in colour and my ideas start as pictures. It took a while for me to feel ok about that as I wondered why, as a grown woman I still drew pictures to demonstrate strategy when most around me were using spreadsheets to demonstrate their objectives.

For me, visually representing a challenge helps me make better decisions faster as I can deconstruct it and understand the contributing factors and issues. This helps me communicate my visions more effectively and I think when people can see your idea, it’s easier to become involved in its development.

 

Get out (not in a bad way)

I’ve written before about being a big fan of the walking meeting, and on days when I am planning, writing or producing I like to incorporate a walk to help increase my creativity and productivity.

 Sometimes it can be as simple as a walk around the block to pivot my thinking or look at a situation with a different lens. Noticing things on my walk helps me reframe a situation and I always come back to my desk with a fresh perspective.

 

Fuel up and keep that tank full

 Instead of checking my phone first thing, I aim to feed my mind with something creative. This can be an affirmation, a meditation, my favourite song, or a blog to kick start the day. I have been known to dance in the kitchen with my kids before work as we start our day (whilst unloading the dishwasher) and we take turns picking the songs. Whatever it is, make sure if fuels your imagination – and that it feels good!

 

Be friendly

Innovation isn’t a loner and rarely happens in a vacuum. Better outcomes always come from everyone having an opportunity to contribute. I am a collaborative and inclusive leader and enjoy the synergy effect that comes from brainstorming. It’s better—and easier—together.

 And as Aristotle said ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.’

Jane McCarroll

 

 

 

 

 

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