Creativity: beyond the ten top tips

Further to my previous post, the point of growing spontaneity is to be able to deal with the unexpected, the unpredictable and the increasingly complex.  Orchestra conductors have long known this.  They lead in complexity.  Conducting a performance is about orchestrating the dynamic between the many instrumentalists, not commanding or micro-managing each individual to ‘get it right’, because the experience of the audience is formed from the whole and not from the sum of its parts.  Conductors also know that the performance arises from the presence and creativity of each instrumentalist in the moment, interacting with and aware of each other.  While they may have rehearsed their ‘parts’, they bring all of their creative, spontaneous selves to the performance in order to create something in the moment that is greater than the sum of their individual parts.

Similarly, good, watchable theatre arises from the interactions between the actors on stage.  It does not come from technically precise delivery of lines on the part of each individual actor.  I have seen some highly experienced and talented actors deliver dull performances because the director did not focus on the relationship between the characters, instead emphasising the technical abilities of each individual to get their lines ‘right’.  Entrancing theatre comes when what you watch appears to be fresh and spontaneous, not highly rehearsed.

There are parallels in our workplaces.  As outlined in this excellent piece about complexity and leadership, “Management development involves the application of proven solutions to known problems, whereas leadership development refers to situations in which groups need to learn their way out of problems that could not have been predicted.”

Creative leaders and creativity in leadership are imperatives in the Age of Knowledge and Information.  Ordered predictability was useful for a production economy but not for a knowledge economy which requires input at all levels of an organisation.

We need leaders who function as orchestra conductors, managing an interactive dynamic.  This model of leadership should be part of the fabric of an organisation’s culture.  Leader development must take account of this and develop people’s ability to be more responsive and less directive.  This kind of creativity in leadership is similarly necessary to deal with the increasing complexity of our world.  More complexity means less predictability.  New creative solutions are required to deal with the unravelling of the post-Cold War economic system outlined in this article by Thomas L. Friedman in August 27th’s New York Times.  The global financial crisis was not part of the plan (but then again we ought to stop treating global systems as Industrial Age machines).  More and more of our organisations also require leadership systems which manage knowledge and information more than predictability and routine.

Dr. Jakob Moreno said that the thing that humans are least prepared for is surprise.  In a world where surprise and unpredictability are more the rule than the exception, it seems obvious that training for the spontaneity state is imperative.  This does not mean that people will be undisciplined or chaotic, it simply means that there is an openness to what could be, greater agility that responds to greater volatility and a readiness to deal with what emerges in the interactions between people working in the Age of Knowledge and Information.

Preparation for surprise doesn’t come in the form of rehearsing for every possible situation in life.  It comes from learning how to warm up to the spontaneity state.  What does the spontaneity state feel like?  Some people call it flow, others call it being in their ‘groove’, some describe it as like being fully awake and aware of yourself and your environment, others liken it to the ‘yes’ game that actors and improv artists play.  Readiness in the Age of Knowledge and Information comes when we invest in growing conscious leaders who are awake to the moment alongside a culture of conscious and awake leadership throughout an organisation.  Conscious leaders develop their ability to warm themselves up to what is right in front of them right now and to coach and encourage others to wake up and respond to the moment as well.

This is a radical shift.  Dealing with surprise doesn’t come about because you have learnt ‘strategies’ or the ten top tips.  That is the point.  It’s a surprise.  It’s unexpected.  It is not our technical knowledge that will help with surprise, it is our spontaneity.

I’ll leave the last word to Bertha Calloway.  “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.”

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