Disney CEO Bob Iger once stated: "The heart and soul of the company is creativity and innovation." Companies today need a constant influx of creativity to rise to the top or even just keep up. Not everyone wants to head to Colorado for brownies or go off to Burning Man to expand his or her mind. Still, with all the stories of entrepreneurial disruption, many leaders are feeling immense pressure to be more creative to get ahead of the trends. Even if you choose to remain grounded in practicality, this shouldn't stop you from harnessing creativity for success.

Sebastien Faure, a member of Young Presidents' Organization (YPO), is bridging the gap between the creative and the practicals. He is proving that creativity is a tool to be harnessed by great leaders of all kinds. Faure has co-created L'Institut Idee in Toronto and Montreal to prove the point and is working with leading companies in retail, real estate, automotive and entertainment, including Fortune 500 companies, to inspire a higher degree of creativity than they ever thought possible. L'Institut describes itself as a "practical think tank that uncovers irrefutable knowledge that (re)ignites and transforms" and is founded on the principle that ideas must come from within a company, not from the outside.

Faure insists leaders do not need to be the crazy idea people. He explains: "You are Chief Creativity Enabler. It's not your job to come up with the creative ideas, so much as it is the creation of an environment that fosters the development of ideas. Removing all barriers and creating the fertile ground for creativity--that's the job of the leader."

Faure and his team recently conducted an extensive study on creativity. He shared the results, which surfaced that the following principles can give any practical leader a creative advantage.

1. You don't have to be a 'creative' to be creative.

Creativity is inherent in virtually all human beings if it is allowed to express itself. Remove all labels and preciousness from creativity. In fact, you may want to stop using the word "creativity" and replace it with terms like "imagination" and "problem-solving." Creativity is not for the special few; it is a potential aptitude in everyone.

2. Cultivate and nourish creativity.

Creativity needs to be supported, nurtured--and invested in. Take the time to create systems and processes that allow, rather than kill, the generation and sharing of ideas. Invest in speakers, professional development and staff time to come up with new ideas. This is a must have, not a nice to have.

3. Reward passion.

Rather than rewarding people for being "right" or "correct,"' reward them for making above and beyond efforts to find solutions and introduce new ideas. Passion is the engine of creativity, and it needs to be rewarded, regardless of immediate outcomes. As an example, the idea behind "Quattro" at Audi, which gave it an extraordinary and distinctive advantage in the marketplace, came from engineers working after hours, off the clock--simply because they had a passion for the work.

4. Encourage "crazy" ideas.

Create the conditions where your people feel it's safe to introduce crazy ideas, ones that are "out there." Oftentimes, crazy ideas lead to real ideas that break through. In fact, if you don't have enough crazy ideas, you won't end up with enough good ideas.

5. Get rid of idea killers.

Idea killers are not just naysayers and disbelievers; it is the voice in everyone's head that says, "We could never do that." Companies like Netflix have systematically removed structural, cultural and psychological barriers that kill ideas before they're even expressed. We could all learn something from their example. Replace "No" and "We can't" with "Interesting," "Perhaps" and "Let's explore that." And mean it.

6. Creativity is a constant collaboration.

Creativity comes from existing ideas rubbing shoulders with ideas that they're not usually in contact with. And this only happens when people of different backgrounds work together. Have different functions collaborate and "mix it up" with each other. Create temporary teams of people with very disparate backgrounds or perspectives. Bring in diverse outside experts and combine them with your internal experts. Create a collective chemistry and a collaborative culture that results in viable new ideas being born.

7. Creativity needs everyone.

Coming full circle to principle #1 ("You don't have to be a 'creative' to be creative"), we've learned that organizations where literally everyone is engaged in the creative process in some way, are the ones that consistently come up with ideas that put them ahead of competitors. The best ideas can come from one of your cleaning staff, from a receptionist who observes the behavior of your clients and partners, from one of your interns. We kid you not. Involve everyone. And make creativity a year-round, constant activity, not just a week or a day.

Each week Kevin explores exclusive stories inside the the world's premiere peer-to-peer organization for chief executives, eligible at age 45 or younger.

Published on: Apr 15, 2016
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