Creative Intelligence to Enhance Your Business and Personal Life

Back view of businessman drawing colorful business ideas on wallClass reunions are always full of surprises. The boy with the lowest grades is now running a multinational company, and the class valedictorian hands you his business card and tells you he is still looking for work. IQ has only a small influence on success in life. What matters is how you apply this intelligence. Multiple intelligences influence how effective we are. In addition to cognitive intelligence, social intelligence, emotional intelligence and creative intelligence matter, among other forms of intelligence. The ability to recall many chemistry and biology facts is no predictor of whether you will one day mix up the cure for cancer in a test tube and save lives. Some of history’s most successful people including Nobel laureates showed high creative intelligence from a young age. Taking a course in how to enhance your use of creative thinking could be more useful than an MBA.

Creative intelligence was recognized in medieval times as the gift of artists and writers. It remained primarily in the domain of the arts up until recent decades. Today, creative intelligence is recognized as an important skill in all facets of life. In the business world, creative intelligence – also called innovation — is one of the most sought after skills.

What is Creative Intelligence?

Creative intelligence is associated with the right side of the brain, which controls creativity, intuition, social skills and visual ability. Neuroscientists have demonstrated that creative thinkers are more effective thinkers.

Since the 2008 global economic crisis, creative intelligence is showing up on more CEO lists as one of the top skills managers seek in their management recruits. While it may be termed in different ways – innovative thinking, out-of-the-box thinking, lateral thinking – these executives are in hot pursuit of creative intelligence. As competition intensifies in the global marketplace, there is a recognition that the status quo will not do. Strategic thinking is not enough. Creative, out-of-the-box thinking is what they need.

Trouble is, creative intelligence is harder to identify than other professional skills, such as leadership and teamwork. How do we define and measure creative intelligence? Through innovation, says Bruce Nussbaum, author of Creative Intelligence: Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect and Inspire. Only 10 percent of American companies are innovating, says the professor of innovation and design at Parsons School of Design in an interview with Harvard Business Review.

Google is a stunning example of what can happen when you unleash creativity in the workplace. Google’s famous 80/20 rule allows employees to spend 20 percent of their time working on their own creative ideas. Uninhibited innovation also explains why so many great inventions come out of garages. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak and the Apple computer come to mind. In the garage, would-be inventors are tinkering after school and on weekends. There are no deadlines or performance reviews. It is a pure flow of creative intelligence, unencumbered by the pressures of the workplace.

How to Foster Creative Intelligence in Children

Nussbaum is calling for a greater emphasis on art and shop in classrooms. Will making shelves in a high school woodworking class make you a better thinker in business? You bet. Lots of research shows that children who develop creative intelligence early in life have better life outcomes. Parents should be focused on raising creative thinkers.

  1. Do lots of artwork – Drawing, painting and other art projects develops the right side of the brain. It also controls your spatial and visual skills. Creating and enjoying art improves your perceptual abilities. Those who are creative in childhood, use creativity to improve their effectiveness in adult pursuits. Dancing to music and moving with the rhythm is good training for the right side of the brain.
  2. Sing, and play musical instruments – Singing develops both the left and right side of the brain. The left brain manages the linguistic and music reading functions of singing. The right brain is involved in imagination, insight and color. Studies have shown that singing focused on rhythmic training has helped stroke patients recover formulaic speech.
  3. Let your child play freely on the Internet – Free play time let’s your child engage the left and right side of the brain. He/she must use visual-spatial and motor coordination to browse.  The continual flow of knowledge on the Internet inspires the pursuit of a creative flow of interests and ideas.
  4. Create ‘garage’ playtime – The garage refers to the unstructured playtime that allowed the two Steves (see below) behind Apple to let the creative juices flow. Let your child have unstructured playtime to build with logos, or do crafts with no rules. It is okay to glue the crayons to the paper. In the future, he will apply this creative process at work. Ensure lots of physical activities to keep the dopamine flowing.
  5. Leave spaces in the day for quieting the mind – Children today never turn off and quiet their minds. Plopping your child in front of a television when the activities are over is a no-no. Quiet time to rest and meditate activates alpha and theta waves associated with creative thinking. Children are learning meditation in grade school, providing them with a valuable tool to help them focus and inspire creative thinking. Start your own creativity training with Meditation: Creative Flow States and Mindfulness Training.
  6. Encourage children to ask lots of questions – Teachers should take the approach that there is no such thing as a wrong answer. Children should be encouraged to expand their minds and stretch their imaginations.
  7. Encourage pretend play – Imaginative play encourages your child to create his or her own play context in the world of make-believe. Your child is free to take on different roles, emotions and perspectives, and integrate different ideas in many imaginative ways. Like teaching a child to ride a bicycle and learn balance and motor coordination, pretend play encourages a child to apply creative thinking skills.
  8. Choose play themes and games that require problem solving – Problem solving encourages the use of creativity and aids the development of cognitive flexibility.
  9. Use creativity in the classroom – Exercises that encourage the use of creative intelligence should be used in all lesson plans. Pretend games can be used to teach math and sciences. Developing social skills is part of the creative process. Children who work in groups are more likely to stretch their thinking and develop more creative solutions. Applied learning is key to integrating creativity into learning. When teaching math formulas, also create practical ways to apply those formulas that mirror real life situations.

How to Foster Creative Intelligence in Adults

“When I bring you solutions, you tell me they won’t work and treat me like a moron.” Dilbert

The creativity fostered in our childhoods is often suppressed by the time we are adults. Analytical thinking is easy to test through objective measures. Measurements of creativity are more subjective, and thus we are rewarded less often for creative thinking. Our creative ideas are more likely to be rejected. The most successful companies know how to build a creative culture.

  1. Set Aside Innovation Time – At the Googleplex, employees can spend 20% of their time working on any innovation of their choosing as long as it is related to certain Google projects. 3M was using innovation time before the Google founders were born. Companies that give employees space to innovate are creating market-leading products.
  2. There are no mistakes, only lessons to be learned – Some say Steve Jobs’ biggest mistake was giving up control of Apple. Would he still have been at the top of his game in 2010 and introduced the iPad if he had never left Apple? According to our creativity experts, spending years developing animated characters and make-believe storylines at Pixar was the best creative training for developing a blockbuster consumer product.
  3. Rules should be loosened to encourage the development of creative solutions – Think back to the unfettered creativity that takes place in the garage, or under the 80/20 innovation rule. Invest in creative problem solving training. Some days it may feel as if your job is to juggle tasks with a straightjacket on. Be cognizant of how you may be creating unnecessary pressure on your employees.
  4. Encourage dissension – You do not want an office full of rebels but you do want to encourage your employees to think for themselves and question the status quo. If everyone thinks the same, no breakthroughs are likely to happen.
  5. Take risks – People who are more optimistic often take more risks. More risks means more failures. Over time, though, these optimistic risk takers have better life outcomes. The trick to ensuring your creative risk takers do not sink your boat is ensuring they have some degree of accountability for their actions.
  6. Empower people – When people are empowered they are 10 times more likely to use creative thinking. An empowered employee has input into all processes that determine whether or not he will succeed. Nothing is more discouraging than being graded on a task but having no control over the factors that can make it a success.
  7. Seek ways to incorporate creativity into a task – A fast growing trend is gamifying work. Gamification uses game elements to achieve goals, such as motivating employees or students to meet a goal. One educator has gamified all school courses, including math and sciences. Rewards and game mechanisms can be creatively used to train specific skills, such as creative thinking.
  8. Reward creativity – Because creativity is hard to measure, it often goes unrecognized. Did you know that Rajen Sheth created the idea of Gmail and Paul Buchheit developed it? Few large companies provide employee-level credit for product development. Think of ways in which you can recognize creative thinking. The team leader sets up a new collaborative white board where the global team can share ideas live and instantaneously. You praise a number of ideas developed from the global brainstorming but did you remember to praise the person who developed the creative group think platform?
  9. Ensure the culture supports creativity – If you follow all of the above steps, you will create a culture that supports creativity.

Creative intelligence is often thought of as an abstract concept. Creative thinking skills can be learned and applied in the same way math solutions are learned. Enrolling in a course on Creative Problem Solving for Business and Life will provide you with a valuable life skill. Learned correctly, creative problem solving is a dynamic and flexible tool you can apply in any situation.  First, it helps to understand the many types of thinking you use in a day. Once applied, you will become more productive and effective. You can use your creative mindpower to transform your life.