Creative capabilities are a growing ally in achieving the results we need – individually and together – in turbulent times
What do we mean by Creativity’?
Rather than drawing on classic but perhaps cold, technical and limited definitions of creativity, I see Rod Judkins’ definition as helpful: ‘creativity is… about creating yourself, creating a better future and taking the opportunities that you are currently missing’. For me, this makes creativity personal, accessible and highly valuable.
‘Creativity is not about creating a painting, novel or house but about creating yourself, creating a better future and taking the opportunities that you are currently missing’ – Rod Judkins
Here are 3 reasons why I see creativity as at the heart of personal and organisational success:
Reason 1: Because we get to explore alternative futures
Daydreaming (envisioning) is a powerful creative resource to use in identifying and solving problems and to make progress against complex challenges we cannot ‘solve’ quickly.
Why does this matter?
Our ability to daydream (time travel in our imagination) means we get to review, probe and learn from a range of possible futures and impacts that may affect us, our organisation, value chains and communities.
Done well, we start to ‘see’ what may ‘catch us out’ in those futures. We can also gain a greater sense of urgency over current issues or neglected matters that may ‘catch us up’ quite ferociously in those futures if we persist in leaving them untreated.
The clarity gained through effective envisioning can fuel our ability to create a better future, and to take opportunities we may be missing out on. This occurs because we can gain lead-time to generate options to engage with trends, factors, events, people and decisions within and beyond our control, but which will impact us as threats or opportunities.
To be effective in the workplace, daydreaming is best focussed on a specific work problem and needs to be given a professional and technical identity to engage individuals’ and teams’ professional pride.
(Image: Evan Dennis, Unsplash)
Reason2: Because we need to create better questions to ask
‘We should never allow ourselves to be bullied by an ‘Either – Or’. There is often the possibility of something better than either of these two alternatives’ – Mary Parker Follett
Why does this matter?
In a world of information overload, we need to create better questions to focus our attention, and that of other decision-makers, on the most critical and high stakes decisions to be made, and the vital control actions to take.
More effective questions, asked well, build the accountability, transparency, focus and mindset that lifts trust, respect, engagement and performance levels with individuals and organisations. This can happen at all governance levels and with all sorts of stakeholders. 
Better questions can expose biases, break up ‘group think’, reveal assumptions and reframe a situation. Innovative questions can help us to clarify the sort of challenges we face and therefore the types of thinking and approach that may be most effective. 
Creating better questions helps us to learn more quickly than competitors, which may be ‘the only sustainable competitive advantage’ (Peter Senge)
While building coalitions for change and engaging with those who exhibit hostility to being asked ‘better questions’, ensure that you pick your timings and settings well. This means cultivating an awareness of relative personal power in various settings. You can then choose your stage for asking a better question, so that poor responses and behaviours are exhibited in front of key stakeholders that support the idea of better questions. That way, you can build moral authority – and a desire for better responses and actions – in situations where you have little official authority . Ensure that you enable others to retain their dignity in any situation – let them be the one to choose to shed that if they choose to indulge an undignified response.
(Image: Tom Barrett, Unsplash)
Reason 3. Because we can play with Self-Identity to make breakthroughs for goal achievement
By‘self-identity’ we mean how we see ourselves, including a bundle of origins, values, views and peer groups.
At Proactive by Design we advocate playing with a range of self-identities as resources relevant to personal and organisational change, innovation and goal achievement.
Why does this matter?
A decline in ability to create, multiply and flex self-identities has been linked to a decline in goal achievement and empathy,. Goal achievement and empathy capabilities are linked to collaboration and partnering skills, which we recognise as key to life and business success.
Creative skill in adopting and reframing our self-identity (‘fake it ‘til you make it’ and finding substitutes) can compensate for real and perceived lack of human support or role models, for achieving goals.
Playing with our self-identity, even assuming a non-human identity (e.g. through role play as a learning tool, not necessarily in ‘real-life) improves creative thinking, innovation, storytelling and self-talk capabilities. This means that this type of play can help us to find ways through situations and problems that have an apparent pathway to a solution, more quickly. More significantly, playing with self-identity can help us to find pathways to success where no pathway seems to exist.
Never lose your inner child. Encourage your collaborators never to lose theirs. Where this loss has occurred, use the physical and social environments, and your leadership styles, to encourage relaxed humour and play, with few boundaries. However, ensure that work outcomes are the focus: turn work into focussed-play.
This can release people of any age to gain more comfort with unfamiliar ideas and more confidence with using fantasy (e.g. daydreaming into the future: ‘thinking about the unthinkable’ as Hermann Kahn, a pioneering Futurist, put it).
No doubt, many of us have experienced or harnessed the power and benefits of such an approach in our personal lives and perhaps with some of the world’s significant think-tanks and consultancies. Those I have been involved with certainly helped us to re-perceive and reframe issues, threats and opportunities for some of the most significant challenges facing our organisations, communities and planet.
‘There are children playing in the streets who could solve some of my top problems in physics, because they have modes of sensory perception that I lost long ago’ – Robert Oppenheimer
Three reasons why Creativity is at the heart of success include:
1. We can learn from the futures (that is not a typo)
2. We can create better questions and ask them more effectively
3. We can play with different self-identities to fuel and create routes to progress and goal achievement
David Santineer is one of the Co-Founders at Proactive by Design. To follow our upcoming articles please connect with him on LinkedIn.
 Judkins, R (2016) The Art of Creative Thinking, Hodder and Stoughton, London
 Naidu I et al (2018) The Hidden Benefits of Daydreaming, Drug Invention Today, November 2018, Vol 10, Issue11 pp.2127-2129
 Baer M et al (2020) Zoning out or Breaking Through? Linking Daydreaming to Creativity in the Workplace. Academy of Management Journal, In-Press, Published Online: 1 July 2020
 Baker E & Gilkey R (2020) Asking Better Questions – A Core Leadership Skill, Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 11 April 2020
 Heifetz R & Linsky M (2017) Leadership On the Line: Staying Alive Through The Dangers of Change, Harvard Business Review Press, Boston, MA
 Robertson I (2003) The Mind’s Eye: The essential guide to boosting your mental, emotional and physical powers, Bantam: London
 Horowitz E et al (2020) Do you need a Roadmap or can someone give you directions: When school-focused possible identities change so do academic trajectories, Journal of Adolescence, Vol 79, February 2020
 Wolgast A & Oyserman D (2020) Seeing what other people see: accessible cultural mindset affects perspective-taking, Culture and Brain, 8 117-136 (2020), Springer
 Bi C et al (2020) Left Behind, not alone: feeling, function and neurophysiological markers of self-expansion among left-behind children and not left-behind peers, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Vol 15, issue 4, April 2020