At the World Business Forum in May, Lyn Heward urged leaders and managers to foster creativity at every level, and find ways to allow it to flourish. Lyn is the former Director of Creation, President and COO of the Creative Content Division for Montreal’s Cirque du Soleil, one of the world’s most successful and innovative companies. She shared what she calls Cirque du Soleil’s seven doors of creativity to which leaders need to pay constant attention if creativity is to be valued in their organisations.
It begins with having great expectations of your people in terms of creativity. All people, irrespective of role or qualification, have creativity within them; it is the leader’s role to find ways to tap into it. Every one of us has dreams and desires, and is searching for something; the only problem is that we don’t often know what it is or our people cannot recognise it. Leaders need to be alert at all times to the possibilities and ways of supporting people to unleash and apply their creativity.
She believes one of the biggest challenges for leaders and their people is to surrender to our senses. We live in a changing world, some changes are large while others are small, some we instigate, and some are instigated by others. Leaders and their organisations need to move beyond relying on analysis and mechanics to help their people live in the moment, to truly live the experience. By doing this leaders and managers add an invaluable dimension, enabling their people to develop and become more reliant on their intuition and instincts, based on what they see, hear, touch, taste and smell. This allows people to build greater trust in their intuition, their senses and most of all themselves.
Her third door is treasure hunting and creative transformation which most leaders would call recruiting and learning and development – I think her term is much more inviting. It is every leader’s responsibility to devote time, effort and focus to find the right people, close enough is not good enough. The key is not to recruit people for now but for what people can become. A lot of leaders and managers won’t go there because for them it means being willing to step outside their comfort zone and take a calculated risk. Leaders need to be open minded as the right new people will be willing to try new things. She maintains the other essential for leaders and managers is to allow people at every level to apply their inventiveness not just to big projects but to their everyday work.
A nurturing environment is a necessity. Trust has to be built so the first step is to get to know your people and let them get to know you. She described a nurturing environment as one where policy, guidelines and boundaries are counterbalanced at every level by curiosity, excitement and participation. Because creativity rarely takes place in insolation, the right nurturing environment creates stimulation, collaboration, creativity, productivity and personal growth.
Valuing diversity with all the constraints, challenges, and differences it brings is her fifth door. She believes there isn’t an organisation that does not have some constraint on resources be it people, budgets, time or materials, and at the same time have deadlines to meet. It is certainly true in Cirque du Soleil’s case. How we view this situation depends on the lens we use. As leaders do we see it negatively or positively? Viewing it negatively acts to constrain our thinking and therefore creativity, viewing it positively forces us to be more resourceful and more creative to find solutions that work and get the job done.
Courage is needed when it comes to Risk Taking. Risk is the balance between continued success and the fear of failure; it is fear that holds us back. Individually, in teams, and across companies, people must be encouraged to try new things as it is a key to growth. With risk and with growth leaders must accept that mistakes will occur, it is our preparedness to share these experiences with others and what we do with the learning that becomes important.
The final door that Lyn stepped us through is Keep it Fresh. Leaders and managers need to stay connected to their people and their customers. Leaders need to role model with their people what is required to enable people to grow ensuring there is an opening that allows people to come to their leaders with ideas. With customers, leaders must commit to seeing their product/service through their client’s eyes no matter how challenging that might be at times. Leaders and people at every level in the company need to constantly ask what can we do better, is our product or service still relevant and meeting the demands of the markets we serve. Leaders must be prepared to enter uncharted waters, it wakes people up. Finally both groups need to share in the success that is achieved.
I think what Lyn shared applies to life as much as it does to leaders and their companies, the question is, do we have the courage to step through these seven doors?
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