IBM recently surveyed 1500 CEOs across 60 countries and 33 industries, and these executives said that creativity - more than rigor, management discipine, integrity and even vision - was the most important competency skill for effective leadership. According to the survey, 80% of CEOs expect their work environments to grow significantly more complex but less than half believe their organizations are equipped to deal with this successfully - "the largest leadership challenge identified in eight years of research."

Asking if CEOs and executive leaders are "really willing to make the transformational moves necessary to foster cultures of real creativity and innovation," The Energy Project CEO Tony Schwartz has an article in The Harvard Business Review, offering the "Six Secrets to Creating a Culture of Innovation."

  1. Meet People's Needs: Schwartz says that questioning orthodoxy is one of the keys to fostering creativity, and this begins with questioning conventional expectations around work. "Define what success looks like and hold people accountable to specific metrics," he said, "but as much as possible, let them design their days as they see fit to achieve those outcomes."
  2. Teach Creativity Systematically: Schwartz lists five stages of creative thinking: first insight, saturation, incubation, illumination and verification.
  3. Nurture Passion: "The quickest way to kill creativity is to put people in roles that don't excite their imagination."
  4. Make the Work Matter: Meaningful work that we feel is making a positive contribution can keep people motivated, not just so we "perform better," but so that we can offer innovative solutions we really care about enacting.
  5. Provide the Time: Time is, of course, scarce for all of us, but the best way to a creative outcome is to make sure to set aside time for deep thinking, rather than always caving to the pressures of instant answers.
  6. Value Renewal: Step away from a problem, and go do something else. Even better: go do something active, for as Lifehacker noted last week, even half an hour of exercise can boost creativity.

Ostensibly, startups are a site for enhanced creativity and innovation. But as we reported last month, many researchers are pointing to an impending "creativity crisis." What steps are you taking to help maintain your personal creativity, as well as a creative startup work culture?

Photo credit: Flickr user Dierk Schaefer