Despite what people might believe, creative talent can be nurtured in the right environment. Here, we reveal the important dynamics that can fuel creative growth.
There has long been a fascination with detecting the factors that can lead to genius. Although there are no magic bullets, there are some clear indicators from research about what might make a difference in fostering creative talent.
Contrary to popular perception, for example, the achievements of ‘geniuses’ correlate most closely not with IQ, but with the ability to think creatively and the willingness to persevere. People who are recognised as geniuses are in fact highly motivated innovative thinkers. Additionally, although we tend to put creative geniuses up on exclusive pedestals, they are not isolated individualists. They are also effective at building on and developing ideas and creative talent from others.
Generating genius is, therefore, not simply a case of identifying those who are born with high IQ. Instead it’s about inspiring creative thinking and a deep desire to learn through collaboration.
Nobel laureates have a creative passion
A study of 1500 children with extremely high iQs once aimed to specifically identify whether they would eventually become geniuses.
Two individuals who eventually became Nobel Laureates were below the iQs threshold to make it into this study; but they didn’t need it, instead they relied on creativity and perseverance to reach their goals.
Barry Marshall, an Australian Nobel Prize winner, has demonstrated the power of this sort of creative talent and creative passion. Marshall believed that stomach ulcers were linked to bacteria rather than stress, but he was not permitted to conduct studies on humans.
Marshall was so confident in his theory that he decided to drink a batch of specially prepared bacteria himself to test the outcomes. Through this act of sheer determination, he proved that the bacteria did in fact cause an ulcer, and that certain antibiotics could be used to cure it.
Star performers are creative collaborators
The ‘star performers’ in an organisation — those who will throw themselves into their work as high achievers without external motivation — can outperform their peers by working to the level of three average people, and can give back to their company 88 times their salary.
Yet while star performers are highly motivated individually, they are not individualistic. They have been found to be, in fact, highly collaborative.
On the other hand, research has found people who are able to come up with a number of different ideas, typically corporate founders and entrepreneurs, are often individualistic.
Although the first stage in the innovation process may require individual initiative and creativity, the next stage of the process requires leveraging resources to come up with solutions. This second stage depends on efficient relationships that require a collectivist mindset.
The dynamic that generates genius
So what leadership strategies can be employed to help increase creative talent in your organisation?
The best approach is to acknowledge that it is essential to balance the potential tension between individual passion AND creative collaboration. It is only in combination that the dynamic is created for sustainable innovative growth.
Try the following:
1. To inspire creative passion:
- Provide opportunities for individuals to follow interests that they are enthusiastic about.
- Encourage employees to share their constructive ideas for improvement openly, and empower them to pursue solutions.
2. To encourage creative collaboration:
- Create environments where people feel comfortable sharing ideas.
- Encourage people to build on each other’s ideas.
3. To ensure dynamic equilibrium:
- Ensure there are times when individuals can work alone on their own projects and times where they work in creative teams.
- Build spaces for both focused thinking and spaces for collaborative thinking and problem solving.
You may be surprised by the results when you effectively balance these two areas of potential. You will soon discover that rather than simply being a lucky genetic accident, creative development can be readily fostered.
This edited extract has been taken from the book The Innovation Race: How to change a culture to change the game by Gaia and Andrew Grant.