Creativity is my third signature strength. The VIA Signature Strength inventory defines creativity as thinking of novel and productive ways to conceptualize and do things. Related terms for creativity include originality and ingenuity.
I have always loved the visual example of ambiguity contained in the Necker cube shown above. The cube keeps shifting foreground and background. I believe that creativity is making quick shifts from one way of seeing situations or performing to a new way of seeing or performing.
I am tired of the hackneyed injunction to think outside of the box. Abundant creative thinking can occur thinking inside “the box” or context we inhabit with others. For example, can you shift your perspective in problems from your own concerns as a leader to empathy for the people you lead? Can we find ways to make new sense out of a tough event? I often gain perspective during a tough experience by fastforwarding and thinking this will make a good story in the future. I find it helpful to to take a distant view of close things and a close view of distant things.
Click here to see a more elaborate visual explanation and demonstration of the Necker cube.
In 1964 Arthur Koestler wrote The Act of Creation and coined the term bisociation. Bisociation means the ability to bring two things together to create something new. I believe it is vital and important to pay attention to our frequently overlooked acts of bisociation-creation. Creativity is often as simple as joining two things together to create a new synergy.
For example, I think it is important in career development to do what you love. Sometimes this seems quite difficult when you are “stuck” in a job. Regardless of your work, I think you can bring what you love to what you do. If you love flying yet work in a job that is not taking off you can bring your love of flying to your work.
You might not be able to taxi a Cessna in the office but you can develop work checklists, conduct practice simulations, avoid incipient spins of downward spiraling relationships, or navigate into a new career destination. I think transfer of learning is not always trying to make the learning the same as performance but looking at how you bring different ideas, concepts, and practices into each performance.
Here are 3 ways I leverage the signature strength of creativity and contribute to my authentic happiness.
Although humor is my number one signature strength creativity is the engine that drives most of my humor and playfulness. I create humor in my other blog. Even when I am linking to another amusing site or story I like to add my own creative input.
I teach numerous courses and workshops. While I always keep the goals in mind, I spontaneously create new tools and methods as the workshop progresses. I love to find creative way of working with material to keep it fresh for me and unique for my participants. Some of the best PowerPoint slides I have ever used were created as the presentation unfolded not something prepared in advance of the presentation.
I work for many different organizations each year. What I learn in one context may be helpful in a new context. I love to cross-pollinate something I learned with police officers on Monday into my work with call center managers on Thursday.
I appreciate the creative and fresh approach of children. For example, yesterday we were out for brunch with 7 adults and the 10 year old girl from next door came along with her mother. My wife was talking about a special meal we were planning and the 10 year old from next door asked if she could come too. My wife, not wanting to disappoint the girl, responded with the adult euphemism for no. ” We’ll see,” my wife said. The little girl, not to be denied, beamed at my wife and proudly declared, “THAT’S CLOSE TO A YES.”
What a creative negotiation response to “we’ll see.” I guarantee the next time I work on conflict management or negotiation skills with leaders they will hear that story, be encouraged to move to yes, and no doubt my wife and I will see that 10 year old girl at our house for supper.
What about your third signature strength?
What is it and how do you live it?
Don’t wait by saying “We’ll see.” Examine your strength today and live it the rest of your life.
Bisociate your strengths with your life to enhance your happiness. Draw upon the strengths of others you lead to create new and fulfilling synergies of performance.
Next article: Learning a Living.