Written by: Linda Watkins, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
As we roll out of the chaos of the past two years and into the coming chaos of even more rapid change, we need to find our curiosity, creativity and courage again. We need to enhance these different innate capabilities as they are desperately needed for the future more than the many technical skills that created past successes.
Often referred to as “soft” skills, curiosity, creativity and courage are really innate “human” capabilities. We are all born with varying degrees of strength in these “human” capabilities. As we grow and develop, we shape and add strength to all our capabilities to one degree or another. I recently asked guests at a dinner party where or how they experienced their creativity. One said fixing mechanical things, two said cooking, another said woodworking, writing, looking at sunsets and organizing events were also mentioned. No one said, “I’m not creative”. It is part of all of us and recognizes it in any form it materializes. Where do you recognize yourself as creative?
We develop over time.
As we grow and develop more capacity in these areas, abilities like emotional intelligence, mental agility and also the learning of new “hard” skills of the mechanistic world rapidly get expanded as does the need for them. Whether we like it or not, we are all moving toward a more human centered world where equality, care for the environment, personal autonomy and complexity are the norm. This coming world will require more curiosity, creativity and courage.
In a Deloitte article talking about a case study, the author quotes the executive: “You can teach skills, but if someone is missing the underlying enduring human capability, then they will not get very far after the initial teaching. EHCs (enduring human capabilities) are foundational because the skills are built on them.”
These three innate capabilities, curiosity, creativity and courage are interconnected and shine like the north star.
Curiosity is when we seek to learn, explore and look to find answers to our questions or problems.
Creativity is our desire to leverage what we learn to innovate and use resources differently.
Courage then comes in to help us to act despite resistance or ambiguity. While innate in humans, these capabilities can be developed further into strengths. The question becomes how do we go about it?
Have you ever met a two-year-old child who is not curious? I haven’t. They see the world they are born into with wonder and want to know more. For some reason, as we age, we stop asking “why” questions. We also often stop asking “how” questions for fear of being perceived as incompetent or unable. Very often we stop ourselves from asking “what do you mean” questions. After all, being an adult means already knowing everything! We live in a society that favors advocacy and very little inquiry. If you want to build up your curiosity capability, I suggest you build a practice of asking questions and listening to the answers.
Allow time and space to be creative!
The book Full-Spectrum Thinking defines creativity as allowing time and space to activate the imagination and engage in play. I don’t know about you but many of my coaching clients don’t give themselves time to relax, reflect or even just be. We are a nation of doers.
Teaching a graduate innovation class, I copied the IDEO design process from Stanford for an exercise. Each member of each team chose the role they wanted to play in the design process and the goal was to design a new kind of sneaker (tennis shoe, trackies, running shoe, trainers), a product everyone knew. The creative ideas just flowed along with the uproarious laughter. It was as if I had introduced them to the most wild, fun game. Every team came up with an entirely different design and when presenting to the whole class later, the laughter continued as each team described their unique design features. It taught me that given the opportunity, we are all creative beings. Give yourself time to think and play!
Begin by taking small risks!
Last but not least is courage. To act when facing resistance, uncertainty and fear, takes a mixture of vision, self-confidence and practice. The human brain and nervous system are designed to move us away from threat, fear and uncertainty and toward reward. Our human tendency is to run away from any sign of threat. Yet, no matter how necessary, any change and especially significant change can be threatening and uncertain. The person with a clear and compelling vision has the motivation for continuing through fear and uncertainty.
Practice building the courage for taking risks by beginning with small risks and challenges. Self-confidence comes with both taking successful risks and managing unsuccessful risks. Research with companies that have survived and grown longer than 100 years shows they have done so because they are proficient and practiced at managing change. When there is a history of managing change well, it is easier to face the uncertainty. This suggests venturing beyond your experience and comfort. Take little bits to be ready for the bigger bites!
Linda Watkins, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Linda Watkins PhD is an executive and leadership coach with decades of experience helping leaders achieve personal and professional growth, including in new, creative and future-oriented areas. She helps clients embody their leadership and become authentic, grounded and future-ready. Many find her work transformational. Linda's passion for helping leaders thrive by developing new skills and capabilities has only grown as the world has become more complex. She and her company, Leadership for Today, are strong advocates for women and have been designing events that empower women for over 30 years.