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Creativity is a lot more about muscle than it is about magic. Sure, we all wish it were about magic. We love the romantics of the magical idea. Who wouldn?t want to live a life where in every meeting the lights would go down and the attention of the room points to us? We build anticipation and boom! Out of a hat comes our best idea ever. If that happens to you, stop right now and tweet me because I need to meet you. Every artist I have ever met, especially the really good ones, understand that creating is about working the muscles of our creativity.[quote]Creating is about working the muscles of our creativity.[/quote]

The same is true of our organizations. As leaders, we have a responsibility to build environments where creativity can thrive. So what does it take to build that culture? Here?s a hint: it is a lot more than a ping-pong table and cool lighting.

First, we need to build a culture where we ask a lot of questions. The question ?what if? is the engine of dreaming. You can?t ask ?what if? and not promote someone to dream of something that has not yet been done in our organizations. Also, what if we asked ?why? more than ?how?? For creativity to exist, we have to know our ?why?. Don?t get confused, this is not the ?why do we have to do this? kind of why; it is the ?this matters because? kind of why. If we asked more questions than we did spout opinions, we would be blown away by what could happen and how much innovation could thrive.[quote]If we asked more questions than we did spout opinions, we would be blown away by what could happen.[/quote]

After we ask questions, we can then start to transition our cultures to a place of ?yes, and?? ?No? is a very dangerous and powerful position. Use it wisely. I wonder what could happen if we responded more with ?yes and?? than we do with ?no?, what kind of great ideas could start to emerge in our organizations. There is a time and place for no, but don?t let no always lead.

Culture at its core is more about what we do than what we say. If we want a culture of creativity and innovation, we have to value the artists. We have to help them feel safe and protected. We have to correct them with grace and hold them accountable while letting them know they are valued and loved. When an artist is valued, the art they create gets better, the willingness to embrace failure grows?which happens to be another necessity of innovative cultures?and chances are taken freely. When artists are valued, it promotes dreamers to do what dreamers live to do?dream. Your organization is only going to be as innovative and creative as the family you put around the table. Treat them well.[quote]Culture at its core is more about what we do than what we say.[/quote]

Questions, failure, and the artist are all important, but then what? Sometimes we have to force the art to exist. I noticed that our team at Cross Point had gotten so busy that they stopped investing in their personal creativity. In every review I do with a teammate, I try to create an expectation that they refuel every week creatively. To take it to another level we also do ?show and tell? every week in our creative staff meeting. Show and tell is a ?massively creative idea? (insert sarcasm) we stole from kindergartens all over the world. Each week, everyone is responsible to show the rest of the team one thing that they found that inspired them. The only way to find this stuff is to go out and look for it. Finding cool stuff, ideas, innovation, and things that inspire us only fuels our creativity. When we make it a step in our weekly process, it promotes creativity.[quote]Sometimes we have to force the art to exist.[/quote]

Finally, yes, space and culture matter. Play music. Change the furniture around. Go on fieldtrips. Do the things that make your team come to life. When you focus on promoting creativity in your team, which starts with you as a leader promoting creativity inside of yourself, you will see the tides change and your team?s best ideas starting to come to life.

Now go create something awesome.

Ask questions.
Value artists.
Promote dreaming.
Force creativity.
Embrace failure.
Build culture.

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