Things You Should Know About Developing Creativity

y colleague, Dr. Sylvie Labelle, has done some fascinating research on how top business leaders develop their creativity. She interviewed 19 top Canadian business leaders, both female and male, across the business spectrum. As a Third Ager, what can I learn from her work about becoming unstuck and attaining new creative levels? I would like to share some of her findings with you. They have made a difference for me and I hope they will influence you as well.

1. Creativity begins at home

According to Dr. Labelle’s research, the majority of business leaders stated that personal factors played a greater role in acquiring creativity than organizational factors. Most of the executives asserted that creativity begins within the family and with schooling.

One executive spoke of his “mother, with her sayings, a nurtured childhood, a warm family atmosphere, the balance provided by family life, the stability of good health and financial balance.” Another referred to lessons he learned from his family: not to accept defeat, be courageous, take risks, be innovative and never get discouraged in the face of problems.

A well-known writer on creativity, Csikszentmihalyi, was one of the first to find that the development of creativity begins with your personal history. Most of the executives in Dr. Labelle’s study recalled at least one family situation that stimulated their creativity, interest or curiosity. It may have been a positive family experience, a supportive emotional environment, a rich cultural heritage, exposure to different opportunities or emphasis on lofty ambitions.

For me as a Third Ager the message is to constantly remind myself of my achievements and successes when I was very young. My parents valued hard work, study and achievement. These values laid the basis for my becoming a creative educational writer and teacher.

2. Creativity has many sources

Dr. Labelle found that business leaders relied on many different sources of creativity, usually beginning with the inner self. For some it was being able to trust one’s own intuition, knowing oneself, and being self reflective. For others it was seeking one’s inner resources and knowing one’s limits. Another business executive spoke of the interplay between happiness and creativity, each engendering the other.

Others spoke of creativity going hand-in-hand with spirituality, meditation, self relaxation. Another thought that creativity was a gift, but you had to practice it because it does not develop by itself. It takes discipline and courage as well as humility.

Some spoke of the importance of confronting and resolving great disappointments, of accepting suffering. One spoke of the ability to see things, problems, and situations differently than others. Another talked of creativity as arising in the baptism of fire, namely meeting real challenges, evaluating risks, and finding solutions.

For me as a Third Ager, this opens up numerous possibilities for me to be creative. It could begin with a daily practice such as journal writing. This would allow me to look within myself, be more mindful and see and do things differently.

3. Creativity can be developed

Dr. Labelle found that business leaders used many different ways to develop their creativity. Here is a sampling of some of the top strategies they mentioned in being creative.

1) Read widely.

2) Take courses on creativity, intuition, artistic creation.

3) Have a mentor.

4) Just do it.

5) Be confident.

6) Listen to your intuition.

7) Learn from failures.

8) Experiment.

9) Have fun.

10) Don’t be afraid of fear.

11) Be collaborative.

12) Know your needs.

13) Observe the world.

14) Make decisions quickly.

15) Encourage others to be creative.

16) Be reflective.

17) Have an open mind.

18) Take risks.

19) Work hard.

20) Build on successes.