The 'Corporate Creative' -- Five Essentials for an Imaginative Business Mind

Creativity and innovation are critical to any business enterprise if it is going to thrive in our fast-changing world and craft a future of expanded opportunity. In this complex and volatile business context, everyone -- a Fortune 100 CEO with a long tenure, a newly minted serial entrepreneur, as well as each and every corporate employee -- needs to become a "corporate creative."

Creative people all share five key cognitive processes that are consistent across culture, hierarchy and situational circumstance. Let's take a look at the primary aspects of this critical bent of mind.

1. Curiosity

Curiosity implies a certain clear-eyed appreciation for how things really are, and not getting stuck on how one assumes they are or hopes they are. Creatives have the curiosity to get "under the hood" and discover how things actually operate, as well as the patience to wait for the true nature of things to emerge. The business-as-usual stance is the enemy of curiosity. Creativity is where particularities reign over generalities. Creatives feel compelled to penetrate and grasp human feeling and longing and plotting -- their own and those of the consumer, because that's the only knowledge base that can lead to strategies for commercial success.

2. Sensuality

Creativity requires being attuned to your own experience from moment-to-moment. A creative person lives life on an emotional roller-coaster, and likes it that way. Creatives tolerate the dips because they want the stimulation on the upswing. Creatives live in feeling because that's where the revelatory cues are that spark innovation.

3. Openness

Creativity tacitly assumes that inspirational experiences can come from anywhere at any time and from anyone. Growth is limited by existing in a cocoon of the habitual. An openness to voices, places and situations other than your own are critical grist for the innovation mill. The creative is also the first to present to colleagues an inkling of an idea, even before it has been fully worked out. Creatives are excited by new ideas and want feedback.

4. Paradox

In today's fast and complex world, things are no longer of one piece. Everything seems to contain inherent contradictions and ambiguities. Nothing is simply this-or-that, black-or-white. Daily life - both professionally and personally - is a blend of sawdust and cashmere, love and hate. The creative is able to live on the cusp of this paradox and use that seeming dilemma as a stimulus for innovation and creativity. Dealing with paradox often entails the use of metaphor. Gregory Bateson, the eminent biologist and systems theorist, said, "Logic is a very elegant tool, but logic alone won't quite do because that whole fabric of living things is not put together by logic. Metaphor is right at the bottom of being alive." Metaphor frees one from the confines of the literal here-and-now. Metaphor gives the creative "elbow room" to play with ideas and to put things together that usually don't go together. Seemingly off-topic information becomes valuable input.

5. Story-Making

Creatives think in story form. They don't relate to data as points, but rather look at relationships between pieces of information -- underlying patterns and principles, as well as inferences about non-linear causality. This helps creatives deal with complexity and transform data into narrative that is critical for innovation.

Greater productivity and enhanced capacities for innovation await any business enterprise that nurtures the Corporate Creative. Imagination rules.