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What is your creativity quotient (CQ)?

Andrew Petrisin | 12 Oct 2016 | Comments

What’s the most important quality for leadership? Experience? Honesty? Or maybe attitude? In 2010, IBM interviewed more than 1,500 CEOs from 60 countries for a Global CEO study. Their answer: Creativity.

Why? Because creative leaders invite disruptive innovation, invent new business models, and alter the status quo. Six years later, this belief has not only held, but also grown. So now, perhaps the question to ask is: How might we make creativity a part of our day-to-day actions—building our own creative qualities?

Cultivating a creative mindset

To become the creative problem-solvers required in today’s world, three major areas of expertise are necessary: multidisciplinary collaboration, human-centered design, and a culture of experimentation. Utilizing these themes, we can promote creativity as a central role in our approach to our work and our world. 

1) Multidisciplinary collaboration

By embracing progressive initiatives that engage diverse skill sets to collaboratively tackle common problems, we create opportunities for new solutions to appear. The unique background of each individual helps bring new perspective, which may be the key to unlocking a solution that could otherwise go unnoticed. An example of this is a cycling initiative formed between Atkins’ offices in Denmark and North America. Together we’re working to discover and inform future biking infrastructure across the United States. Bikers and non-bikers, engineers and planners, experienced and junior employees—everyone has insight that adds value to the project. And this diversity spurs innovation.

2) Human-centered design

From products, to services, to policies and more, our world is continuously shaped by design. By putting the end-user first, empathizing and truly understanding them, we can create what people truly need and desire—not what we think they’ll use. Taking this approach allows us to rid ourselves of assumptions, surfacing the true challenges and opportunities of those whom we design for. For example, through initiatives such as WellBriefing, Atkins uniquely focuses on human-centered design by considering the physiological and psychological impact that our buildings and structures make in the lives of others. This process focuses on health and wellbeing through nine key factors: temperature, air quality, noise, connectivity, interaction, flexibility, ownership, movement, and light. Most importantly, the human-centered design method predicates itself upon the true understanding of the human condition—empathizing with others as part of our design process. As designers, it is necessary to understand the world around us before we seek to change it.

3) A culture of experimentation

The creative mindset brings with it a culture of experimentation through methods like ideating, rapid prototyping, creative confidence and more. While at first glance this may seem like buzz-word heaven, these words hold significant meaning in practice. Creative confidence is what drives leaders who invite disruptive innovation, invent new business models, and alter the status quo. This confidence empowers us to know we are all inherently creative people, and can be change-makers in our organization and for those around us.

Two tried-and-true methods to build this creative confidence are ideating and prototyping. Ideating requires us to bring new and fresh ideas to the table, resulting in a space where all ideas are valued—independent of where they came from. Rapid prototyping tests those ideas to see if they are feasible, viable, and desirable—possibly a quick way to pitch a product internally or to a client. For example, Atkins employs these techniques with clients such as Heathrow Airport, the busiest airport in Europe, prototyping new ideas to improve the passenger arrival experience. These practices and exercises serve to build confidence in our creativity, enabling us to stop thinking and start doing.

The Democratization of Creative Design

At the intersection of multidisciplinary collaboration, human-centered design, and a culture of experimentation, we arrive at a place where everyone has the tools to cultivate their creative mindset. To take this a step further, Atkins, together with colleagues at Flux[x], developed a Digital Incubator—a set of collaborative and creative tools, techniques, and guidance. And with tools such as these, we can move from a process of designing for our end users to designing with our end users, empowering everyone to join the creative process. And when we design together, community insight becomes collaborative innovation.