Why cultivating creativity is your blueprint for crackin’ success

by Craig McBreen · 39 comments · Creativity

Creativity is more important then ever.

A fairly recent study by IBM pointed to creativity as the most important leadership quality for success in business. That’s right. Top banana. Numero uno. Primo. And practicing it daily could easily translate to a gangbuster year for you.

Basically 1,500 CEOs from 60 countries ranked Creativity as second to none when it comes to leadership proficiency.  In other words, the big guns are saying creativity is pretty dope and you better learn how to use it, now!

A word that didn’t carry much weight in the past now gets five-star treatment.

You want to know what the silver and bronze winning terms were in the study? “Integrity” and “global thinking.” That’s not bad company, but our friend gets the gold. Creativity IS the big enchilada.

Changing the way you think about creativity and making it part of your daily routine often translates to success in today’s world.

Inventiveness is a critical skill, right?

Good old Ingenuity is ever important, correct?

Imagination often leads to originality, don’t you think?

You down with all that? Well, that’s Creativity in a nutshell.

In today’s world it’s often not enough to be clever or have drive.
And this uncertain and complex economic climate is not changing anytime soon. Those who understand that jumping on board the train of imagination and originality is muy importante are already ahead of the curve, now it’s your turn.

Go ahead, tap that creative noggin of yours.

Why do leaders, business owners and YOU need this?

Imaginative leaders are endowed with a mindset that helps them split from the usual state of affairs.

Small business owners are able to respond pronto with a new course of action, if needed.

A creative YOU can effectively concentrate on changes and look to unconventional solutions in today’s complex environment.

Creativity helps you manage complexity in an ever-changing and sometimes chaotic environment.

And you have the ability to foster that creativity every single day, but where do I start, you say? Well …

1. Let go of the fallacy:
Have you always been told you’re not creative or your a left-brained, boring old sod? You’ve been scarred for life I know, but realize you ARE creative. We all are. The creative monkey is inside you and he wants to get his mojo on.

Creativity doesn’t occur magically, it’s a learned process. I think Tony Schwartz’s description of the four-step process is ingenious. Read this, practice what he preaches, and let go of the fallacy. You are a creative Sensei.

Only certain people are creative. Arggggg! This mentality pervades our culture, but it needs to just go away, now!

2. Incorporate it into your daily routine:
You can cultivate your creative process and develop your own rhythm with a wee bit of structure by including habits that help bring out your artistry and imagination.

Todd Henry writes extensively about the creative process, and here he talks about finding a flow based on said routine. Again, read and practice. I’ve written about these two guys before, but if you are interested in creativity, you would be wise to follow.

3. Step away from the computer:
You’ll be okay, I swear. Brainstorm the old fashioned way, on paper. If you have no clue where to start, simply write down your name, your blog title or one big plan to start. Just roll with it and you’ll soon see a flow develop. Simply getting away from the computer works wonders.

4. Network with people:
Try and be a bit more strategic about the peeps you hang with, on- and off-line. Find others that stimulate you or find people who are smarter than you (I’m surrounded by them).

They’ll help you see things in a whole new light. People to bounce ideas off of challenge you. They kick-start you. They amp you up.

Schedule in time for creativity today.

Developing a culture that embraces creativity is the way to grow in today’s economic environment, but it all starts with you.

Well, what are you waiting for you creative visionary?

Are you using creativity in your daily routine?

Who out there inspires you to be creative?

Any other recommendations for adding a bit of imagination to your day?

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Jack February 2, 2012 at 5:52 am

Children are a great source of creativity. Just watch them play and unleash your inner child, or in my case find your inner adult.
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Craig McBreen February 2, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Hi Jack,

Agreed! I’m always getting inspired by my youngest son. He’s 12 and is already editing video using Adobe After Effects. Maybe he’ll be working for me soon. :)

Thanks, Sir!


Jens P. Berget February 3, 2012 at 6:09 am

That’s true. I’m watching my kids play every day, and especially how they’re using the computer and the iPad. They’ve discovered things I had no idea was possible, and my son is 5 years old (on the other hand, yesterday he deleted many of the programs on my iPad) :)
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Craig McBreen February 6, 2012 at 3:15 am

Yes, five-year-olds can do some damage too. :) Been there.


Betsy Cross February 2, 2012 at 9:36 am

My life seems to be an exercise in creativity! I’m always looking for new ways to get the ordinary done or spiced up. And whenever I talk to my mom she gets me going! Maybe we don’t give ourselves enough credit for how creative we really are day in and day out OR we really are stuck in a rut and need to throw our life up and see where it all falls once in a while…just shake it up a bit. Me? I change my furniture around. That always clears my head and triggers great stuff.
Thanks for the thought Craig!


Craig McBreen February 2, 2012 at 10:45 pm

Hi Betsy,

Well, that’s great!

Many don’t think they are creative at all, but creativity can be fleshed out with practice, just like anything else.

I love the idea of shaking it up!

Thanks, Betsy!


Lori Gosselin February 2, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Hey Craig,
I love brainstorming. It’s amazing what can come out of a session like that. Sometimes I just write down the questions I have and wait for the answers to come, but it’s imperative to ask the questions!
And I agree with Jack that children can inspire us if we pay attention to them!
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Craig McBreen February 2, 2012 at 10:50 pm

Hi Lori,

I didn’t want to discount the importance of brainstorming, but was a bit surprised at what what was written about in the NYTimes piece. I do think the greater point is how great it is to collaborate online, where you can have a bit of privacy and participate too. Cool beans, huh?

Yes, kids are a great source of inspiration, no doubt.

Thanks for dropping by. Have a great day!


Deeone February 2, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Another goodie here, Craig!

Creativity is the key ingredient in the pudding of success! Stepping outside the box and doing it totally different is what I usually aim for. And I loved how you showed that we each have it inside of us, we need only to tap into it. It’s there for our using.

Great tips as well to get the ole juices a flowin’! My favorite part was number 2 and 4. It’s incredible important to make it apart of our daily routine. That way it becomes almost habitual for us to tap into it. Magnificent point!

And then to surround ourselves with people that bring that energy out of us; you truly got that right! For me the most rewarding thing that has kicked my writing off has been to clear the clutter of the voices I was listening to the most; that offered me no growth, had no passion, and played the game of mediocrity. I now surround and connect myself with people who I know are more knowledgeable about things that I know I don’t have a clue about. It would be counterproductive and pure ignorant not too. It would be like following a a leader in a circle to nowhere. “Uh, this is my stop. I’m getting off this ride.” :D

Another thing that helps me to kick my creativity, is reading… I mean any and everything that I can put my hands on. Anything from biographies, informative pieces, websites, essays, books that I would have never picked up before; you name it and I’ll read it. :D Just so that I might be able to form a view or opinion on whatever it is I’m reading. That is a great way for me to get the creativity going.

Good stuff man! Thanks for more Awesomeness! I really enjoyed the read once again! :)
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Craig McBreen February 3, 2012 at 12:54 am

“Creativity is the key ingredient in the pudding of success!”
–Well I think that is the line of the day. Can I use it?

It is inside of all of us. Like anything else, practice does the job. Incorporating it into your routine is not only very important, it really becomes a springboard for so many other ideas. I’m amazed what I can come up with when I get away from the computer.

About surrounding yourself with high-energy, creative and smart people. I’ve done the same thing you’ve done. Whittling down the lists, but I consider most everyone who comments here a teacher is some way. So it would be good to check out some of the fine people who do comment at this abode. I’ve honestly learned so much from them during my shirt stint online.

I’m now trying to get back to reading more books, especially fiction. 80 percent of what I consume is online now, but I do want to go back to fiction in a big way. Really miss that. Recently picked up, “The Shipping News” so that will be a start. This more than anything sparks my creativity.

Deeone, you’re a commenting Maestro! Thanks again.


Deeone February 14, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Just seeing this, Craig. And to answer your question, Uh… Yeah! C’mon… of course you can use it! You don’t even have to ask, buddy! :D

Thanks for the kind compliment as well. You totally made my day.

OK, heading over to check out the new post. My Google Reader is seriously not keeping up for some odd reason. May have to get the new post sent via email. No problem. I’ll handle that before I head out. Cheers! Chat with you shortly. :)
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Craig McBreen February 14, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Well then, I’ll be talking about Creative Pudding everywhere now. :)

Well the commenting Maestro part is true, even if Hajra might want to chop off some fingers. ;)


Hajra February 2, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Hey Craig,

Remember the bad teacher I told you about; well she tried to squeeze the creativity out of me for some time, but then I stopped drawing all together and moved on to talking and writing. And I am pretty sure I did pretty good at both ;)

Well, the fact remains that we get these messages from all around us, even as we are growing up, that there are a “few creative people”. EVERY ONE being creative is a myth and like all myths, people have held on to it for some reason. Also, we tend to classify only certain things as creative – like drawing (let’s not even go there); creating good music, writing poetry, art in general. Why can’t we start believing that each and every action of ours has the potential to be creative.

We first need to get our definitions of creativity and creative people right. Creative people aren’t a cult, isn’t a group of select few. Creativity is a habit, a habit to think differently, to do something new, to try something different and to just believe that I am capable of doing things in a better, newer way.

When I was in college, I was part of the creative writing club. And the professor who lead the club told us that every act is creative and he made sure we believed.

Go out and you will find what that means. Open your minds, not just your eyes, be open to newer experiences, take a different route to work (but make sure you get to work on time otherwise all creative efforts are killed for the day), have something different to eat, something you haven’t tried before. Even if the teacher in third grade told you that you a terrible artist, keep drawing, draw yourself and see how each moment is absolutely creative! :)

Before you block me from your blog, I have to learn to give shorter comments!

Loved this! Hope you have a creative day! :)
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Craig McBreen February 3, 2012 at 1:05 am


Hello. So are you saying your bad teacher created a monster? ;)

I know we discussed Griddy and you and Deeone remind me of her with you insightful and detailed comments. They are much appreciated!

If you haven’t checked out Ken Robinson you should, because he writes about creativity in education and how it can be incorporated into just about any discipline, from math to science. Whodathunk?

I think a lot of people think this is what creativity looks like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHZR9SA5pOg :)

I like your college professor’s line. If you treat every act creatively you’ll probably accomplish something better in the long run. Also pursuing a mix of activities will stimulate the old noggin. I’m finally learning guitar after all these years. Will see where that helps. ;)

I like you suggestions here. Makes me hungry actually. :)

I wonder what ever happened to that bad teacher?

Ban? I appreciate the comments! (see comparison to Griddy above ;))


Hajra February 3, 2012 at 7:50 am

Nice, now I can blame the teacher for the mini monster in me ;)

You know I am actually on a high learning that you compare me to Griddy…. It’s a Friday here (holiday) when I read this; so it makes it all the more precious ;)

Maybe you could do a video with the guitar and have it here! :)

Last I heard from the teacher was she was kicked out of the school. I had left the town long before that.
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Craig McBreen February 6, 2012 at 3:34 am


You always have her as an excuse. ;)

If you hear from Griddy, let me know. I miss her presence.

Ha ha, that would be scary, as I’m just learning, but we shall see. I’ll take into consideration.

Anyway … glad the bad teach was booted.


Srinivas February 2, 2012 at 4:46 pm

It seems as though were on the same wavelength this morning. I was just writing a post about how creativity doesn’t occur in the confines of cubicles and sitting in front of computers.
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Craig McBreen February 2, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Hi Srini,

That sounds like a great post to me. :) Getting away from the computer is one of the best things I’ve done to spark creativity.

Thanks for stopping by.


Barbara February 2, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Thanks, Craig, inspiring post as usual.

I think I shared Hajra’s teachers: the best way of killing the desire to create something is to tell a child “this is not how it is done” and put the blinkers on. Could we only adapt that mindset that every act is creative, we’d be better off.

And let’s hope that all the companies now looking for creativity as a prime leadership quality can deal with a manager with the gifts of inventiveness, ingenuity and imagination.

Heading off now to be creative …
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Craig McBreen February 3, 2012 at 1:12 am

Hi Barbara,

Glad you found the post inspiring.

Yeah, I had a few of those teachers myself. Too bad we can’t get rid of all these bad teachers, huh? That really is one of the worst things you can tell a kid. Well, there are a lot worse, but you know what I mean. But seriously, someone who does that does not belong in the profession.

I say it’s about time these companies got the picture. When this starts trickling down the primary education, now that’s when will be in business!

Thanks for coming to my humble abode.


Barbara February 3, 2012 at 7:54 am

Humble abode? You certainly added wings to it over the last months!
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Craig McBreen February 6, 2012 at 3:35 am

I don’t feel like a rookie any longer, but the place still feels humble, I hope. :)


Hajra February 3, 2012 at 7:56 am

Looks like we all were cursed with the wrong teachers! But the best part is that we didn’t let them get into our psychic. See, we turned out just fine. :) Why last week I drew Garfield and though I was planning to label it Bart; it did turn out Garfield like! I silently did a victory dance in my head and gave a little imaginary smirk to the bad teachers out there! :)
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Craig McBreen February 6, 2012 at 3:39 am

In some of my past dreams I’ve been rather “Bart-like” in telling off my bad teachers. ;)


Bill Dorman February 2, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Interesting and I don’t disagree creativity should be high, if not the highest on the list; but I am perplexed. Out of all the qualities business leaders are looking for, ‘attitude’ did not even crack the list? Balderdash (you used muy imprtante so I had to come up with something), if you don’t hire the ‘right’ attitude you will never maximize your efforts. Yes, you want the proper skill sets required as well, but the right attitude helps a lot of other areas as well.

And of course with the ‘right’ attitude you can certainly cultivate some creativity.

Well said, sir.
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Craig McBreen February 3, 2012 at 2:01 am

Hi Bill,

Good point. Without Attitude you have nothin’, son! I like “Balderdash” and am thinking of using it in my next post. Your “balderdash” trumps my “muy importante” how about that?

Attitude + creativity works for me!

Thanks again for stopping by. Really appreciate it, Bill.


Brian Driggs February 3, 2012 at 5:58 am

Those cats at IBM really got their act together, don’t they? Did this report go out on their Think Blue public blog? FYI: I read you before them, Craig. ;)

Creativity, integrity, global-minded. Those CEOs better communicate that down to their middle managers. If not, we’re just going to put these skills to work for ourselves one day…


Craig McBreen February 6, 2012 at 3:25 am

Hi Brian,

Maybe Big Blue finally gets it, eh? :)

I was thinking some big time execs might have to actually come here to learn something, but I’ll take the middle managers any day. They do need to embrace creativity more than just about anyone. Or maybe they should just blast away the old hierarchy / structure and make way for something completely new.

Thanks, Brian


Jens P. Berget February 3, 2012 at 6:11 am

What you said about turning off the computer is very important. I find it hard to be creative when I’m always looking at the screen. When I need to get inspiration, and need to think outside the box, I always go for a walk. If I walk for an hour, I always get a new perspective on things and I always find some creative solutions :)
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Craig McBreen February 6, 2012 at 3:28 am

Hi Jens,

That’s a good way to do it, Jens. I’m finally learning that. I’ve been trying to take breaks every 1-2 hours and I do find that with long breaks you do come back refreshed and ready to go. Walks, even better!


Ralph Dopping February 5, 2012 at 1:38 pm


I have to agree with Bill. Attitude is A number 1 in my book. If I have a team member that has an issue it can affect the performance of the rest of the team. Funny how this does not make it to the list unless attitude is inherent in all of the above. You certainly need a good attitude to be creative. Maybe that’s the “coup de gras” (my muy importante or balderdash) but without the right attitude or environment (empowered, elevated and open) creativity can be thwarted.

I agree that there are great tools to help foster creativity and you do a great job identifying many of those. If you are an entrepreneur or small business these are primary tools to generate good ideas but in a larger or more corporate enviroment such as mine (big firm architecture) the opportunity to be creative is fostered first and foremost from the environment. Good environment = good attitude. I have been on both sides of the fence on this one and gladly I am now in a position where I can empower my team to use their toolkit to build and foster improvement in thier processes. Creativity also needs a breeding ground.

Thanks for pointing out Tony (read him regularly) and Tod (who I will NOW read regularly). Great commentary again and as always.
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Craig McBreen February 6, 2012 at 3:48 am

Hi Ralph,

Well, The big “A” is muy importante, no doubt. It is amazing how one bad apple or just somebody with a bad attitude can bring down an entire group’s moral or productivity.

Just that fact that you wrote, “coup de gras” proves that you’re more sophisticated then I am (I won’t speak for Bill).

I’ve hired very talented people, with a less than stellar attitude in the past, based on portfolio and resume only. Big mistake and I did do it more than once. Slow learner, I am. :)

I would like to spend a bit more time studying larger corporate environments and how they use (or don’t use) creativity. One of the goals of this blog is to get into the heads of middle managers and the like and teach them the importance of creativity and how to embrace methods and tools to make it all happen.

Thanks, Ralph. Yes, Todd writes for HBR and also has his own blog and the Accidental Creative site. Great, great stuff!


Kimberly February 6, 2012 at 11:04 am

I find that one thing that really does effect my creativity is the weather and the seasons. In the long, dark winter I tend to be a lot less creative and a lot duller in general.
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Craig McBreen February 6, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Try living in Seattle. :) I’m more creative in the dark winter. In the summer, when the sun is out is to just so tempting, it’s often difficult to work.


Stan Faryna February 16, 2012 at 11:46 am


When it comes to talking about creativity, IBM doesn’t have a lot of authority on the subject. How deliciously ironic, Craig.

This is no punk on Craig. I want that to be clear. I like Craig. Craig is creative. And Craig is decidedly ironic and witty too!

Where was I? Oh yeah – IBM.

Hmmm. Let’s sell our PC brand to the Chinese for a fast buck. Creative? Not really. Unless failure is a synonym for creativity. Let’s talk about creativity because creativity is cool. Creative? Not really. Not if you are IBM.

Am I being unfair? IBM used to be place for creative culture. I’m going to admit something that I shouldn’t. For the sake of your amusement!

I have this custom designed quartz crystal that tunes my energy, heals me, protects me, and makes me awesome. Maybe. [grin]

This very, very expensive crystal was created by Marcel Vogel. Vogel served IBM as a research scientist for 27 years. He’s credited with inventing IBM’s harddrive technologies.

Marcel did all sort of creative things like that. With IBM money. IBM was creative like that. Emphasis on “was”.
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Craig McBreen February 17, 2012 at 4:09 am

Hi Stan,

Well not so great when my intention wasn’t to point out the irony.

Agreed, the Lenovo move wasn’t the most brilliant move in corporate history, and we are talking about a company that is well past it’s salad days.

But, maybe the fact that they conducted the study is a sign that they realize how important creativity is. If IBM sees Creativity as second to none when it comes to leadership proficiency, maybe they are getting back to their roots. Maybe, eh?

Who knows, but when I found this study, I latched onto it, even if it originated from the guys with starched white shirts and blindingly polished dress shoes.

Don’t punk me, dude! ;) Thanks for the comments, Stan.


Stan Faryna February 17, 2012 at 5:11 am

I loved the infographic, Craig! Most of all, I loved it because it just shows how flawed and irrelevant IBM’s Global CEO study was. [laughing]

They don’t value or understand anything about integrity (52%) if they don’t value transparency (28%), humility (12%), and fairness (12%).

But, like you said, what is relevant is that IBM and CEOs value creativity. They may not understand it, but they know it is mission-critical.

I’ll be back!

P.S. You were suppose to savor the fact that I celebrated your irony! DOH!
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Craig McBreen February 19, 2012 at 2:07 am

It sounds like you think there are absolutely no visionaries at IBM. Strange, as they are still going strong in a new diversified range of businesses.

They’ve made a bit of a shift from their core hardware business to a much more diversified set of business units. I don’t really know a ton about the company, but I do know from what I’ve read that they’ve done a pretty damn good job in this transformation over the last decade or so.

Creative leaders are usually the ones who will take the big risks and in a company the size of IBM maybe this isn’t noticed as much, because they pretty much fly under the radar compared to companies like Apple.

It was creative to have deep blue face off against Gary Kasparov.

You might also want to check out Luis Suarez and his “no email” office. He’s an IBM’er with an interesting concept.

It was fun when Watson competed on Jeopardy, right? That’s a big project in the works at big blue.

I’d say the group of IBM researchers who created Mr. Watson were fairly creative, wouldn’t you? This project is intended for use in a variety of industries, but the focus is on healthcare, and I know they’ve had some programs / trials using this technology in oncology projects. Using advanced digital technology to find the right treatment for diseases. Anyway, you might not think about creativity when you mention a company of this size, which made its name with giant mainframe computers back in the day.

It may not be the corporate name that generates the most excitement, but I would say there are a few people working there who are doing some pretty fascinating work and there is certainly some creativity going on, but I don’t think I could ever convince you otherwise :)


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