Visionary Leaders Squeeze Their Creative Juice Every Day


Creativity is vital for leaders in a rapidly changing world. But as a leader, do you have those days when you wake up feeling dull and nothing creative seems to come to mind?

You’re tempted to retreat into the mundane and routine just to get the day over and done with.

Forcing Creativity

Maybe you do manage to pick a subject and try to bludgeon some creativity out of your brain.

  • Which subject to go for?
  • In which direction to travel?
  • What will my new creation look like?

It all seems too much like hard work to me. You’re tired and uninspired. You eventually accept it,  but now what? How do you get new creative ideas to flow from your mind?

A Creative Energy Crisis

The visionary starts with a clean sheet of paper, and re-imagines the world.” ~ Malcolm Gladwell

Can we be creative only when we’re energised? I hear you saying something like this:

When I’m tired I have no energy and I feel incapable of raising the effort. Everything I want to think about just asks too much of me. Without energy how can I possibly come up with anything creative or useful?

Why would you expect to be a full-on high energy creative person every day? There are going to be days like this one. Should you retreat, lick your imaginary self-indulgent wounds and sit in a corner.

If you can crack this challenge you will not be a prisoner of “tiredness.” Luckily there is plenty you can do.

“Creativity is an act of defiance” ~ Twyla Tharp

How Creative Are You?

In a great TEDx talk by John Paul Caponigro, he tells us “You are a lot more creative than you think you are” and gives great ways to trigger our creativity.

The direction you want to take is entirely your decision


Steps To Juicing Your Creative Mind

A key message of John’s is to become childlike again.

  • First release the pressure.
  • Just mess about with “stuff.”
  • Aim nowhere in particular.
  • It doesn’t matter where you start or finish.
  • Have faith, something will develop out of the mist.
  • Keep playing and it will crystallize.
  • The stuff you throw away today might be useful another time, so keep brief notes.
  • Scratch away until things gel, and then focus down on the specifics.
  • Then analyse and introduce your mental editor.

“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” ~ Erich Fromm

“Scatching” and Keeping the Good Stuff

Twyla Tharp dancer and choreographer spends many hours in rehearsal, playing with steps and poses, throwing away most of her work but keeping the really good things. She coined the term “scratching.” If it’s good enough for her it’s good enough for me, and you.

Remarkably, energy appears as if by magic driving yet more creativity.

Triggering creativity is about letting the juices flow and revealing the gifts spontaneously. You cannot force it. Next harness and develop your new creation.

My formula for scratching is PTP – Place, Time and Permission.

  • Place – Find a place conducive to scratching. (e.g. a favourite coffee shop, jogging and crucially for teams an agreed thinking space).
  • Time – Give yourself sufficient time. Scratching shouldn’t be rushed.
  • Permission – Give yourself (and others) permission to put aside time to scratch. This time is valuable and not wasted; it’s the golden time which generates the most creative elements of our lives and our work.

Can I add a couple more P’s: patience and persistence?

The Creative Environment

In his brilliant study of the environment of creativity Steven Johnson describes in his video at the top of this post how many great inventions or intellectual leaps have required decades of patient development.

The great ideas often involve the collision of multiple smaller concepts and observations.

He also proposes that creativity is a product of chance and that “chance favours the connected mind.” We are all more connected than ever before which is a good thing. Our challenge is to prevent being distracted by the dross. We need to scratch purposefully to find the hidden gold.

Follow the Leaders

Finally, if this creative process is good enough for the leader it must be good for everyone who follows. The creativity of an organisation will be magnified many-fold if you create a connected physical and cultural environment.

Chance will then favour this highly connected authentically aware creative crowd.

“The things we fear most in organizations—fluctuations, disturbances, imbalances— are the primary sources of creativity.” ~ Margaret J. Wheatley

Action Plan

Your Actions Today

  • Find a Place, assign Time and give yourself Permission to scratch.
  • Let thoughts come and go – don’t concentrate on anything in particular.
  • Play around with ideas and make notes. Is it good for today or tomorrow?
  • Notice how you feel before, during and afterwards.
  • During and at the end of today make notes on what you observed and felt.

Recommended reading

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp

Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

 Gary Coulton

Dr Gary R Coulton is CEO of Adaptive Intelligence Consulting Limited
He empowers leaders to release their Adaptive Intelligence
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L2L Contributing Author


  1. Janine Baillie-Stewart on May 28, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    Reblogged this on Blogging about Life and commented:
    Just had to reblog this! Great !!

  2. Gary R Coulton on May 29, 2014 at 7:00 am

    Hi Everyone, Thanks for the likes, shares and reblogs. What are your tricks for engaging your creative mind?

  3. robinade on May 29, 2014 at 9:03 am

    Reblogged this on The Global Mobile Worker Project and commented:
    Even though I bought a tablet with handwriting recognition I can’t let go of the dozens of pieces of paper that capture my creative mind.

    • Gary R Coulton on May 29, 2014 at 9:13 am

      Robinade Thanks for the reblog – you have my sympathy with all the paper but I alway encourage people to stay analogue as long as possible before going digital.

  4. Larry Walker on June 5, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Great piece Gary — thanks for sharing.

    Another tool I can recommend is to treat your ‘Ideas’ like you do your ‘To Do’ list. Many people maintain a filing system of one kind or another that is used to remind them each day what To Do’s are due today.

    If you simply extend this process to include the ‘pieces of paper’ that include the ideas you have had, but not yet used, a few things begin to happen:

    1. Ideas do not get forgotten. They are in your system, each with a date on which they will reappear (tomorrow, a week from now, a month from now, or many months from now.) When one pops up in front of you, you reflect: “Does this relate to what is happening now — or in the near future? If not, give it a new date in the future, and let the idea rest until its turn comes up again.

    2. Since you can rotate them at different rates, different ideas will get grouped with random others over time. This ‘connection’ of ideas will often lead to great ‘aha’s’. This random conjunction of your own ideas is hard to achieve in any other way.

    3. Since your ideas never get forgotten, you can free your mind up, i.e. you do not need to continuously rotate thoughts through your head just so you do not forget them. This factor is far more powerful than you will believe until you experience it.