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Creativity is a Critical Competency

(pictured above - Dr. Natalie Nixon - Author of a NEW (just published last week) important book, "The Creativity Leap") Her work can be found at

When you ask a group of kindergartners, "Raise your hand if you are an artist" likely most if not all the hands will go up. Or, even more likely, you'll just observe them making art, or improvising a new world on the playground.

What is sad is that if you asked those kindergartners 30 years later, who is an artist, you might get a couple hands. Why is that sad? Well, it's sad, I believe, because our society doesn't continue to educate (draw out) our creative muscles.

For too long we have thought of creativity as only other people, the artists of the world. (And to be sure, our artists are skills creatives and can be models for us). AND, creativity is a needed skill for all of us, a critical competency, a muscle we can develop even and especially in the current world in which we find ourselves.

What's a stake here? Why is creativity important?

In the beginning of her book she cites a statistic that just over half of Fortune 500 companies failed since 2000.

Nixon continues, "The core reason for this failure has been chalked up to an inability to adapt. But let's dig deeper as to why it's hard to adapt. Part of it involves the 'too big to fail' assumption and superiority complex that emerge when organizations find themselves at the head of the pack. But where does that mindset come from? It's not enough to say that these firms don't innovate quickly enough. They get complacent and stuck. Michael Forman, chairman and CEO at FS Investments, told me that as organizations get larger, and more focused on risk management, they easily fall into what he calls 'the tyranny of no.' 'They solve for no instead of for yes. Solving for yes is the fulcrum of creativity.' He observed that the larger reason for why successful companies fail is that they do not cultivate their capacity for human creativity."

Creativity is our capacity to toggle between wonder and rigor to solve problems and deliver novel value." -Natalie Nixon

Natalie Nixon is the author of a new book (and I'm talking hot off the press (6/23/2020 Barrett-Koehler publishers) called "The Creativity Leap"

( I just ordered two copies. )

It doesn't work if we just have wonder; or just have rigor; we need both. Makes sense to me! A world with just rigor and now wonder likely keeps the status quo going. And a world with all wonder, yet no rigor, likely doesn't accomplish much.

I'm eager to read her book and would love to hear your thoughts if you order it and read it.

Her book matters right now, because we are in a time of unprecedented change.

We are in a time of increasing anxiety.

We are also in a time of great possibility.

We are in a time of the status quo being shaken up and the possibilities of new things to be born.

And we are in a time of uncertainty.

Yesterday, as I was taking a walk this question emerged, "What are those robust strategies we can employ that will be a good investment no matter what happens?"

Investing in developing our creative muscles is one of them.

As I've said many times before, the core skills - empathy, being present, creativity, listening, improvising, adapting - these can all be developed. We need safe spaces where we can practice in small ways. And this is the power of things like applied improvisation games and exercises. And this is the power of designing our engagements (meetings, retreats, etc.) for high levels of structured engagement.

Once we have a visceral experience of showing up, being present, not perfect, discovering, wonder, and feeling supported, it makes the next time and the next time after that way more possible. Our bodies need to learn that it's okay to be what Natalie Nixon calls "a clumsy student at something".

How will you develop your creativity in this time? Who can you practice with? When will you start?

This is what my work is all about - cultivating our collaborative capacity, and a big piece of this is removing obstacles to what's holding us back as individuals and organizations from unlocking the creativity and greater potential that we have within us.

The good news is that we don't have to wait; there is SO much possibility of engaging meaningfully in a virtual environment. I have worked with 10 other collaborators over since mid-March to co-design and facilitate workshops and retreats for over 500 people. Drop me a line if you are interested in talking about how I could serve your team. (If you are a facilitator and are looking for fabulous training, I recommend the course that I took this Spring. Read more and register at

A new cohort begins next week!


What prompted this blog post today was hearing (as I was eating breakfast today) Seth's interview with Natalie on the second half of Seth's Akimbo podcast posted yesterday (interview starts at 16:34)

Then I discovered the video of the interview here! Enjoy! And spread the word of Natalie's important work!

Upcoming Blog Post:

What to do with Anxiety in Our Time

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