Most of us have heard about the debate between IQ and EQ and their relative importance for successful sales leaders. Yes we know that strong leaders need the smarts to figure stuff out, but we don’t want leaders who can’t relate to the very people they’re aiming to inspire; hence the equal or some would say superior, importance of EQ (the ability to understand emotional factors and the roles they play in your self as well as others). However there is now a growing body of evidence that suggests a strong correlation between successful leaders and CQ (Creativity Quotient).
In the post-war years professor E Paul Torrance devised a test to examine and score creativity in school children. He suggested that creativity requires two key processes; divergent thinking – the ability to come up with random, previously un-connected ideas (what De Bono called lateral thinking aka ‘blue-sky’ or ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking) and secondly; convergent thinking – the skill of pulling together and combining the best ideas into solutions.
What is really fascinating is how incredibly well Torrance’s creativity index predicted those school children’s creative accomplishments as adults. Those who came up with more good ideas on Torrance’s tasks grew up to be entrepreneurs, inventors, authors, doctors, diplomats and software developers. Jonathan Plucker of Indiana University recently re-analysed Torrance’s data. The correlation to lifetime creative accomplishment was more than three times stronger for childhood creativity than childhood IQ. A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 “leadership competency” of the future.
Bizarrely many people still believe that creativity is a ‘gift’ that you’re born with and that it is usually associated with ‘creative types’; artists, musicians, writers, etc. Certainly, in formal education, creativity is more commonly associated with the arts than other areas of the curriculum.
We believe that you can learn to be more creative. Just like learning a foreign language or playing a new sport, you may not be the next winner of Wimbledon but you can significantly improve your game with the right coaching. There are some basic principles behind the creative process and with regular practice individuals and whole organisations can learn to be more creative:
Fact Finding – do the research and collect information/data, aim to know more about the background and to understand the context.
Problem Finding – explore the issues and difficulties; strive to fully understand the nature of the problems that arise.
Idea Finding – brainstorm as many apparently random ideas freely and without prejudice no matter how irrelevant or unconnected they may seem.
Solution Finding – combine previously unconnected ideas in original permutations looking for innovative syntheses.
By developing a structured approach to creative practice and systematically embedding creative exercises into your sales activities you can also reap the benefits of CQ.