Guest post by the Innov8rs Team. How to Think Creatively and Innovatively was originally published as The Innovative Team: Recognizing and Developing Your Innovators on the Innov8rs blog.

Creativity is in high demand.

According to studies done by Adobe and IBM, 94% of hiring managers consider creativity when assessing candidates, preferring creative candidates 5-to-1. CEOs across the globe consider creativity the #1 leadership quality required for success.

But those same studies also reveal that creativity is the one area where most of us think we’re lacking. When asked, most of us do not see ourselves as creative. 78% of college-educated workers over 25 wish they had more creative ability.

According to BridgePoint Effect CEO Janice Francisco, this has less to do with reality and more to do with how we tend to define creativity.

“We think of creativity as something that artists do,” she says. “Creativity is about the ways we think, the attitudes we have, and the beliefs we hold. All people are creative.”

As an applied creativity and innovation management expert who helps government, non-profit and private sector companies transform their teams into “innovation champions”, Francisco has seen firsthand what research has demonstrated – creativity is a skill that can not only be taught, but improved with practice.

At Innov8rs Tel Aviv, she took us through a workshop designed to recognize and develop innovators who have the skills, eagerness, confidence, and creativity to drive results. How? By identifying our thinking preferences.

How we prefer to think determines how we innovate

When faced with a challenge, most animals will react in one of three ways: fight, flight, or freeze. Us human animals have another option – we innovate.

Innovation may be a business buzzword, but it is a natural process we all engage in whether we’re aware of it or not. Like the proverb says, “Necessity is the mother of invention”. When we really need to do something, we will think of a way to do it. We’re natural innovators.

And how do we do this? Creativity. According to Francisco, “Creativity powers innovation. If we’re not connected to our own creativity, innovation becomes quite difficult.”

She continues: “The way you prefer to think impacts the way you use creativity to solve challenges and engage in innovation. And when you understand your thinking preferences, you can manage and engage in innovation more effectively.”

Identifying our thinking preferences

Although we’re all natural innovators, we don’t all approach innovation in the same way. These different approaches can create difficulty – stress, communication breakdowns – when teams are working together. So how do we identify our approach, and the approach of others?

Francisco is certified in FourSightTM , a research-based assessment tool developed over the last 20 years by Gerard Puccio, Ph.D., director of the International Center for Studies in Creativity at the State University of New York College at Buffalo. Built on over 60 years of research into critical and creative thinking, it includes a four-step framework—clarify, ideate, develop and implement—that acts as a yes-and to design thinking and other innovation and creative thinking approaches.

Francisco uses the Foursight Thinking Profile to identify individual thinking preferences. “It gives you a glimpse into how you are personally engaging in the innovation process, and helps your team understand how you like to engage,” she says. “Then we all start having different conversations, and we start working better.”

It’s important to note that your preference does not, in any way, indicate your ability or skill. To illustrate the difference, Francisco asked us to hold up a pen and write our first name in the air. Try it now – which hand did you use? Chances are, you used the hand you prefer to write with. Just as you have a preferred hand for writing, you also have a preferred way of thinking when you’re engaging in problem solving.

“This is what we call your mental comfort zone. It’s a place that you naturally gravitate to when you’re faced with a challenge.” says Francisco. “We all experience this gravitational pull – it’s hard to overcome it, we just go there naturally.

But knowing your preference, and the preferences of others, will help you build diverse teams grounded in empathy and respect – and ultimately improve performance across the board.”

What kind of creative thinker are you?

The FourSight Thinking Profile reveals who you tend to be during the innovation process: a Clarifier, an Ideator, a Developer, an Implementer, or a combination Integrator. While Francisco walked us through the profile assessment itself, you can probably get a good idea of your personal thinking preferences from the definitions below:

Clarifiers

Clarifiers keep innovation on target. They dig through data to understand and identify the problem, gather information, and look closely at details. They are generally not quick to move to solutions because they want to be sure they are addressing the right problem. They are at risk of becoming stuck in overanalysis, and never moving forward.

Ideators

Ideators keep the ideas coming. They tend to look at the big picture and think in global terms. They take a more intuitive approach, playing with possibilities and stretching their imaginations. They are at risk of overlooking important details.

Developers

Developers build the blueprints of innovation. They like to examine the pros and cons of an idea, analyzing and comparing potential solutions. They will plan the steps needed to implement an idea, and put together workable solutions. They are at risk of getting stuck in the pursuit of the ‘perfect’ solution.

Implementers

Implementers are the engine of innovation. They bring structure to ideas. They love bringing a workable idea to fruition. Because they tend to take the Nike approach (‘Just do it!’), they are at risk of leaping into action prematurely.

Integrators

Integrators have an even energy across all four preferences, so they tend to bridge style differences and plug gaps. Because they easily relate to each preference, they are great at bringing and keeping harmony to the group. This also means they are at risk of losing their own voice.

According to Francisco, understanding individual thinking preferences is essential to building balanced, effective innovation teams, and shifting organizational culture. Innovation comes hand-in-hand with ambiguity – we either have too much information, or too little. And there is never just one “right” answer to a challenge.

When people understand not only how they think but how those around them think, it opens everyone up to more flexible approaches, helps them adopt an innovative mindset in their everyday work, and, ultimately, leads to higher performance and productivity.

She says, “Each one of the steps in the FourSight framework – clarify, idea, develop, and implement – requires unique thinking skills. And we gain or lose energy as we engage in different steps of the innovation process. When we’re aware of this, we can engage in the process more effectively. We have more empathy for the way our teammates work rather than getting upset with the way they behave.

We understand why our teammates act the way they do, and recognize the value they bring to the team. We can start to leverage that diversity rather than allowing it to create conflict among us.”

Want to learn more about FourSight and the thinking preferences of you and your team?
Contact us today.