Unlocking Creativity: A book review by Bob Morris

Unlocking Creativity: How to Solve Any Problem and Make the Best Decisions by Shifting Creative Mindsets
Michael A. Roberto
John Wiley & Sons (January 2019)

How all leaders can transform their mindset to stimulate creativity in themselves and others

Michael Roberto obviously agrees with Tom and David Kelley who, in Creative Confidence, challenge all manner of misconceptions, such as the common refrain “I’m just not creative.” In fact, they suggest, “As brothers who have worked together for thirty years at the forefront of innovation, we have come to see this set of misconceptions as ‘the creativity myth.’ It is a myth that far too many people share. This book is about the opposite of that myth. It is about what we call ‘creative confidence.’ And at its foundation is the belief that we are [begin italics] all [end italics] creative…Creative confidence is a way of seeing that potential and your place in the world more clearly, unclouded by anxiety and doubt. We hope you’ll join us on our quest to embrace creative confidence in our lives. Together, we can all make the world a better place.”

According to Roberto, leaders at all levels “should not focus simply on finding ‘better’ people, but instead remove the obstacles that impede the creativity of the talented individuals already in their midst. The best leaders acknowledge that they might not have the creative solutions to their organization’s most significant challenges. They seek to marshal the collective intellect of their people and unleash the creative capabilities of those around them. These leaders embrace the responsibility to create a supportive environment and dismantle the barriers to creativity. This book aims to help leaders in this mission to build more creative enterprises.” whatever the size and nature the given organization may be.

He focuses on six creativity-inhibiting mindsets and devotes a separate chapter to each:

1. Linear: Locked into only one process (analysis, ideation, and execution)
2. Benchmarking: Adopts copycat approaches without modification
3. Prediction: Self-fulfilling prophecy precludes resiliency
4. Structural: Locks in execution to predetermined sequence of actions
5. Focus: Precludes consideration of options, alternatives, and “BIG picture” perspective
6. Naysayer: Dissent and other contrarian approaches discourage underdeveloped, potentially good ideas

Keep in mind that each of these mindsets is best suited to complete specific tasks, such as linear when changing a flat iron, prediction when engaged in contingency planning or focus when completing an organ transplant. If all we have is a hammer, however, every problem looks like a nail. Fortunately, Roberto provides a “toolbox” of mindsets, each of which involves different skills to achieve different objectives. Ted Levitt also reminds us that “people don’t want quarter-inch drills. They want quarter-inch holes.” I wish everyone in retail (especially those who work at hardware stores such as Home Depot and Lowes) understood that distinction.

For other important insights about all this, I highly recommend checking out Jennifer Riel and Roger Martin’s Creating Great Choices as well as Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats.

These are among the passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Roberto’s coverage:

o Closed Mind Experts (Pages 5-9)
o Design Thinking Flourishes (28-31)
o The Benchmarking Curse (47-51)
o Nobody Knows Anything (68-71)
o Does Hierarchy Help or Hurt? (90-94)
o Shaping Team Climate (97-101)
o When the Tank Runs Dry (118-121)
o The Devil’s Advocate (138-141)
o Who Plays the Devil’s Advocate? (143-147)
o Encourage Questions, and, Let Them Answer (162-166)
o Introduce Novelty (172-174)

These are among Michael Roberto’s concluding thoughts: “Your team members and colleagues have a tremendous capacity. Never forget that. As leaders, you must marshal the collective intellect of your people…You must nourish the innate curiosity of your colleagues. You need to dismantle the barriers and transform the mindsets that impede others’ creativity.” One of his most valuable insights is that all of us must think creatively about how to become more creative.

This is a “must read” for those who are determined to accelerate their personal growth and professional development. Meanwhile, why not help as many others as possible to do that? If you share my high regard for this book, re-read it…and then purchase copies for the colleagues who you think will gain the greatest benefit from it. “Together, we can all make the world a better place.”



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