“How can we make our organization more creative? And please, keep it simple,” a client interested in a creativity training for a group of Asian senior executives asked me. Infusing more creativity into an organization comes down to four basic challenges. They are:
(1) Find out who your creative people are, and how many of them you have.
(2) Ensure most of your leaders have a creative mindset, especially those at the top.
(3) Use your creative leaders as change catalysts to build a creative culture.
(4) Pursue meaningful creative projects with the help of a well-structured creative process.
The client sighs: “Is there a way to explain this to them in an even easier way?”
“Yes”, I said. “Think Yin and Yang — and simply use the Yin of creativity.”
How the Yin Yang concept relates to business and creativity
The ancient Chinese concept of Yin Yang highlights the interplay of polar opposites in nature. It postulates that dual opposites both dynamically challenge and harmoniously balance each other. Common examples of such interdependent and interconnected opposites (listed in the order Yang before Yin) are male and female, day and night, sun and moon, among others.
How can you employ Yin Yang to make your organization more creative? How to use the Yin of creativity?
- Think of creativity (and related concepts of customer care and change) as Yin, and opposite business concepts such as financial performance, facts and efficiency are Yang.
- Next, look at the the organization from a Yin Yang perspective: the personality of people working in it; the prevailing mindset of executives leading it; the culture driving people’s behaviors; and the thinking tools and process used while working on projects.
- Finally, if you notice Yang energy dominates the organization, address the four factors — employee personality, leader mindset, corporate culture and thinking process — and gradually shift them one by one from Yang to Yin.
Creative people have a Yin personality
How do you identify the creative people in your organization? Use an effective cognitive profiling method (personality test) that clearly identifies those people who prefer creative thinking.
In Thinkergy’s innovation people profiling method TIPS, we mainly identify creative people by probing for a person’s preferred thinking style. Thereby, “fantasy thinkers” are Yin, while “figure thinkers” are Yang. TIPS also checks on two related styles preferred by creative people: creative Yin thinkers tend to interact with others using Yin-style empathy, emotion and feeling; and they tend to prefer a Yin-lifestyle (i.e. flexibly going with the flow of life).
Question: Are the people in your team more Yin (creative, empathic, flexible) or Yang (analytical, factual, formal)? Do some express both elements?
Creative leaders have a Yin mindset
Mindset describes the way you routinely do things and think about things and people (including yourself). Typically, a creative mindset aligns with a creative personality. People with a Yin personality have an easier path to develop into a creative leader. However, they still need to change a few limiting habitual thought patterns to a creative Yin mindset.
A Yin mindset indicates that you enjoy creative thinking, and also have many interests apart from having expertise in a domain that excites you. You insist on your own personality and original creativity rather than copying the thoughts, ways and ideas of others. You dare to act and take initiative. As a positive, playful optimist, you’re open to other viewpoints and ideas. Yin leaders love what they do, so they passionately work hard in a focused way. But they also know when to let go of work and relax to invite fresh inspirations.
How can you develop authentic creative leaders to creatively lead your organization in line with the Yin of creativity? Employ an effective creative leadership method (such as Genius Journey) that can show them how to adopt and adapt the Yin mindsets of a creative leader.
Questions: Do you possess more of a Yin mindset or are you more Yang — a critical, analytical expert who stays in the safe confines of established doctrines and action routines, who mainly works for the pay, perks and prestige linked to your job, and who’s always busy keeping up with all the demands of the job without being overly productive? And how about your superiors — are they more of a Yin or Yang leader?
Creative organizations have a Yin culture
Culture is the way things are typically done in an organization. Many well-established corporations have a Yang culture embedded in the organizational DNA by generations of Yang leaders who succeeded the original Yin founder of the venture long ago. So, put a Yin leader in charge to switch the corporate culture back.
A creative Yin culture encourages everyone to express individuality, and embraces diversity of thoughts, backgrounds and interests. Such openness fosters a playful, friendly climate that encourages people to share, nurture and act on ideas by rapidly prototyping them (in line with the maxim “Fail earlier to succeed sooner”).
In a Yin culture, employees and teams largely manage themselves and work in a disciplined, focused way; high degrees of freedom blend with a pursuit of excellence. Employees enjoy coming to work because they are intrinsically motivated by interesting projects; they empathically care to resolve creative challenges that make meaning for customers.
In contrast, a Yang culture prefers a uniform set of people conforming to expected norms and behaviors that are monitored and controlled by superiors, leading to a tense, serious work climate where everyone is working busily (often on internal matters), ideas are quickly dismissed and people are reactive because they’re afraid of failure — and where mediocre, “it’s good enough” results are the norm because people essentially are in their job only for the money.
Questions: Do you work in a Yin or Yang culture? And if you long for a cool change to the Yin of creativity, do you have an effective culture transformation method (such as CooL – Creativity UnLimited) to help you switch?
Outlook: Today, you learned that if you want to make your organization more creative, you need to focus on strengthen its creative Yin energy: Hire and promote more creative Yin people; and put a leader with a creative Yin mindset in charge to gradually build a creative Yin culture. Finally, use the dynamic interplay between Yin and Yang to pursue a concrete creative project. Come back to this column in two weeks to find out how exactly this creative process unfolds.
Want to learn more about how the Yin of creativity, or the Yin Yang of innovation? Or do you want to dig deeper and delve into one of our four proprietary innovation methods? Contact us to tell us more about your innovation needs.
© Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 2 March 2017.