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Your Leadership Superpower: Divergent Thinking

In my research on creativity and leadership, it’s been interesting to crack the code on how creativity shows up in executive leadership compared to how creativity is executed in organizations. I believe that creativity is and will be the superpower for navigating our “next normal.” Disruption, intentional or unintentional, requires figuring out what to keep, what to discard, what to build upon and what rules to break. I help executives and organizations understand that creativity is not a black-box talent that some have and some don’t, but rather, creativity is a strength and a strategy that can be used to solve complex problems, stimulate innovation, and build insight. For many, that sounds like a skill purposely built for a post-pandemic, social-norm reset, break-all-the-rules type of world.


In his article on the “The Creative Brain,” Roger E. Beaty, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University and director of the Cognitive Neuroscience of Creativity Lab, confirms that “increasing evidence from psychology and neuroscience experiments indicates that creativity requires cognitive effort—in part, to overcome the distraction and “stickiness” of prior knowledge.” It’s a combination of what the brain remembers or stores and what mental systems are engaged to generate new ideas or imagine different outcomes. In essence, it is a tag-team effort in two different brain functions. But to use creativity as a strength rather than an undeveloped talent, requires training, practice, and refinement.


One of the most recent definitions for creativity stems from a psychology research project from McGill University that developed a simple creativity test that went viral on TikTok. Researcher Jay Olson says that the test measures just one small aspect of creativity – divergent thinking – one way our brain creates unexpected solutions to problems that don’t have an obvious solution. Olson posits that, “By measuring the strength of an individual’s divergent thinking, the test may measure a facet of a person’s creative strength.” People who have taken the test, tend to take it several times, figuring out how to generate a higher rating. The test measures two phenomena: the divergent thinking score, and the unintended ability for individuals to learn how to improve their “creativity” score by taking the test multiple times. Increasing creativity can be a learned behavior.


I have been using this idea of creativity (the ability to hold two divergent thoughts at the same time) to build a framework that can help both leaders and businesses generate innovative ideas paired with disciplined focus to generate creative solutions in almost any environment. I’ll be sharing some of the insights on how this creativity/growth framework can help move leadership, teams, and organizations forward in a series of discovery articles I’ll publish over the next couple of months.


If you’d like to take the beta survey and be part of the conversation on how creativity and growth are showing up as critical strategies, I invite you to do so both for yourself and the organization you lead and/or work for. Your results will be confidential and be used in aggregate to generate new ideas for being successful in our “next normal.”


Break the Tape Leadership helps leaders unleash creativity and potential in themselves and the organizations they lead to generate meaningful momentum.



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