In a recent newsletter from Tomorrow’s Professor the authors noted that IBM’s Institute for Business Value has recently surveyed 1,500 CEOs, and their number one leadership competency is (drum roll please) creativity. Poor old leadership. It seems to have yet another trait bolted onto it. Our leaders must be superheros, able to leap buildings in a single bound.
I suppose that this shouldn’t be such a great surprise to anyone, given the amount of ink and paper devoted to creativity and innovation over the past few years. The newsletter goes on to discuss the ways that professors can help students learn basic creativity skills. What stood out for me was the ability to concentrate intensely upon a subject or activity.
So lets put creativity and intense concentration into the context of leadership roles. Leaders experience lots of demand for their time. They have very little extended time which they can use for “intense concentration on a subject”.
And, this lack of concentration is getting worse. The constant beeping of our Blackberries for our immediate attention is creating a culture where divided attention is the norm, not the exception.
My senior students struggle with having enough information to write a ten page analysis. Not because they aren’t intelligent, but merely because they are used to surfing across the top of an idea, not thinking deeply about it for an extended period of time.
Steve Johnson’s new book about innovation talks about the slow hunch. Often ideas rub along in someone’s mind for ten years before the insight comes to them that is the source of the creativity. In order to nurture that hunch, we have to think in a concentrated way about a single topic for very long periods of time. And our modern culture is not designed for deep, concentrated thought.
So if we’re really serious that creativity is a new core competency of leadership, and transfer creativity skills throughout organizations, then we’re going to have to figure out how to allow people the time to think deeply about their ideas. And in our productivity driven world, that will be a real challenge.
So I ask you, how does your organization encourage deep thought?