First, you’ve got to recognize that there is a creative challenge. The research on innovation in business shows there are two approaches: exploitation and exploration.

  • In exploitation the creative challenge is to find new ways to make the most of the products you’ve got.
  • In exploration you look widely to see what else you could do that is new and different.

Leaders need to know when to explore, when to exploit – and how. And that starts with the simple awareness of what you are doing. Then there’s taking on a creative challenge. Highly creative people immerse themselves in everything they can learn about that challenge – and range far more widely than most others. That’s because a creative insight means putting together original elements in a fresh, useful way – and you never know where those pieces will come from.

This wide immersion requires an open awareness, a form of attention that lets the mind wander freely. Mind wandering, which has a bad reputation, is actually a crucial stage in creativity. It lets us come up with those precious new combinations of different elements, the one that will pay off in a creative insight.

But once you have the creative insight, you need to put it to use, to make it real. This is where many innovative people fail: they come up with terrific ideas, but do not know how to actualize them. Very often this means getting other people on board, whether a team, a teacher, colleague, or classmate.

Mobilizing the help you need to actualize the insight requires social intelligence and relationship skills. Competencies here include understanding how other people think so you can put things in ways they understand, and other persuasion skills; collaboration and teamwork.

Test Your Lateral Thinking Skills

The following questions will test your ability to think laterally. If you get more than 50% of these right you’re certainly strong on your lateral thinking skills . To try the quiz click here…