Bestselling books such as Richard Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class and Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind have been documenting (or, at least, trumpeting) a shift in power for years now. In different ways, each argues that “creatives” or “right-brainers” will be the thought leaders and economic drivers of a new age. But what is a “creative” anyway? When Behance recently interviewed one very astute leader in the field, he defined such a person as “an extreme risk-taker and who is very comfortable with failure.” While many people often associate the notion of the “creative” with the arts, this definition is particularly useful because of its flexibility – it encompasses scientists, entrepreneurs, and even athletes as much as designers, artists, and writers.
It also emphasizes the fact that creatives are nothing new. Rather, the term is just a rebrand: transported to this era, would not Thomas Edison and Henry Ford be labeled as leading “creatives” rather than “inventors” or “businessmen” or “engineers”? Though their creations might be different inkind from those in our own era – tangible goods (a car, a gramophone) vs. intangible goods or information (a social network, the Google empire), the broad strokes skills of leading creatives are the same now as they were 100 years ago.
Three core competencies we see across the creative leaders that we admire past and present are:
Adaptability. The ability to objectively re-evaluate the trajectory of your business regularly, making adjustments to your core goals and/or products (minor or major) as they become necessary.
Holistic thinking. The facility for seeing the big picture or the long-term strategy, and not just the next step. Being able to see the entire arc of a project or product (while at the same time understanding that adaptability in the execution of a vision is imperative).
Incremental role shifting. The ability to play many different roles – entrepreneur/businessman, inventor, designer, etc – and to shift seamlessly between the mindsets required of each without losing focus.