July 13, 2020
Spot Divergent Thinking Strengths to Grow Your Team’s Creative Output
Speaking the language of strengths starts with recognizing and using our own. Then, we can spot them in teammates, employees, or students.
In The Non-Obvious Guide to Being More Creative, No Matter Where You Work, I include a self-assessment survey to help us pinpoint our own, and other people’s, creative thinking strengths. Here’s a sampling of the survey statements:
- I like to simplify, clarify, and synthesize to get to the essence of the problem.
- I like to use intuition and empathy to humanize problems and understand them better.
- I like to make new connections among seemingly unrelated thoughts, products, or situations.
- I like to think visually about concepts, ideas, and processes and use design or metaphorical language to communicate.
Once you have identified and started to use your strengths more deliberately it is easier to spot them in those around you.
For example, you may notice that in meetings Ignacio always comes up with unique ways to link products together for more effective marketing. (“I like to make new connections among seemingly unrelated thoughts, products, or situations.”) He may not even realize this is a creative thinking strength before you point it out.
Annoying Behaviors Might Be Unrecognized Strengths
Sometimes the behaviors that annoy us most are indicative of creative thinking strengths; when we realize this, we can get beyond the temptation to discount a person for an annoying habit and seek to leverage it instead. You might get irritated when Jolie asks many detailed questions, but awareness of her thinking strength reveals that her inquisitiveness often uncovers the root of the issues at hand. (“I like to simplify, clarify, and synthesize to get to the essence of the problem.”)
Spotting strengths and pointing them out to those who exhibit them sounds simple and maybe even silly. Really, this is a strategy to improve productive creativity? Absolutely. Just like the prairie, this practice encourages individual growth. Individual strengths develop as strong root systems that intertwine to support your team’s whole ecosystem of possibility.
When you and I both bring our creative strengths to the table, we increase our potential impact. Harnessing your ability to think visually (“I like to think visually about concepts, ideas, and processes and use design or metaphorical language to communicate.”) and my empathetic approach to the customer experience (“I like to use intuition and empathy to humanize problems and understand them better.”) opens up possibilities that we can’t achieve on our own.
Strengths Spotting Improves Motivation and Progress
Notable research from Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile demonstrates another reason why strengths spotting is important. Through analysis of 12,000 employee diary entries collected in one of her most-cited studies, Amabile found that people are most productive when they feel they can “make progress in meaningful work.” Rather than huge accomplishments or accolades, it is small, continuous wins that keep us moving forward.
Study participants experienced 76% of their work progress on days that ended with them feeling happy and motivated. They experienced work progress on only 25% of days they ended unhappy and unmotivated. Progress fuels people’s “inner work life”—a combination of emotions, motivations, and perceptions— and inner work life, in turn, fuels progress.
Consistent with my possibility ecosystem model, researchers found two categories of interactions with others that can influence inner work life positively or negatively. Spotting strengths falls under one of them.
People are so used to focusing on fixing their weaknesses that it comes as a refreshing source of nourishment when someone points out strengths. The creative strengths aren’t familiar to most people, so it is likely to surprise and delight them when they learn they have a talent that they didn’t know about.
Awareness of one’s strengths provides meaningful self-knowledge and the expectation that progress is possible. As we take the next step to apply them more deliberately, we experience the productivity and progress that fuels itself.
Want to improve your impact and Lead for Possibility? Take our leadership self-assessment here.
Kathryn Haydon helps you maximize your creative strengths so you can do your best work. Through keynotes, workshops, and consulting, she trains individuals, leaders, and teams to find the unique spark that leads to deep engagement and productivity.