We live in a fix-it world and like homing pigeons we are trained to return to roost in a view of what's wrong. Creative strengths spotting (get the free tool here!) is all about finding what's good about people and drawing it out.
Is it naive to focus on strengths? No way, especially within the framework of the science of creativity. Creative strengths are actionable cognitive capacities that can help us solve problems and overcome weaknesses once we know how to use them. But if we get stuck defining ourselves on the basis of weakness, we lose our power and often our hope.
In this world it takes work to go against the tendency to home in on weakness, but it becomes easier as we train our minds to adopt a strengths mindset. It's also an opportunity to have fun and bring more joy to our own and others' lives. Follow these five tips to get to know creative strengths and support them.
1. Know the creative strengths
Everybody has their own constellation of creative strengths. That's a given. All you need to know is what to look for. We created the Creative Strengths Spotter Tool to make it easy and visual. Use the tool to help spot strengths in your employees, students, kids, and co-workers. Especially use it to spot strengths in people who frustrate you or drive you crazy. The results will probably surprise you.
2. Make strengths spotting a game
Where's Waldo? isn't a household name for nothing. Neither is the age-old children's game I Spy. Nor are word searches, for that matter. It's fun to find hidden treasures and creative strengths are so often hidden or misunderstood.
When you're on the hunt for creative strengths in your daily life, all of a sudden your interactions with the people around you becomes a game. You can delight in the discovery of a secret superpower that can be harnessed for productive problem solving.
3. Once you spot a strength, put it to use
Humor is a creative strength that is often overlooked as a powerful capacity for problem solving. Class clowns and punsters are always getting in trouble, but what if we understood the potential of their jokester mentality?
One executive had a team leader who had a sense of humor that presented as an annoyance, not a strength. The employee constantly made puns, interrupting the flow of conversation. Others groaned or rolled their eyes, causing the joker to make even more puns.
When she found out that humor is a creative strength, the executive realized the potential power she had on her hands. In fact, the company was having a client issue and she realized humor could be essential in solving it. She put her funny man to the task, he felt valued, and they solved the issue. The puns in meetings didn't stop, but they became less disruptive as the employee felt his creatives strength utilized.
The "needs alone time" creative strength might seem like a problem if you're working in an open office space. But often people who have this strength can turn on powerful thinking when they are allowed a quiet space free of disruptions. Letting such individuals reserve a conference room or even work from home or the library on occasion will likely yield much more productive work for your organization.
4. Highlight creative strengths
Are you stumped and can't think of a way to channel a creative strength in your setting? Simply pointing it out to the person, with your genuine understanding that the strength is a strength, can make a huge difference.
The office jokester may know he's funny, but he may not know that humor is a creative strength and that it can be a problem solving superpower. He also has likely been told most of his life to stop making disruptive remarks. So, simply highlighting the strength as a creative thinking asset may shed new light on it for the individual, and this realization can help him find ways to apply it himself.
5. Be mindful of many strengths
You may find that someone in your charge has so many creative strengths that you have trouble choosing the top three on the Creative Strengths Spotter. These strengths may be very intense and even overwhelming at times. This is a positive sign that the person is a highly creative thinker.
To be clear, everybody is creative. Everybody has a unique make-up of creative strengths. But people do express creativity in different degrees. Some of us live in an ethos of creative thinking, and we can't do without it. These are people who intensely express many of the creative strengths.
They can seem hard to manage if you are their boss, parent, or teacher, but they have a huge capacity to bring original ideas and solutions to the fore. Now more than ever it is critical to support highly creative thinkers. Here's a piece I wrote that will give you insight into highly creative thinkers from a child perspective.
Stay tuned, because Todd Henry has a new book that will be out in January called Herding Tigers: Be the Leader That Creative People Need. I'm reading my advanced copy now and will write a review of the book soon to help you better support the intense creative strengths of highly creative people.
Please write me about how you are using the Creative Strengths Spotter, and what has surprised you!