Creativity is an invaluable skill… one that everyone wants to possess but not everyone has. It is a quality that companies desperately desire in its their employees, but one that has been nearly impossible to test for, spot or measure in any discernable way. From the smallest shops to the most successful Fortune 100 companies, everyone wants the most creative talent. Why is creativity so sought-after yet so elusive…. so needed and yet so scarce? It is because creativity makes people more effective and resourceful problem-solvers… and ultimately solving problems is what businesses do. That’s the crux of it. Solving problems is how companies make money.
In fact, whereas once upon a time, critical thinking – which is the ability to synthesize and evaluate information — was hailed as the essential process skill for success, today ‘creating’ is the most valued of all higher order thinking skills. In today’s fast-paced world, people need to be able to reframe challenges, extrapolate and transform information, and deal with uncertainty in order to spot opportunities and craft solutions. In fact, a 2010 IBM survey of 1500 CEOs in 33 different industries found that “creativity” was ranked as the most crucial factor for success. Given the increasing value of creativity, it is not surprising that more universities have added not only “Creative Studies” courses to their menu, but also full Creative Studies degree programs. That begs the question then, can creativity be taught, improved, and harnessed?
There is nothing comical about the power of humor. Many of the greatest leaders in history are reported to have had a good sense of humor, even those that might have also had reportedly great flaws. For example, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, who was believed to suffer from clinical depression, was known to have a keen wit. Possibly using humor as an antidote to his melancholy, Lincoln had no qualm about using self-deprecating remarks to ease tension and bond with others. U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower also understood the power of humor. Of it he said, “A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.” The strong connection between humor and leadership was confirmed in a 2012 study by the Bell Leadership Institute in Chapel Hill, NC. The study found that when employees were asked to describe the strengths and weaknesses of senior leadership in their organizations, sense of humor and work ethic were mentioned twice as much as any other phrases. In the study, they surveyed approximately 2,700 employees in a variety of workplace settings over a two-year period. The obvious conclusion is that humor is a vital tool of leadership.
While it’s been said that laughter is the best medicine, it turns out that hilarity has not only real curative power, but also a number of other functions as well. It can be used for good. Humor can help a person bond with another person, release tension, set a person at ease, attract a mate or entertain a child. It can also be used to shed light on social issues in order to bring about change. But humor can also be used negatively to put a rival in his place, to camouflage outright aggression or to express an otherwise unacceptable thought. In the form of satire, humor can be used to mock and ridicule social and political institutions and individuals in the public eye. Indeed, humor has as many functions and styles as there are knock-knock jokes and variations on the “why did the chicken cross the road?” joke. So the key to using humor as a tool for success is knowing when and how to use it.
In most companies, being a manager comes with certain perks. The manager may get a bigger or nicer office. The manager might have an assigned parking space. The manager is likely to make more money and earn more vacation time. However, being a manager is not a total cake walk. There’s a reason managers typically earn more and get more perks. The job can be tough. While a manager’s job primarily entails managing people, products and processes, make no mistake that dealing with challenging employees is probably the hardest part of the job. “Difficult employees” – which can be manifested in a myriad of ways – are time-consuming to manage. It is usually the most draining and thankless part of any management position.
Consider that the average workplace in the U.S. is hugely diverse in terms of the nationalities/ethnicities, job skills, personalities, attitudes towards work and life, individual quirks and personal preferences of its staff. It is a salad bowl of qualities, flaws and behaviors that, when mixed, may produce a qualified team and rich work environment. But it can also deliver some “difficult” employees whose personalities, attitudes, or approaches to work and life are so skewed that they create problems for colleagues and managers alike. What is a manager to do when faced with one of these exhausting employees? One thing is certain…. ignoring the problem is NOT the answer.