To build great business we need to solve many hard, open problems. Therefore to do this, successful leaders rely on creativity. Building creative teams and being creative themselves, the best leaders reliably come up with new ideas, turning uncertainty into a clear vision and innovative solutions.

At the very core of building a business is the conflict of two opposing forces — creation and uncertainty. Leaders will constantly find themselves at the edge of the two. With pressure and time to perform, faced with an open challenge with no clear answer. Surfing on the wave of creativity, on the sea of uncertainty.

When most of us are faced with this conflict, we go for the easiest solution. We resort to our methodical analytical thinking and come up with predictable safe answers to open expansive questions. Instead of pushing and challenging the norms, we end up playing a small familiar game. It reliably leads us to predictable results, to building a business that survives and ends up being our job for the next two decades.

Our businesses are only as creative and innovative as we were ourselves when we started them. But what if we could incorporate creativity into the daily life of our business?

Worlds most innovative and successful, businesses, from giants like Apple to more niche disruptors like Miro, Calm and Strava, are known for cultivating creativity at many levels. Global consultancies like Ideo, make it their mission to embed their approach to creativity in other organisations.

Creativity is the foundation of innovation. Fostering it is one of your primary roles as a leader in an organisation. And the sooner you start, the easier it is to build your business around it.

Rules of creativity

Creativity puzzles a lot of us. Much like leadership, it’s a complex human process that can’t be expressed in equations and strict rules. Despite that, creativity is a skill, and you can learn to cultivate it yourself. While there is no universal secret to it, there are some general rules that help. They are:

Creativity needs space

When generating ideas, set some time aside, enough not to think about the next meeting or task. We have our best insights when we're relaxed.

Push through the frothy stuff

The first ideas that come aren't really new. They happened to be sitting on our minds for a while. Don’t stop there. Keep coming up with new ideas until you get to ones that don’t feel familiar. That's where real creativity lies!

Defer judgement to encourage wild ideas

When generating ideas, there's no such thing as a good or bad idea. Keep things on topic, but don’t analyse your ideas too early.

Build on ideas of others (‘and’ instead of ‘but’)

When generating ideas in groups be very mindful of this. Let go of ownership and adapt this mindset: ideas don’t compete, they complement one another. Build a bigger vision by joining many ideas together, and building on ideas of others.

Find your own process

Don't worry too much about what others think and say you should be doing. Your situation is unique and your process will be, too. Check in with what your intuition tells you.

Learn to break the rules

In creativity, rules are as much meant to be followed as they are to be broken. The trick is to know when you're doing it.

Creativity is an active filed of research for thousands of professionals and we’re just scratching the surface here.

But even setting these ground rules will get you started on your way to actually experience creativity rather than reading about it. And with enough practice, you can begin to trust yourself and your team to come up with new creative ideas and build a business that reliably innovates.

Few companies ever develop competency in creativity, so you’ll be starting with a huge advantage from the get-go.