Daniel Goleman: The Active Ingredients for Innovation

This is obvious: organizations must innovate if they want to survive. Most businesses now have far more competitors than they did 10 or 20 years ago. What’s less obvious: How do we find those active ingredients necessary for sustaining continuous innovation?

Teresa Amabile, director of research in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School, spoke with me for my Leadership: A Master Class about the key components for a creative competitive edge.

“In order for any person to be creative, they must first have expertise in their domain – whether it’s art, mathematics, marketing, and so on. And that expertise depends on talent, which is something that is partly innate, but it also depends on education, work experience and professional development/on-the-job training. It also depends on mastering technical skills, and the ability to learn new things in an area.

There’s another kind of skill that’s very important: creative thinking. That includes the ability to take new perspectives on problems, the ability to look at things in a way that other people aren’t looking at them, to go out on a limb, and to take risks in some way.

This is actually related to both cognitive style and personality. Some people are naturally better able to do this, but it’s also something that you can learn. Creative thinking is a skill that you can build. You can enhance your ability to become more flexible, fluent and original in your thinking.

Also, you have to be skilled at working hard. I know it sounds mundane, but it’s a really important ingredient of creativity. You have to be able to persevere, sometimes under extreme difficulty. That’s a skill set that you need in order to be creative in any area.

You also need a certain set of psychological states. My original work looked at the connection between intrinsic motivation and creativity. That research discovered that people are most creative when they’re motivated primarily by the interest, enjoyment, satisfaction and challenge of the work itself, and not motivated primarily by external goals, external motivators or external pressures.”

What would you add to the list? Leave your suggestions in the comment field.

Watch my conversation with Teresa about harnessing creative energy at work in my video series Leadership: A Master Class.

Further reading:

Apply emotional intelligence to the stages of innovation

People aren’t creative for money

Maximize your “Aha!” moment

Three must-haves for team creativity

Other resources:

Create to Innovate

The HR and EI Collection

What Makes a Leader: Why Emotional Intelligence Matters

Follow @DanielGolemanEI on Twitter for helpful articles, podcasts and videos.

Join the conversation about effective leadership traits on LinkedIn.

Photo: Brian A Jackson / shutterstock