Need for creative leadership

There is a need for creative leadership that is capable of dancing with complexity and ambiguity. This need is driven by 3 factors: The world is changing, business is changing, people are changing.

Creative leadership is the ability to create and realize innovative solutions especially in the face of structurally complex or changing situations. It refers to those people who when all is shifting, and new approaches are yet unknown, can still create clarity of purpose for their teams. These are leaders who seek to navigate – and even benefit from – the unpredictability around them. Not just for the organization or themselves, but usually also for society at large and the ecology of the planet….

Article written for THNK with Mark Vernooij:

What is creative leadership

Creative leadership means more than just pushing innovation and being on the look out for new ideas and having sufficient of a start-up mentality to get things done. At the core the change has to do with what we know. Our old models of leadership were based on the idea that there is a right answer. Bring in an expert, do the market research, spend x amount on advertising and you will create y demand. That kind of thinking. The belief that there is a right answer out there and we just have to ask the right questions to the right people to get it and then we can base our strategies on that. Creative leadership means letting go of the idea that there is a right answer out there that you can know in advance, it means understanding at the core that things are moving differently now, not that there is a new right answer to learn, but that there is no right answer any more. We don’t know what is going to work. How do you operate in those conditions? How do you organize people in these conditions? How do you organize assets in those conditions? That is what Creative Leadership is about.

Orchestrating creative teams

“Come up with something new! And make it good.” Have you ever said that? More and more leaders nowadays make this demand. They need something new and they need it to be good. Mostly because their circumstances are changing radically and their organization hasn’t. Or maybe simply because that is the kind of market they are in. Come up with something and make it good!

At THNK, we work with and learn from the best in the world, we guide teams in coming up with innovative solutions for large societal problems and business challenges. So what have we learned about creative leadership in this process? And, in particular, what have we learned about orchestrating creative teams? How does this differ from the orchestration of more traditional operational teams?

We have learned that:
– a strong creative team typically outperforms the gifted creative individual.
– a creative team consists ideally of 3 carefully selected individuals, not 2 or 4, or even more.
– the team needs to feel on a privileged mission and the team home can reflect that.
– creative leadership means leading the team concurrently from the front and from the back.
managing the energy of the team means pushing the teams to, but not over the edge.

Article written for THNK with Menno Van Dijk, read more at

The rewards of a story

Last week I was moderating an event for the economic board of Amsterdam. About 300 people had come to hear three star creative entrepreneurs of Amsterdam, Ben van Berkel, Renny Ramakers and Duncan Stutterheim. As a moderator I did something that intriguingly enough led to quite a bit of discussion afterwards at the bar. The main question seemed to be, why did it work? I now think I have the answer and it is a story. But let me first explain what happened…

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The secret is Self-orientation

Yesterday in a workshop on communications skills an introverted/people oriented person practiced trying to pitch a good idea to an extraverted/task-oriented person. The first couple of times he started with lots of lead-in words such as “How are you doing? For some time now I have been wanting to speak to you about something but haven’t had the chance…” etc. As I was playing the extraverted/task-oriented CEO I could acutely feel that the lead-in words were not spoken for my benefit. In fact I could even feel myself in that role being impatient and wanting the person to get to the point, it felt a little like wading through someone’s words to get to dry land.
When I made him do it a third time he nailed it. “I have a great idea…” were his opening words, his eyes sparkled. He was amazed himself at how much stronger he felt and he certainly looked tougher.
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Born winners dont exist, nor do born losers

Recently, the coach of the Dutch women’s field hockey team spoke about talent to an audience of filmmakers. When selecting players, he would often give the assignment to change their technique some way. Later, he would check and see who had picked up his advice most. He wasn’t just looking for talent. Coachability is also key. And it doesn’t just apply to field hockey.
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Please be different but not too different

At THNK we put much thought into creative team selection or, as we call it, “casting the creative clash”. We strive for a lot of diversity, but not all diversity works. And then there’s homogeneity. Because being somewhat similar can be helpful too!

To maximize team creativity, what type of diversity would you seek when forming your teams – and where do you want homogeneity? Here’s a top 3 for both categories.
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When Aha meets Haha

It was only 5 minutes in when the magic started to happen. We were in the peer-coaching workshop and had just started the pushing for insights and surfacing assumptions exercise, participants were in pairs asking each other surfacing questions including ‘what if your assumptions were false how would that change how you see yourself and the world?’ and then close to me it started.
faces of David Rock's dance to insight
Continue reading When Aha meets Haha