3 ways to increase your CQ (creative intelligence)

Illustration for blog post on creative intelligence
Illustration by Lexi Visco

Creativity isn’t just for creatives any more. In fact, creativity is widely credited for giving people in business a competitive edge. And it turns out, everyone has some. In fact, you’re likely more creative than you think. Take the quiz that lets you see your CQ, or creative intelligence. Wherever you fall on the scale, the good news is that your CQ is not fixed like your IQ. You can actually boost it by working more creatively. Here’s how.

1. Pay attention

“Fortune favors the prepared mind.” — Louis Pasteur

We often think of creativity as the lightbulb moment where we leap from the known to something unprecedented. But in truth, it is careful attention to what is that helps chart our course to what could be. In fact, research shows that simply being more curious can significantly benefit your career by improving your performance and enhancing your workplace relationships.

All it takes to get started is observation. Ask yourself a question about something you are trying to solve or create. And then, simply pay attention. Carry a notebook and write down what you see and think. Seek new experiences and read widely outside your field. Keep a running log of ideas, open questions, or hunches.

World Bicycle Relief’s innovation began this way: by seeing a need for mobilization in developing countries, then observing ways to meet the need. From studying bike performance in specific terrains to continuously gathering user feedback to improve their riding experience, a practice of inquiry has enabled WBR to increase mobilization and help transform the communities they serve.

WBR shows us how tomorrow’s solutions begin with what is observable today.

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2. Make connections

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” ― Aldous Huxley

What should we do with the data points we gather? Research suggests that making connections puts knowledge in service to our goals. Fantasy, daydreaming, and gestation (not to be confused with procrastination) are ways to sidestep our proscribed paths of thinking and connect the dots in unexpected ways.

Or, as Benjamin Franklin famously did, review your notes daily. You may have a series of hunches or insights that cross-fertilize over time into a new idea. Even when your inquiries lead deeper into the unknown, this can stretch your capacity to imagine and create.

Keep in mind that we’re constantly building on what came before. Within every new possibility is the iterative seed of something already solved well by someone out there. That’s why it also helps to ask yourself who else has faced this problem—especially those beyond your sphere of work and influence. When you seek out and adapt solutions or approaches from other industries or thought leaders, this can unearth surprising new possibilities.

Australia’s pioneering construction company Built is using this approach to disrupt its industry and sustain a competitive advantage. In one of the least digitized industries of the world according to McKinsey, this company is integrating digital tools and files to streamline the bidding process and improve workflow and productivity, while keeping international teams on the same page. This has helped Built become more collaborative, transparent, and profitable.

How could you translate best practices from other industries to benefit your process, partners, and clients?

3. Collaborate

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” — Isaac Newton

Most of us innovate better together than we do alone. In fact, collaboration is widely recognized today as a key driver of creativity and growth in businesses of every kind. What’s tricky is bringing people together in ways that leverage everyone’s best thinking in service to real breakthroughs.

Innovation expert Jeff DeGraff advises that collaboration works best when you create equality without uniformity, variety without discord, and cooperation without consensus. The SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is demonstrating how this approach can lead the world to new worlds.

With its Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), the first camera to capture images of planets rather than their shadows, SETI generates terabytes of raw, complex data points. The company uses technology to enable 100 researchers of varying specialties across the Americas to analyze the same data sets at the same time. This collaborative process has led to the discovery of 51 Eridani b, a Jupiter-like planet 100 light years away from Earth.

From the cosmos to the conference room, we do better together. When we collectively observe, make connections, and share ideas, we can draw from a kaleidoscope of perspectives to see even further than the giants who have come before us.

As your creative intelligence grows, so will your impact and satisfaction. You will awaken to new ideas and explore new frontiers. The work you produce will drive commerce, jobs, and economies. And you will likely find more of what you are seeking.

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