4 ways executives find time to be creative

The No. 1 most in-demand characteristic CEOs look for in new hires is not intelligence, discipline or even emotional intelligence, according to an IBM survey of more than 1,500 CEOs across 33 industries and 60 countries. It's creativity, the Harvard Business Review reported.

Creativity is a central element of innovation, something every company strives for. While the benefits of a creative mind are important to business and cultural success, it's difficult for many busy executives to find time to put their creativity into practice.

To find out how successful CEOs make time for creativity, the Harvard Business Review spoke to innovative leaders across a variety of industries. Here are four tips for other leaders based on those discussions.

1. Look for the unfamiliar. Creativity thrives in new environments. One study revealed spending a few days in nature disconnected from all communication devices, for example, led to a 50 percent increase in creativity, according to the report. But for those of us who don't have time to retreat into the woods, one can notice what is unfamiliar by being more observant of their everyday surroundings. "The entire universe is filled with ideas and has in it what I am trying to create, so I take clues from everyday life by observing every little thing and being inquisitive about the how, why [and] what of things around me," Terykson Fernando, creative director at Indian media company Sattva, told the Harvard Business Review.

2. Seek feedback from different people. Leaders can benefit by creating more diverse groups, as many studies agree diverse teams are more creative, according to the report. Creative leaders commonly make an effort to bring in people with different backgrounds and perspectives, and even talk to people outside of their industry about their ideas.

3. Give yourself room to breath. Creativity requires space, which helps explain why meditation has been shown to increase levels of creativity. "I meditate so that I can let go of existing thoughts and patterns in my mind and make space for new ones," said Mr. Fernando, according to the report. "To me, creativity is all about letting things well up from within."

4. Be receptive to the constraints in your life. Even though creativity requires space, research shows it also requires "constraints." Research shows creativity activates the parts of the brain that are associated with both daydreaming and "administrative control," according to the report. "After all, success takes the ability for free-flowing insight combined with the ability to turn that insight into a thoughtful product," wrote Emma Seppala, author of the report.

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