33. Creativity X-Factor

1 March 2022
How can we improve our creativity?

Key Definitions

Creativity is the ability to generate something original and unusual. It is the capacity that individuals, teams, and organizations can have to come up with new ideas, tools, approaches, designs, products, services, and/or business models. It is the skill to create something novel.

Creativity, like charisma, is often seen as a mysterious quality, that is hard to explain and difficult to purposely develop – either you have the elusive x-factor, or you don’t. The most widely used approach to spurring creativity is brainstorming, in which ideas are generated spontaneously, usually by a group of people, and only evaluated later.

Conceptual Model

The Creativity X-Factor model outlines the key factors contributing to the creativity of a person, team, or organization. With a wink to the notion that creativity is tough to pin down, the model arranges the four conditions that stimulate creative processes into a large X – these are having creative mindspace, a creative mindset, cognitive diversity, and a cognitive challenge. The creative process itself (in the center oval) can make use of four thinking techniques that build on each other to drive creativity. The key message is that creativity is not an enigmatic quality, but a capability that can be consciously developed and maintained.

Key Elements

The four conditions supporting creative processes are the following:

  1. Creative Mindspace. Creativity requires mental effort and therefore people need to be willing to invest time and attention to do so properly. It helps to dedicate a specific block of time for creative thinking and to avoid distractions. Presence of mind is crucial.
  2. Creative Mindset. Creativity also requires an attitude of openness and curiosity. People should have an adventurous and inquisitive state of mind, highly interested in probing the unknown, while avoiding premature judgement. Uninhibitedness of mind is equally crucial.
  3. Cognitive Diversity. Creativity is also aided by using a range of perspectives to look at issues. These different angles can be brought in by different people or by using alternative lenses to view things in distinctive ways. Hence, variety of minds is just as crucial.
  4. Cognitive Challenge. Creativity can also be triggered by mental puzzles. By confronting people with a tricky problem or counterintuitive statement, their certainties can be shaken, stimulating them to think outside their comfort zones. So, spark of mind is crucial as well.

Besides these four supporting conditions, there are also four thinking techniques that build on each other to spur the creative process:

  1. Explore. Coming up with new ideas can be done by employing different types of logic (‘think like a pirate, then like a teacher’). By using different thinking formats in a disciplined way, people will arrive at new insights. This can also be called structured scouting.
  2. Expand. Once new ideas have been generated, it helps to run with them. By taking ideas, building on them, and driving them ever further, people can flesh out an entire new avenue of thinking without restraint. This can also be called radical extrapolation.
  3. Contrast. Once a broad portfolio of ideas has been generated, it can be enriching to compare and sharpen them, highlighting the differences. As in a good debate, the clash of ideas strengthens each further. This can also be called competitive juxtaposition.
  4. Combine. With the key characteristics and strengths of each idea revealed, it is possible to cross-fertilize them, to come up with new combinations that bring together the best of both worlds. This can also be called constructive synthesis.

And after new combinations are shaped, people can continue by exploring even more types of logic, going through the cycle as often is they want or is needed.

Key Insights

  • Creativity is an ability that can be developed. Creativity is not as magical is it sometimes seems, nor is it a talent that someone happens to have. The ‘creativity x-factor’ can be explained and the ability to generate novel ideas can be organized and learnt.
  • Creativity is supported by four conditions. The chance that creative thinking will happen can be enlarged by enhancing four starting conditions: by ensuring people have enough time and attention (creative mindspace) available and engage with openness and curiosity (creative mindset), while there are enough different lenses (cognitive diversity) and stimulating puzzles (cognitive challenges) brought in.
  • Creativity is triggered by four techniques. The creative process can be driven by using four complementary thinking methods: generating new ideas using alternative logics (explore), extrapolating these new ideas to discover their full potential (expand), comparing these ideas to sharpen them further (contrast) and cross-fertilizing these ideas to shape an even stronger synthesis (combine).
  • Creativity is an ability of individuals, teams, and organizations. Individual people can use these conditions and techniques to improve their creativity, but working in groups can potentially be more effective, but can also be more difficult to organize.
  • Brainstorming is the poor man’s route to creativity. Brainstorming hardly makes use of any of these ingredients and is therefore an inferior way to engender creativity.
Subscribe to our monthly Management Model

Do you want to be notified of our monthly Management Model? Please fill in your email address here.

Publication Schedule

June 2024
Time Management Funnel

May 2024
Digitalization Staircase

April 2024
Leadership Circle Map

March 2024
MOVING Mission Framework

February 2024
BOLD Vision Framework

January 2024
Duty of Care Feedback Model

December 2023
Best Practice Sharing Modes

November 2023
Stakeholder Stance Map

October 2023
Status Snakes & Ladders

September 2023
Customer-Centricity Circle

August 2023
Activity System Dial

July 2023
New Pyramid Principle

June 2023  
Cultural Fabric Model

May 2023       
Corporate Strategy Framework

April 2023  
Ambition Radar Screen

March 2023
Resistance to Change Typology

February 2023   
5I Innovation Pipeline

January 2023     
Thinking Directions Framework

December 2022      
Corporate Management Styles

November 2022     
Strategic Action Model 

October 2022
Psychological Safety Compass

September 2022
The Tree of Power    

August 2022
Value Proposition Dial

July 2022
Sustainable You Model

June 2022
Change Manager’s Toolbox

May 2022
Corporate Value Creation Model

April 2022
Organizational System Map

March 2022
Creativity X-Factor

February 2022
Strategic Alignment Model

January 2022
Market System Map

December 2021
Team Building Cycle

November 2021
Disciplined Dialogue Model

Oktober 2021
Strategy Hourglass

September 2021
Powerhouse Framework

August 2021
Fruits & Nuts Matrix

July 2021
Everest Model of Change

June 2021
Followership Cycle

May 2021
Knowledge Sharing Bridges

April 2021
Innovation Box

March 2021
Empowerment Cycle

February 2021
Digital Distribution Model Dial

January 2021
Digital Product Model Dial

December 2020
4C Leadership Levers

November 2020
Rebound Model of Resilience

October 2020
Strategic Bets Framework

September 2020
Storytelling Scripts

August 2020
7I Roles of the Corporate Center

July 2020
Strategy Development Cycle

June 2020
Rising Star Framework

May 2020
The Control Panel

April 2020
Strategic Agility Model

March 2020
Leadership Fairness Framework

February 2020
11C Synergy Model

January 2020
Competition Tornado

December 2019
Confidence Quotient

November 2019
House of Engagement

October 2019
Revenue Model Framework

September 2019
Interaction Pressure Gauge

August 2019
Digital Platform Map

July 2019
Mind the Gap Model


Double-click to edit button text. crossarrow-leftcross-circle