Understanding where you are, what you are doing, who you are serving, and the impact that you are making through your actions is necessary for a person to effect change. This is all part of developing a sense of the context in which you are working.

Teaching people to not only see context, but also understand how it can inspire the growth of your idea is part of the process of design research. The next step is to see how your context can be shaped and molded to augment and support your idea. Whether you are talking about a new building or creating a team or people to accomplish a specific task, how you work with your materials and resources will directly impact your outcome.

Being able to see the context of a situation involves refining your skills of perception. It’s not enough to assess what’s happening on the surface. You need to go deeper to understand the forces that are causing the actions that you can actually see. When you get to that point, you’re ready to craft not a solution, but rather an intervention in that context.

Creating an intervention implies that you aren’t disrupting the flow of the organization, but rather inserting yourself in it at just the right moment to create a new source of value. Whether you call it taking the initiative, the entrepreneurial spirit, or creative leadership, it’s about taking action in such a way so as to create the greatest possible effect. 

I believe that several basic skills are required to lead creatively:

  • Visual Thinking – The ability to see structure in chaos; to recognize patterns; and create order out of the resources that you have available to you.
  • Mapping Networks – Developing an ecosystem view of your problem; being able to move between the macro and micro perspectives of a problem; understanding the key players, forces, and critical points at every level of an organization; seeing the big picture.
  • Seeing Opportunities – Making the connections between disparate elements of an organization; combining existing functions in a way that will create a new program or service; stimulate conversations and dialogue between like-minded groups of people within an organization.
  • Getting to Next – Organizing people and resources to support your new initiative and creating a plan for execution.

Thinking and acting as a creative leader is about seeing the possibilities and then creating a plan to take you there.

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