Nurturing your creativity, courage and collaboration to fully express the unique talent you were born with may be the greatest contribution you can make to your world.
Just before Christmas, Ministers signed The Paris Agreement to limit the increase in global temperatures to less than 2°C and in September they signed the 17 UN Global Goals to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and combat climate change.
However, all of us who have worked with UN Agencies know that we will need different skills to achieve these plans.
From a cultural perspective, Frédéric Laloux’s ground-breaking thesis, Reinventing Organizations, outlines a vision. He describes how self-managing organizations respond organically to big challenges.
Some organizations such as Patagonia and AES are already doing this, but multinational companies and UN Agencies are three evolutionary steps behind.
The problem is there may not be enough time for the leaders of these organizations to make the leaps in consciousness required.
What if your leadership isn’t ready?
Laloux isn’t particularly encouraging: ‘I tell people not to waste their energy trying.’
Changing the culture and operating model is only part of the answer though.
Let’s consider some of the biggest breakthroughs in the last 150 years: Albert Einstein developed the Special Theory of Relativity while working as a technical expert 3rd class at the Patent Office in Berne; Vincent Van Gogh painted the Sunflowers in the Blue House, just next to a smoky railway station and in front of a busy square; while Steve Jobs founded Apple in a garage.
None of these places was exactly the perfect enabling environment. And that’s because high performers nurture skills such as creativity, courage and collaboration irrespective of culture.
Tackling the world’s biggest challenges requires breakthrough creativity.
Fortunately, everyone is born with creativity and a unique talent – what I call your life purpose. Creativity is how you express your life purpose.
Having the courage to do this may be the greatest contribution you can make to your world.
Andy Warhol got a D in his trigonometry and an AAAA in his art at school. Imagine if he had chosen to focus on improving his weakness rather than his strength?
The problem, as Sir Ken Robinson explained in the world’s most watched TED Talk is Schools Kill Creativity. And it’s not just schools: businesses and society do too.
In addition, most of us have forgotten our life purpose.
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting.
Somewhere along the way, in school or business, we learnt to suppress our talent and develop our weaknesses.
Great leaders do the opposite.
Have you ever tried to create something extraordinary in a challenging environment? If so, you may have noticed the more challenging it is, the more creative you are.
It’s why I now paint in extreme locations all over the world. This is my experiment to see what is required to be creative everywhere.
Doing this, I realised expressing our life purpose is where we start solving the world’s challenges.
We may not be able to change the world. But we can change our world. And if we all did that, the world would change.
If you don’t know your life purpose, I encourage you to find out. And if you do, but not how to express it, start doing something creative every day. We offer courses to help people do both.
Creativity takes courage.
Expressing our life purpose takes enormous courage. How often do you know exactly what you ought to do, but rather than expose your true beliefs, you stay within your comfort zone? Unfortunately, staying in our comfort zone means staying in a world of poverty, war, child illnesses, and global warming.
Breaking through requires us to live outside of our comfort zone every day.
Do you have the courage to do that?
If not, consider Brené Brown’s insight that what feels like vulnerability to you, looks like courage to others. And remember, the verge of a breakdown is the springboard to a breakthrough.
Trying to make it alone simply isn’t an option anymore.
To create a breakthrough in physics similar in size to the one Einstein had 90 years ago requires over 3,000 people to work together at the LHC at CERN.
The problem is that collaboration isn’t something we learnt at school, we were assessed as individuals.
Organisations do the same. Rather than measure the output of cross-functional teams, they measure the productivity of a silo: how is HR engaging employees? How is sales selling? How is marketing engaging customers?
Changing the metrics helps, but only if we know how to collaborate in the first place.
Unfortunately, when something goes wrong, we point our finger at the ‘other’, forgetting that when we do so, three fingers are pointing back at us.Gandhi,didn’t say talk about the change, or think about it. He said
Gandhi,didn’t say talk about the change, or think about it. He said be the change. So, rather than seeing another person or another department as the problem, consider what you can learn from them.
Ask insightful questions, like Richard Branson, instead of trying to provide all the answers. Explore how others can express their life purpose.
Getting to the Global Goals
You see the answer to our problems isn’t out there. It doesn’t depend on the culture, the operating model or someone else. It starts inside us.
Take Nelson Mandela. He was imprisoned for 27 years, much of it spent in solitary confinement. Yet, when he came out, he didn’t blame those who put him inside. And he didn’t try to change the people outside. He just shared his love for all people, no matter their religion or colour.
And he learnt every skill he needed through facing adversity within himself.
So, if you are serious about the Global Goals and the Paris Agreement, be courageous, face that adversity and nurture the skills to fully express your life purpose.
This article first appeared on The Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufacturing and Commerce website . Alex Inchbald FRSA is an extreme artist and co-founder of Creative Leadership Partners. His life purpose is to Unleash the World’s Creativity for Good. Alex paints in extreme locations all over the world to explore what it takes to be creative everywhere. And he has worked on every single one of the 17 Global Goals with organizations such as The Red Cross, The World Health Organization, and Unilever.