Ask the average person whether she is creative. She will tell you that she’s not an Einstein, a Mozart or an Edison.

A recent IBM study found that virtually all CEOs identified innovation and creativity as the most important source of revenue for their companies. But they then rated their companies, at best, 5 on a 10-point scale.

If you’re not personally creative, how you can be creative as a business leader? What most people don’t seem to recognize is that without creativity, they would be doomed to a life of misery.

Early human beings had to learn to fashion tools to defend themselves predators, access food from the natural environment and create dwellings to live in.

Over time, agriculture evolved as humans learned techniques to reproduce food. Observe children at play. If they are not playing video games, they can create amazing solutions for building forts out of cardboard or using crayons to draw unusual pictures expressing their “inner artists.”

Just as instructive is the fact that creative geniuses tell us that their ability to be creative is dependent upon tremendous persistence.

Thomas Edison experimented with literally hundreds of potential fi laments to find the right combination for a light bulb. Mozart put in ungodly numbers of
hours working to improve his compositions for his greatest musical productions.

We cannot resist the conclusion that creativity is a learned skill.

This is best captured in a great book on creativity, “99% Inspiration” by Bryan Mattimore, president of the Mattimore Group, an innovation consulting company in Stamford, Conn.

In order to bring creativity to your workplace, you need to be systematic and disciplined.

There are basic tools of creativity that ensure a culture that looks to solve its daily challenges with creative solutions.

What is so important about having a culture of creativity is that it provides systematic approaches to solving not only new product development, but also budget problems, human resources problems, new approaches to supply chains, and the list goes on.

Yes, even accountants and actuaries can and should be using the tools of creativity.

In the middle of the last century, J.P. Guilford, then the president of the American Psychological Association, challenged his colleagues to change the appalling state of creative research. Thus was born the creative movement resulting in its lofty position as the No. 1 challenge for 21st Century psychologists.

So what are some of the basics of the creative process that, if put in place, will create a culture of creativity in your organization? It requires adopting an approach dramatically different from the standard American thinking.

Harry Quadracci, the CEO and founder of Quad/Graphics, said it best about Americans: “We…shoot, ready, aim.”You are forewarned that this journey will buck the prevailing tendency of your workforce to go right to the solution for the challenges and problems facing your organization. You’re also cautioned that it will take more time.

But the good news is slowly but surely, you will transition to an organization that is both innovative and remarkable in its ability to solve its ongoing challenges.This is a brief summary of the basics that you can apply not only to the organization, but also to your personal life. Practice with your family and you’ll be amazed at the results.

1. Define and clarify the problem
This step requires great patience, which is a real challenge in today’s busywork . Getting people to agree on the actual problem being solved is not as easy as it seems. There are multiple tools that help facilitate those discussions. Once the problem is clarified, it must be turned into a challenge statement.

2. Ideation and divergent thinking
Create multiple scenarios and multiple ideas and capture them without comment on their feasibility or workability. Ernest Hemingway came up with more than 100 titles to his novel “Farewell Arms” before he selected the title. Consider a metaphor used by Prof. Gerard Puccio, who teaches creativity: Imagine you’re in a car with your foot on the accelerator. During the ideation session your should stay on the accelerator and not brake. Any employee or associate who talks about why something won’t work is ruled out of order.

3. Divergent thinking and evaluation
Look at the list that has been developed and begin to rank the ideas. Develop a set of criteria by which ideas will be judged. Green check those that are easy to implement; blue check those that will take additional reflection and thought. You now have a list to choose from.

4. Implementation
As you flowchart and develop the process for implementing your ideas, do not hesitate to use the other three steps to select the best form of implementation.

Practice these in your personal life. If your family wants to go on a vacation, or you’re going to host a party, put all four steps in place before you make the final decisions.

You will find that people will have a lot more fun and enjoy the process and expand their horizons to ideas that they would never have thought of otherwise.

Remember the creative process is natural and is part of the human existence.

You cannot lead a creative work environment if you are not willing to practice it in your personal life.

I even recommend using this to improve your golf game or develop a new musical talent.

The world of creativity awaits you if you’re willing to be systematic and learn new skills.