About 60% of CEOs polled cited creativity as the most important leadership quality, compared with 52% for integrity and 35% for global thinking. Creative leaders are also more prepared to break with the status quo of industry, enterprise and revenue models, and they are 81% more likely to rate innovation as a “crucial capability.”

creativity poll

[Credit: IBM   The study is the largest known sample of one-on-one CEO interviews, with over 1,500 corporate heads and public sector leaders across 60 nations and 33 industries polled on what drives them in managing their companies in today’s world]

This clearly shows why America’s world business dominance is declining.

First, the ‘study’ is not a study. It’s little more than an opinion poll with some insight into how some CEOs think. But it’s not a study of what is needed.

This is comparable to asking kids what is important for lunch with the majority answering candy and ice cream. It’s not meaningful.

Secondly, putting integrity below anything else is a red flag for the future. I especially don’t like to see “creativity” displace integrity. How is creativity defined when displacing integrity? “Let’s think of a way to get away with…..” Is that creativity?

There’s a different story here. The story is that greed rules when creativity is put at the top and fairness at the bottom.

FC is a community of creativity, design and thought. I do not think the dinosaurs who put creativity at the top of this poll had the same definition in mind as FC’s readers might.

Try this exercise. Look at each item listed and forget the scores. Just make a list. Now, take the list and put it in order of relationship to character. For example, is creativity or global thinking important to character? No. Is fairness? Yes.

When you finish ordering this list, I think you’ll see clearly, except for integrity, the poll is exactly, and seriously, upside down.

So why is integrity second and fairness way down the list? Because the respondents knew they were expected to choose integrity. They all think they have have integrity. BP thinks it operates with integrity. Massey Energy thinks it operates with integrity. Goldman Sachs thinks it operates with integrity. RJ Reynolds Tobacco thinks it operates with integrity. Toyota, knowingly concealing a dangerous defect, thinks it operates with integrity. ENRON pleaded that it was operating with integrity.

An interesting poll, yes. A study? Only if we use it as a warning of what needs to be taught to future leaders—Integrity, Fairness, Sustainability, Leadership (not on the list?). Creativity is rare and can be hired.

Chris Reich