On a wintry afternoon in February, veteran British adman Roger Mavity walked into a drab meeting room at the Financial Times to tell a bunch of journalists how to do their jobs better. He and Stephen Bayley, the design guru, were about to publish How to Steal Fire, yet another book on one of the most eagerly sought qualities in the business world: creativity. Companies buffeted by a storm of digital disruption and competitive pressures have embraced the need for creative thinking with gusto in recent years, which marks a turnround. CEOs have talked for decades about the importance of innovation, which academics define as the implementation of new ideas. But far less attention has been devoted to figuring out how to foster creativity itself. That began to change after the dotcom crash of 2000 and the subsequent financial crisis. By 2010, a global survey of more than 1,500 CEOs found creativity was deemed the single most important leadership trait for success. Later research has shown...

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