Creative leaders: Color your life to amplify your creativity

Creative leaders: Color your life to amplify your creativity

Creative Leadership
Genius Journey
Published On:
April 22, 2024

Roughly 13 years ago, an entrepreneurship professor visiting my university asked me: “Why do you always dress in black, white, or grey?  You’re so creative. You should be more colorful.” Her comment immediately struck a chord with me. At that time, I had toned down my personal colors, emulating a fashion style practiced by designers to put more emphasis on their creations rather than themselves. But the surprising question made me realize that wandering the world in black, white, and shades of grey wasn’t really me. So, I changed clothes. And embraced colors again. Today, allow me to share six tips on how, as a creative leader, you can playfully use colors to amplify and showcase your creativity. 

1. Show your true colors

“Color is a power that directly influences the soul,” noted the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky. Every soul reflects a unique set of beliefs, values, passions, and emotions, and most people have one or a few favorite colors that express the essence of their being. 

Interestingly, many people rarely show their true colors and instead adopt the uniform and uniformity of the majority. For example, when I worked as a corporate banker in my first career, I noticed most of my colleagues wearing suits in black, dark blue, or dark grey with red or blue ties over a white or light blue dress shirt. (Already at that time, I intuitively enjoyed standing out by featuring a more colorful range of banker outfits that expanded the uniform look with yellow shirts, orange, yellow, and green ties, as well as brown and dark green suits).

And I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow
True Colors, Song by Cyndi Lauper

Of course, asking someone to show your true colors (like Cyndi Lauper does in her song of the same name) goes beyond the literal meaning. Metaphorically speaking, it means having the courage to show the world who you really are — and being yourself. Insisting on expressing your originality is an essential prerequisite of coming up with original creations and being a creative leader rather than a follower. In my Genius Journey model, the second mindset of genuine creative leadership is: “Start being yourself.” So, start showing your true colors.

Question: Do you dare to show your true colors? Do you celebrate your individuality and originality and insist upon yourself? Do you insist on producing original creations with your team that make you stand out in a sea of sameness? 

Colored Thinkergy dress shirts in my wardrobe

2. Let colors express your personal branding style

"The best color in the whole world is the one that looks good on you,” said the iconic French fashion designer Coco Chanel. My favorite color is orange, closely followed by yellow. Unsurprisingly, these two colors also make up the primary color palette in Thinkergy’s brand guidelines. Nowadays, many people have registered me as “the orange guy,” and funny enough, quite a few think I am Dutch (close, but no cigar. I am German).

"Color possesses me. I don't have to pursue it. It will possess me always, I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour: Color and I are one. I am a painter.” — Paul Klee

"With color, one obtains an energy that seems to stem from witchcraft,” noted the French painter Henri Matisse. Color is a magnificent tool for building a personal brand (in my case, the “Dr. D of Thinkergy” brand). Usually, I wear a branded dress shirt or T-shirt in vivid Thinkergy colors, matched by trainers in the same hue. These two bright color flashes are true eye-catchers that make me stand out from the crowd. Similarly, quite a few famous creative leaders established a particular fashion item in their favorite color as a key element of their personal brand signature. Think of Steve Jobs wearing blue jeans and a black turtleneck pullover or Pablo Picasso painting in a blue and white striped Breton shirt.

Questions: How about you? What’s your favorite color? What emotions does it evoke in you and others? How can you use your favorite color to bring out the “brand of you”?

3. Let colors simplify your life

Many creative leaders like to simplify their daily lives by practicing trusted routines, allowing them to focus better on their creative work. True to this notion, I use color as a simplification strategy. In Thailand, every day has its own color: Monday is yellow, Tuesday is pink, Wednesday is green, Thursday is orange, Friday is blue, Saturday is purple, and Sunday is red. (By the way, guess what day I was born? You’re right. A Thursday.)

Fortunately, all these colors are featured in our Thinkergy brand color palette, and I have branded dress shirts and T-shirts in all of these colors. To keep life simple, I wear the color of the day on most days (except when I really want to go with another specific color today). So, what shirt do I pick when I stand on a Monday morning in front of my wardrobe? Yellow, of course. Life can be simple if we establish a few mindful routines.  

Questions: How can you create your own color-code routines to link a color to a specific day of the week? Or simplify your life in other ways with the help of color?

4. Let colors lighten your mood and evoke desired emotions.

"Life is a train of moods like a string of beads, and as we pass through them, they prove to be many-colored lenses which paint the world their own hue, and each shows only what lies in its focus,” noted the American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson. Guess what? True to Emerson’s message, there is a simple, creative way to view the world through different colored lenses: Wearing color therapy glasses is a fun way to charge your day with a particular emotion. 

For example, yellow color therapy glasses tend to evoke feelings such as cheerfulness, joy, mental inspiration, and curiosity, while viewing the world through orange lenses is said to show new possibilities, stimulate creative thinking and enthusiasm, and help assimilate new ideas. I enjoy experimenting with certain color therapy glasses and can testify that it’s a surefire way to lighten up your day, seeing the world in surprising new colors and evoking desired emotions throughout the day.

The Thinkergy Crew activating our colorfulcreative entrepreneurship game "In the Year 2100"

5. Ideate with colors

“Color is the place where our brain and the universe meet,” the Swiss-born German painter Paul Klee once said. Interestingly, you can also play with colors if we need to get ideas for a creative challenge we’re working on. Follow these four steps of this simple ideation exercise:

  1. Recall a creative challenge you face, say here: “How to create ice cream concepts for 6-12-year-old kids?”
  2. Think of a color that comes to mind: Yellow. 
  3. List all things that come to your mind related to this color: sun, smiley emoticon, bananas, sunflowers, lemons, school buses, canaries, rubber ducks, corn, butter, gold, bees, mustard, mangos, tennis balls, daffodils, pineapple, Post-it notes, egg yolks, caution signs, yellow cabs, and yellow pages.
  4. Use the listed color associations as stepping stones to create ideas for your challenge: 
  • Create a vanilla and mango swirl ice cream filled into a floating yellow rubber ducky packaging.
  • Create ice cream bites (pineapple-, mango, vanilla, and banana-flavored) with different smiley face emoticons packaged in a box for kids to share.
  • Shape banana-flavored ice cream like a banana and package it in a wrap that kids can peel off like banana skin.
  • Combine sweet corn with vanilla ice cream, gold-colored sugar crystals, and popcorn pieces shaped like a corn cone roasted on a fire. 
  • Blend vanilla-flavored ice cream with a honey swirl and crunchy, candy-coated chocolate bees.

6. Let colors provide you with the dots to connect

“Creativity is just connecting things,” said Apple’s former CEO, Steve Jobs, highlighting the importance of “having enough dots to connect.” In this spirit, here is another more intuitive way to use colors as stimuli for ideas for a challenge you’ve been working on for some time: 

  1. Pick a color in the morning before leaving your home. 
  2. As you go about your day, notice anything you encounter that shows this color. Note the particularities of the thing or person and any message or slogan displayed, and ask yourself: “How may this ‘dot’ connect to my challenge?” Note or record any idea that comes to mind, then continue with your daily activities. 
  3. In the evening, review your listed ideas and comments. Ask: “What do these dots tell me? What dots can I connect to an idea for my challenge?” Again, jot down all ideas that come to mind.
  4. Finally, call it a day and let go of your challenge, trusting that your subconscious mind will continue working on it by connecting the dots in various combinations. Have confidence that when you don’t expect it, the right solution will pop up during the night or in the coming days.

Conclusion: Color your life as a creative leader

Playing with color can amplify your creativity and evoke positive emotions in your work environment and life. So, contemplate how you can make your true and favorite colors shine onto the world. Then, let’s join forces and color the world with creativity, happiness, and joy, heeding Maya Angelou’s advice: "Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud.”

  • What’s your take on color? Do you enjoy letting the colors of the rainbow shine, or do you prefer a subdued purist color style?
  • Genius Journey is our colorful creative leadership development program designed to reconnect you to your inner genius and the higher levels of creativity. Why not consider taking a Genius Journey Day Trip training with your creative team?
  • We are about to witness exponential changes in the coming years as the Sixth Wave of technology innovation gains full steam. Contact us if you’re a creative leader committed to preparing your team and business to surf the Sixth Wave competently.

© Dr. Detlef Reis 2024.