Tag Archive for innovate

Want to be More Creative? Just Say No.


There are so many fantastic posts on creativity out there, and what follows will certainly not be added to that group; but I think it’s an important footnote to the ongoing conversation in the business world about creativity.

Many of the posts I alluded to above provide great tips to help you be more creative, think more creatively, or something along those lines; but fewer address what I think may be one of the biggest obstacles that stops many would-be creators before they’re able to start. That obstacle?

The inability to say No.

If you look past the smoke and mirrors, the glitz and glamor, the bells and whistles — if you look past all that’s typically associated with the mystery that is creativity, there’s something that absolutely has to be there in order for someone to create anything. What is that thing, you ask? Time.

Without time, none of the rest of it matters. You can have memorized all the steps to being more creative that you gleaned from a recent blog post on creativity, but unless you actually have time to walk through those steps, the creative process — and by that I mean the process whereby you actually exert creative energy and create something — will not happen. It can’t. Because it takes time.

Which brings us back to saying No. If you can’t say No, you’ll also not be able to do some other things that are prerequisites to the creative process.

You won’t be able to gain the knowledge of your field you need to be able to create something meaningful within it.

You won’t have time to find problems to solve, find solutions to those problems, and then find problems with those solutions.

You won’t be able to engage in trial and error. No trials. No errors. (Actually, you’ll still make errors. Bummer, eh?)

No is what guards our time so that we can create. No understands that time is this odd commodity that we need more of than we think and have less of than we realize.

But No has gotten a bad rap. We’ve been taught not to say it, how to say it without actually saying it, how to make people not feel like we’re saying it, and how to turn it into yes. Weird, right?

In fact, we’ve gone so far as to reserve No for only the most extreme scenarios. It is a thing to be said to drugs. And to strangers with candy. And to folks standing on your front porch asking if they can come inside and explain to you how a guy looked into a hat and translated Egyptian hieroglyphics into readable English from these golden plates he happened to find.

But we’re wrong. No is a tool. Better yet, No is the fuel of creativity, for it is what actually creates the context within which people can create.


6 Non-Creative Thoughts on Creativity

creativityisintelligencefuneinsteinAs cliché a topic as it may be, creativity, and especially creativity within organizational settings, fascinates me. In some ways, I think it fascinates a lot of people though. We spend oodles of time reading about it, blogging about it, wondering if we have it, wondering how we get our teams to display more of it, or at least how not to discourage them from being creative.

One of the cool things about creativity is that every leader, every employee, and indeed every organization has the potential to be creative and likely already is to at least some degree.

But if all this is true, why haven’t “we” — and by “we” I mean the biz world at large and our respective workplaces specifically — got this thing down yet? Here are at least a few reasons that come to mind off the top of my head, as well as considerations for helping us think through what creativity is and isn’t.

I’m sure you can think of more. Feel free to add those in the comments section below!

1. People misunderstand what creativity actually is.

It’s not always going to be some big, shiny, new, amazing thing. Sometimes we think and/or talk ourselves right out of believing we can be creative by defining it incorrectly. In our heads occasionally, anything less than recreating the wheel (what exactly would that be, anyway?) isn’t creativity.

Well, as many of my fellow Mazumans and Mojo mates have heard me say a time or twelve, words mean things. And here’s what creativity actually means:

  • the state or quality of being creative.
  • the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination: the need for creativity in modern industry; creativity in the performing arts.
  • the process by which one utilizes creative ability: Extensive reading stimulated his creativity.

2. Bureaucracy gets in the way of creativity.

Leaders need to find ways to be more idea-friendly. Here are 6 ways they can do that.

3. Sometimes creativity is simplicity.

In a lot of instances, creativity is actually finding ways to make things simpler for people. It’s not about finding new, complex products and services. It’s about making others’ lives simpler.

4. The good idea usually starts as a bad idea.

Great, creative ideas rarely, if ever, come out fully formed and ready to implement. That’s why collaboration and connection are so important.

5. Companies are more often built to maintain than create.

Take a look around you. Is your team built and structured to create or simply maintain? Do you hire people with a propensity to create? Or are you more interested in folks who’ve demonstrated an ability to consistently maintain?

6. Understand that organizations are always trending one way or another.

There’s always some sort of trajectory. Creating increases the likelihood that that’s a forward trajectory. That means sometimes you just have the sand to say “to hell with the data” and create something.

What else ya got? Any other comments? Suggestions? Things you find especially helpful as you think about creativity?

11 Ways to Crush Your Team’s Creativity

monty-python-footWe clamor for it, but don’t see much of it, or at least not as much as we’d like. And really, if we were pressed further, I don’t know that many of us would even know what we’re actually wanting.

It’s the ever-elusive but always romantic notion of creativity. It is the unicorn. It is the thing that will make the angels in heaven (if you believe in such things) sing or the nothingness that is beyond now continue to do and be nothing (if you believe in such things).

We — myself included — talk so much about creativity, and yet when we look around most organizations, it’s not like we’re having to tell them to pump the brakes (thanks, David Wilhelm) on the creativity. We have good intentions; I really believe that. I know we do at Mazuma, and I know we have some wicked creative Mazumans there. Our AVP of Technology, Christian, who I mentioned in this post, and I were talking just yesterday about some things we think we could do to foster more creativity.

But upon further contemplation, rumination, and even some pontificating, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a fool’s errand. Yes indeed. It’s bunk. Unicorn doodoo. Rubbish. Crap. BS. Or just regular S.

backstreet-boysI think many of us are far closer to being able to eliminate all the creativity talk from the vernacular at our organizations than being able to see actual creativity flourish in any meaningful way within our organizations. So let’s just crush it. As some lyrical geniuses once serenaded us, “Quit playing games with my heart.” Let’s not play games with creativity’s heart. Let’s break it instead.

Here’s how I propose we do that. (PS. Eat it, Backstreet Boys)

1. Provide your team no feasible time to exercise creative effort.

You know what I mean, right? I mean, don’t stop saying you want them to be creative, but make sure they don’t actually have any time to do that. Their days need to be so jam-packed with other stuff that the most creative thing they’re doing is figuring out how to fit in a restroom break.

2. Provide them no outlet for their creative energy.

It’s important that the team not have any outlet for their creativity. There shouldn’t be anywhere to go to exert creative energy, and there shouldn’t be any particular business problems for which you want them to create solutions.

3. Don’t give them time to think.

Related to #1 above, time to think is terrible, because that’s often where good ideas come from, especially if more than one person has time to think at the same time. And God forbid they’re together when they do it. Then you’ll have this whole mess with them coming up with ideas, you saying no, them coming back with another idea, you saying no, etc.

12381a9acbc88cf25558485a4b8d4bc64. Don’t challenge them to be creative.

For heaven’s (if you believe in such things) sake, do not under any circumstances challenge a clump of humans to be creative. There’s something in people that seems to come alive when provoked by a challenge. They’re able to muster creativity that even they may not have known they had. Clearly we don’t want that. Plus, if you challenge them to be creative, it could be misconstrued as you supporting creativity in a tangible way; and we’ve already established that we do not desire that.

5. Don’t give them “permission” to try things.

Always encourage them to play it safe. Now, don’t come right out and say, Don’t be creative and try new things. Be more subtle. When someone tries something and it doesn’t work, crush them (subtly). When someone throws out an idea that seems off the wall, literally throw that person off the wall. The latter isn’t as subtle either, but will still get the point across. That point is that it’s not safe to try new things.

dead-twitter-bird-20110107-0939006. Block social media.

You simply cannot have them being exposed to thoughts and ideas from all over the world. You never know when one of those pesky ideas will latch itself onto your employee’s brain stem with such determination that he or she won’t be able to rest until he or she has made that idea happen.

You also don’t want them communicating with so many different sorts of people. Who knows who these people are? How can you be sure they’re only straight-laced business folks like you need your employees to be? There are undoubtedly bad influences lurking behind every tweet. Like artists, for example.

7. Be sure to schedule their entire day full of meetings and/or tasks.

Remember, free time is wasted time. If people have time to sit still for even a few minutes other than to cram food down their throats (preferably while still working), their minds might be freed to actually think. Thinking is to be avoided at all costs. I know I try to avoid it.

8. In other words, do not set aside time for people to think and collaborate.

To be clear: You don’t want employees to have the time or space or permission to tackle problems together. One person’s creativity is often contagious, and believe me — that’s the last thing you need. Call the CDC if you suspect an outbreak.

JustSayNo19. Make “No” the default answer to new ideas.

It’s just simpler this way. You don’t have to think about the ideas; and the employees learn first not to get their hopes up, and eventually not to offer ideas at all. We would consider this a win.

10. Don’t acknowledge creative ideas that work for the organization.

Look, sometimes things get away from us and in spite of our best efforts, some crazy idea sneaks through and wouldn’t you be darned — it worked. Damage control time. The best thing to do — a best practice, if you will — is to ignore it altogether. Just act like you experienced the success through the regular course of business. You see, if you start pointing out when people’s creativity creates positive outcomes for the organization, you run the risk of them mistaking that for you actually encouraging creativity, which would be awful of course.

11. Don’t encourage the oddballs.

Remember when your parents said that whole “Don’t laugh; it only encourages him” thing? (Or was it only mine that said that to everyone else after I did something funny/mischievous?) Same principle applies here. If there are people within your organization who are a little different or quirky or creative or unorthodox, do not — I repeat, do not — encourage them. In fact, frown at them whenever they look in your general direction. Like literally frown.

If you can do these things, you stand a pretty good chance of crushing creativity on your team and within your organization. Just make sure you don’t try anything new to crush the creativity. Only tried and true creativity-crushing methods are appropriate.