Tag Archive for innovation

You Don’t Have to Wear Skinny Jeans

I want you to try something. Walk around your department or organization, and ask people how creative they are. Say something like “Would you say you’re not as creative as most people, just as creative as most people, or more creative than most people?” 

And then watch them squirm.

It’s an interesting question to hear people answer, both in terms of how they answer the question and why they answer the question the way they do. Most seem to fidget, at least momentarily, or look off into the distance as if the answer were inscribed on some distant wall and they were trying to make it out.

After the pause, you’ll get one of the three options listed in the original question. In their minds, they’re either not as creative as most people, just as creative as most people, or more creative than most people.

The follow-up question, then, is “Why do you think that?”

This is where it seems to get more difficult for folks to answer. The reason for this–at least partly–is that people have all these strange notions in their heads about what “creativity” or “being creative” is. Some people equate creativity with wearing skinny jeans, having unkempt hair, and producing some sort of art, be it on a sheet of music or a piece of canvas. In many minds, that’s a picture of what a creative person is and looks like.

Others have a broader view of creativity. They see creativity as being able to occur on a grand scale or a not-so-grand scale. They see it in pieces of art, and they see it in cleverly constructed spreadsheets. They see it in beautifully-crafted original music, and they note it in how organizations treat and relate to their people.

You see, the thing we’ve got to get our teams and organizations to understand is that most people are creative in some way, shape, or form and to some degree. Most people, given the right environment and tools, can be creative in that they can think of new ways to do things, or time after time find ways to make things that are already good, better.

So one key for leaders, then, is to find ways to create environments for people that allow them to exercise that creativity. Create venues for them to explore their creativity–whatever that looks like for them–and make your team and organization better.

The other key–and this one is likely a prerequisite–is helping your team and organization understand that creativity is about more than wearing skinny jeans. It looks different from person to person, both in its degree and its expression.

As organizations and leaders, it’s incumbent upon us to find ways to unlock the creativity in people, and help them discover things about themselves that they may not yet see.

Want to be More Creative? Just Say No.

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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?