Tag Archive for innovation

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?

Why You Should Fail Fearlessly

wedgieIt’s in that moment you propose an idea that you know is going to be met with blank stares if not looks of outright contempt. It’s when you’re about to hit send on that email that shares your hopes and dreams with another. It’s that point in time where it seems like your idea or task or project just isn’t going to work. You may even project a confident image (and there’s nothing wrong with that), but underneath it, you’re afraid your idea isn’t good enough and may even be a disaster. Sometimes you’ll be led to believe — by yourself and/or others — that you’re not good enough.

royalguardfailThink of the biggest professional failure of your life. The biggest one. The one you almost can’t help but laugh at because it went so terribly wrong. Or the one that still puts that sinking feeling in your stomach when it comes to mind.

Now do that thing where you put two fingers on your neck or wrist and check your pulse. Still got one? Good. That means that failure didn’t kill you. You blew it big time, yet here you are.

The natural thing for us to do when faced with fear is to shrink back, thinking that if we but reinforce our current position and keep our head down, all will be well.

But all will not be well. Because if everyone does that very thing, how and why should we expect progress and forward momentum? If the fear of screwing up paralyzes us and/or dominates our thoughts, we need to press into that a little and see what’s really going on there.

And then keep pushing forward, knowing you’re going to fail along the way.

mjFailure, you see, is an essential element of learning, growing, innovating, and leading. If you’re not failing, you’re not trying enough stuff. It’s like that one of my favorite Michael Jordan commercials from back in the day. Point is, if not messing up occasionally, it’s almost certain that you’re not being as innovative as you could be. You’re not taking risks you could be taking. You’re playing it really safe, which is exactly what “they” want.

So try things. In spite of what well-intentioned adults told you when you were little, I think you should let your mind wander. Think of possibilities. Think of what could be. Challenge your own assumptions and presuppositions.

Have original ideas. But further still, and more importantly, share them. Talk about them. Rally others around them. Don’t be afraid of rejection. Who really cares if someone doesn’t like your idea? It’s only after working through scores of bad ideas that you’re going to reach that one really, really great one. And it’s only through failures that you’re going to learn, improve, grow, and stretch yourself.

What am I saying? Here it is — fail. Fail often. And fail fearlessly.