Creativity ain't easy

It's just not.  Relying on creativity means it hasn't been done before or you're making something significantly better.  Many will have a disdain for creativity because it doesn't have a guaranteed ROI.  What are the possible risks with creativity?

  • It could fail
  • It could lead to embarrassment
  • It doesn't turn out like you hoped
  • Limitations could be discovered
  • No guaranteed ROI
  • It could take time
  • It can become personal
  • It might not be perfect
  • It could require revisions

The "gain" to creativity is the process.  Forcing our minds past the norms we abide by daily is good for us.  It allows us to have a more open mind to what could be.  Can vision exist without a mind that dabbles in creativity?  Vision is an essential piece to our lives because it gives us a direction.  It provides the why behind what we do.  But vision is of what could be and not what currently is.

The question shouldn't be, "Can I afford to be creative, is the risk worth it."  The question should be, "Can I afford not to be creative?"

Have you benched creativity?

Have you ever witnessed a leader lose it?  I did this week.  It wasn't pretty and it put the entire team in a very uncomfortable situation, the loss of self control and screaming will be remembered for decades.

Why the blow up?

The system wasn't working.  It's formulated.  It's planned.  It's step by step.  And yet it wasn't working.  In fact, the system is causing the entire team to lose.  The blow up results from loss of control.  For some leaders, when results don't come from the system they assume a team member is failing or hijacking the system.  Rarely do we have hijackers on our team.  But the team member who presses back against the system will be seen, and treated, as a possible threat.  This is when a blow up occurs.

When the system isn't working creativity is required.

Creativity is an important team member.  Creativity could change the current momentum of your team.  If you put creativity on the bench you subject your team to a waiting game, hoping someone else will come up with a solution.  Or, a leader lives by a stronger conviction about the system than believing in their team members, creating a culture of mistrust and doubt.  Systematic leaders are not poison until they bench their creativity and the creativity of their team.  They leave no room for suggestions, feedback, or alterations to the plan.  The ship will sink before they give up control of the wheel.

What can you do to keep creativity in your team culture?

1.  Create a plan - You're like, "What?"  But yes, planning is required.  The plan is where creativity thrives.  A plan should be married to core values and goals.  Don't let you plan be married to a system.

2.  Evaluate regularly - I like to ask this question to a team, "How are we doing?"  This question provides team members the opportunity to give input and an opportunity for a leader to see new things that could be future obstacles.

3.  Pick your battles - Too often we pick battles over results.  We should pick battles over culture.  Teams that get results have a culture of doing little things, or daily things, consistently right.

4.  Make it okay to poke the box - If your system is more valuable than your people, creativity will be on the bench.  Be a permission giver to your team to try new things.  I think about Seth Godin's equation in his wonderful book Poke the Box: If "poking the box is less than or equal to zero = poke.  Meaning, if the plan, model, or system isn't working make creative changes now because you have nothing to lose.

Today is Friday.  Friday is a great day to stop and reflect on your teams progress.  What do you see?  Have you asked your team if they see anything that's stalling the plan?  Are there conversations focused on creative solutions.  Do you give yourself permission to be a creative leader?  Next week can be different for you and your team, make sure creativity is not sitting on your teams bench.


The fastest way you can be more creative

The fastest way you can become more creative is to actually stop. Leaders are built to move things. Which, constant movement is the enemy of doing new creative things. When creativity wavers, take time to stop, reflect, and give yourself permission to have ideas that may fail. What helps you be more creative? Where are you when you feel like you have your best ideas?

Leadership is more than a retweet

In my mind I see the old way of receiving information.

We sat and we listened.  Much like eating a meal, our mental nourishment was brought to us as if we were at a large social event.  We sat at the table and we all got a plate that looked the same and tasted the same.  If we kept showing up to the table over and over again, the ones who were able to repeat the cycle long enough and could re-create what they had been fed eventually got a Doctorate.  Our culture promoted these people and then asked them to serve the same meals to the next generation.  The leadership of this generation, of this meal, are having a hard time fitting into this new world of available information we live in.

The new world looks far less formal.  I'm not even sure there is a seating chart, it seems like it's "come whenever" type of meal.  The biggest change is that instead of sitting and being fed a repeated lesson, now everyone is bringing their own creative dish.  The internet has shifted our learning process from a formal meal into a potluck dinner.  Everyone now has the right to share and contribute in some way and we are delighted by the various options.

The leader who learned to sit the longest and take good notes is uncomfortable with the chaotic feel of the potluck event.  These leaders disapprove of people not seeking their opinion, gaining their approval, and then receiving their permission to share.  To keep control they occasionally lash out at early adapters, these leaders are quick to scrutinize how someone else made a dish or how they placed it on the table, which is ironic because they haven't contributed a creative dish of their own.  In reality, neither title nor position today makes one an authority on the internet tomorrow.  

Leadership is not found in a retweet, that just makes you well fed from the old banquet style of learning (ie. eat, regurgitate, eat again, regurgitate, and so on).  The new form of leadership is taking the risk to put your own thoughts and ideas out there for us to see and to collaborate around how the idea can be better.  Those are the leaders we want and that's how one earn's the right to lead the next generation of leadership through the fantastic medium of the internet.

As a leader are you contributing or do you just want to tell others the correct way to participate?

Photo by Alan Light