History books incorporate a crazy assortment of creative acts – everything from the Three Fifths Compromise (as horrific as it sounds today) to the iPhone came to be from someone who’s a creative genius, a mastermind of the unknown. Yes, throughout time there have been creative zealots who forge new ground, and in turn, make history. But far more often and overlooked is the opposite approach: small, everyday acts of creativity.
While historians will remember Steve Jobs, I’d bet there’s someone at your company who helps drive breakthrough thinking. That person doesn’t wear a uniform of black turtlenecks and wire-framed spectacles, nor does she sit in a painting studio or suffer the turmoil of pained artistry. Chances are much better that this person could be your accountant. She could be your HR manager. She could be your secretary – the point is, you don’t have to represent a category of “creativity” to exhibit creative acts. More importantly, you don’t have to keep a starving artist on retainer to wait for a lightning bolt of an idea – just look around your conference room’s table!
Solving a problem in a new way is creative. So is questioning the status quo. Looking for small ways to add flair is a creative act that improves an organization. This type of thinking doesn’t require a “top-down” mentality, a snazzy title, or a big-ticket degree. Anyone can deploy creativity throughout their day, and it’s your job as a leader to encourage your team members to do so. Set up your environment to foster innovative, independent thinking. Buck traditions. Forge ahead.
Consider creativity as an act requiring a Kaizen – just like your own healthy habits or a manufacturing deployment technique. It’s a constant process with iterations, achieved by constantly chipping away at a problem until you arrive at a viable solution. It’s not a lightning bolt and this “current” doesn’t just have to strike the writers, painters, or philosophers. Research demonstrates that creativity is 80% learned behavior, so you can help train these muscles – just like you could train toward running a 5K or picking up a new trick in the kitchen. Practice makes perfect and practice takes a lot of time.
Here at our firm, one of our portfolio companies was having difficulty with sales. The founder lamented that they were selling a new advertising unit and their media buying potential clients didn’t know what to do with it. They had strict guidelines of how to purchase ads, which all had to stay within a certain construct. Like any other problem, we met with the founding team of our company to get to the bottom of it. After over an hour of white-boarding a variety of scenarios, different solutions, combinations created and a healthy dose of frustration, someone in the room suggested that they simply change their pricing model so the “units” matched what the media buyers were accustomed to buying. While it seems like it was an “a-ha” moment, accompanied by a bolt of lightning, it was quite the opposite. Our solution was a challenge of our initial assumptions and a backpedal from what we thought we needed; in order to reach this point in the discussion, we needed to address a variety of options and think outside the box.
Are you doing the same thing? Are you thinking differently? Are you challenging notions of what is, in favor of what could be? If not, maybe go talk with your HR Manager – she’s got a lightning bolt ready to strike, just down the hall.
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