Take the blanket off your creativity

Leonardo da Vinci is well known for his creati...

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I had lunch today with a close friend and colleague.  Among other things (children, pets, home improvements, unusual heat in Seattle [which was about 86 degrees or so]…) we talked about getting bored.  She’s has been with the same business unit doing much the same kind of job for nearly 7 years.  She likes her work well enough, but feels, as she put it, “too comfortable”.  It’s not that good things aren’t happening with her particular product or that there isn’t enough to keep her busy.  It’s just that the challenges she faces now fill a kind of “Top 25 Things You Do In This Job” place in her mind.

We started talking about opportunities to move to other business groups or even to other companies.  The conversation got very animated and the creative juices started to flow a little more quickly.  It’s obvious that she’s got tons of creativity to spare and aims it, as she can, at the problems in front of her.  But there’s more there…the workflow that she has for her current role has well-worn grooves (often called ruts…) and it works best when following the grooves.

I believe that taking a bright, creative person from one place and placing them in another “takes the blanket” off of their creativity, and the business can benefit mightily in the move.

Take this same intelligent, creative, bubbly person and place her in a position where she needs to work hard to corral problems, identify potential issues different than any she’s ever had before, work with different personalities who have different, and use the depth of other experiences and knowledge to arrive at solutions that amaze the business and you’ve revived a professional life AND driven creativity into a different team that wasn’t available before.

The big challenge, of course, is when you have no opportunity to move from your team or company, but you are confronted with creating new solutions, even if there are ruts…..excuse me, grooves.  I think there are a couple of things you can try:

  • Change the order – when you start your official work day, you probably have a routine.  I do.  Change it. Move things around in your personal/professional workflow. Sometimes arriving at work items in a different order triggers a different way of looking at them, and therefore the eye of your creativity can see them in that different light and maybe arrive at a better answer….or not.  Trying doesn’t cost anything but your comfort, and if it means that your creativity gets a little work out, that’s a good thing.
  • Heads down – The modern workplace can seem like the very definition of organizational ADD (or, as I like to call it, “Life in a Blender“).  To the degree that it is possible, do your best to block uninterrupted time for a single project.  This is a pretty well know time management technique, well worth affirming.  I have a category for appointments called “Heads Down”. If I have a “Heads Down” appointment, that means that I’ve closed my e-mail program, set my internal instant messaging to “Do Not Disturb”, and set a small alarm to go off 5 minutes before that hour (or half hour, or other larger block of time) so I have time to wrap up. To be able to dig in and truly focus on a tough, knotty problem, or crank on an enormous amount of data and make it digestible for analysis, or map out, design and build out that management presentation coherently is a way to get to what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “Flow“. You get a hunk of THAT in your day and you will really feel like you’ve accomplished something!

Those are just a couple of ideas.  There are more.  Look for ways to change things up and take the blanket off.

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3 thoughts on “Take the blanket off your creativity

  1. Hi Jeff,
    Thank you for the post, I enjoyed reading it. I too enjoyed Csikszentmihalyi’s “Flow” when it first came out (whew, good thing you wrote his name out…); I think we often believe we need to allocate time to multi-task yet there are periods when we def need to ‘unplug’ & be lost in a rhythm (for me it’s dance or swimming or wiping the floors!), but kinesthetic movement has always helped untap hidden problems.

    • Thanks, Lynne. It’s kind of odd, since when you unplug, to the online world it looks like you’ve disengaged, when what you’ve done is re-rengage. The joy of slowing donw once in a while and being able to focus on a single, quality task is critical to time/project management…aside from the fact that there are many days when you get to the end of them, having multi-tasked like crazy, but it’s hard to put your finger on exactly what you did….
      For me, after a bit away, it is refreshing to jump back in! The balance is needed for centeredness and health, IMHO.

  2. Pingback: Is Innovation Dead? | Authentic Voice

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