Vision is the Essence of Creativity (Vision Part 6 of 6)

We’ve discussed several aspects of vision so far and now we’re turning the corner towards the home stretch to really expose vision for its greatest characteristic; that of creativity. You see people need that special creative spark of innovation to persist and continue to see projects through to the end. Yes, the end in and of itself is a huge motivational focus point, but today in order to maintain focus we need to be constantly reminded of relevance as we have fun doing even the mundane tasks assigned to us. Creativity gives real teeth to vision – so much so, that not only does it spark movement; it keeps us pushing forward for the long haul. We can tap into our highest sense of self and our ultimate possibilities with various forms of creative thinking.

Creativity can and should be measured quite often in four key ways. In fact, it can be defined as a new way to:

1.      Design inventions
2.      Solve complex problems
3.      Produce relevant art
4.      Develop meaningful ideas

The most powerful word in this definition is, of course, the word “new” but don’t get confused. It doesn’t mean that you throw out the rule book or start from a position of ignorance. Creative thinking demands both divergent thinking and a masterful understanding of tradition. My recent client, after performing some of the exercises that I usually suggest exclaimed that he’d had a “break-through” in his thinking process about his business. After he explained his new idea, I suggested that this wasn’t a “break-through” but rather a “break with” the old ideas of his profession. These ideas had been developed from years of training and practice. He didn’t need to throw out the old to embrace the new he just had to make sure that the new was useful and didn’t damage others.

Studies show that everyone can engage in creative thinking. There are absolutely no barriers to this process. No cultural or religious baggage, no body image or style issues can stop human beings from tapping into their own personal creative muse. It’s not IQ driven nor will technology or the lack thereof be a crutch.  It’s our last bastion of freedom. The very definition of our humanity rests on our ability to choose and create our own destiny.

Well if this is so important, why does it seem that very few people engage themselves creatively in the workplace or within organizations that they belong to? The answer my friend is simple. It’s buried in the details of life and can only be exposed through the careful study of highly creative individuals that have achieved great success. There have been many such studies over the years and they’re all directed towards some very interesting points about creative leaders. Often, you’ll find “creatives” to be highly impulsive. They can’t stand to be hemmed in when it comes to letting their precious ideas not simply be exposed, but be acted on right away! Often fearless in their approaches to business challenges, “creatives” will risk whatever they feel they need to in order to reach their goal and grab the brass ring. People that don’t feel their passion and understand their vision can easily get trampled under the sheer weight of a “creative’s” focus. So self-reliant is the creative leader that it’s difficult for him or her to conform to the ways of others. You may catch them thinking out loud or pacing in their offices, as they mull over a new concept or idea. Rarely, do they seek the validation of others as their self-awareness and intuition work so well together that they move right in to pursue a course of action?

If nurturing and developing creativity is a part of your business growth ( it’s always a part of any growth) then you are going to have to embrace a few very important ideas. Because creativity is much easier to stifle than to develop, you must be careful to nurture an extremely supportive environment at all times. Don’t let the rush to meet deadlines or to have tangible results force every ounce of creativity out of your team. Instead, give them as much time as you can to brainstorm and bring new ideas out. Help them to try and explore new areas. Give them opportunities to fail in a safe environment so that they perform well when the stakes are high. I know that this is easier said than done but the alternatives are costly and painful.

You’ll also want to dismantle all but the essential rules and procedures for your team. These are often a stifling crutch to creativity that instead of profitable productivity creates a tremendous expense in the way of time wasted and people devalued. It kill’s me to ask a person “why they engage in some work activity?” only for them to say “because it’s our policy” or worse yet, “I don’t really know, we’ve done it this way for years”. Invariably, you’ll find that the reason the procedure was created in the first place doesn’t exist now and won’t in the future. The speed of business demands that we “be” better.

Nickerson suggests that there are at least twelve direct methods to foster creativity within individuals. In this writing, I will only cover three because I think that they are most relevant. From my experience–I’ve taken the liberty to add my unique spin on the following challenges: master your time, create your own personal scoreboard, and make lists, lots of lists. If you master these three ideas, you are well on your way towards helping yourself and others release their creative potential and develop unstoppable personal and corporate vision statements.

Master your time!

No, I’m not suggesting an all-out time management system or course (some of you I know could really use it!). If you would simply create a few more minutes in your daily life you can begin to grow into any new areas that you’d like. I know that you can’t make time; I’m suggesting however that you can compress the things you have to do and carve out a fifteen-minute appointment with yourself every day to be creative. Make sure that your creative time is when you are at your sharpest mentally and have the ability to think without distraction. Some of you can take a fifteen-minute coffee break in your office while others may use the commute home on the train. If you are like me, your best time is in the late evening when the house is quiet and you are all alone in the basement. You’ll need a nice notebook to write on and your favorite pen. No pencils! You won’t be erasing. No matter what, quit after fifteen minutes.

Create your own personal scoreboard

The key to doing anything repetitive for long periods of time is to make it fun. Creating a weekly scoreboard that rewards you for using your creative time wisely can make all the difference. Make sure the reward is worth your sweat equity. There’s nothing worse than working hard to earn something that you don’t really want. Give yourself ten points a day for your time. No, you can’t cheat and cram yesterday’s time into another day. Break your daily ten points into small scored activities; maybe you get five points for creating a list, our two points for coming up with a little jingle or limerick. You might assign a certain number of points for coming up with a quick sketch or design of an idea. It doesn’t matter. The choice is yours so make it fun. It’s important to try to get better at this every day. It will be tough at first but keep at it. Try to ponder different and better ways to do what you do. Look at a problem that’s been perplexing you or someone else and create possible solutions. Try to use up more and more ink every day. During my creative time, I read and think about famous quotes and poetry. Sometimes I draw little doodles but mostly, I write lists, lots of them. Oh, that’s next!

Make Lists; Lots and Lots of Them

Making lists is an extremely useful tool when engaging your creativity. You can write anything and it’s all fair game. In fact, encourage yourself to get out of whatever box that you are in; I mean way out! There’s no risk in writing down your thoughts and intellectual musings. Try to go as fast as you can. Don’t ponder any particular idea too long. Just open your stream of consciousness and start writing. Pretend that you are Leonardo DeVinci or Batman or Martin Luther King Jr. It doesn’t matter who, the point is to think from as many perspectives as you can about your ideas. What would your oldest ancestor think about your ideas? What will your grandchildren many years from today think about your ideas? The possible perspectives are endless. You can’t get it wrong and no one will judge you. Just do it.

That’s all I have to say about vision. Stay tuned for the next great blog. In fact, if there are ideas that you want to explore. Feel free to submit them here. I might just choose the next series around you!

Welcome to the revolution!

-Coach Powell