Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash

Is creativity dying in the day-to-day running of your organisation?

Why does the topic of creativity even matter? 
It’s simple: creativity moves us all forward. It makes us better people.

If a new way of tackling a problem makes you effectual, that’s a good thing. If a tweak to a process makes it more effective, why not? Creativity is the difference between your product or service being so-so and being one we can’t get enough of.

And then there’s the pure satisfaction of participating in a creative process. Connecting ideas from your diverse experiences, the knowledge you’ve gained and producing something unique. Whether you do this alone or with others, it’s highly rewarding when done well.

But how creative are you being? 
In the organisational context, a better question could be — how creative are you allowed to be?

When I made the leap from employee to running my own practice, I was amazed at how much more creative I had to be. Working for someone else had provided me with support systems, some of which, I’d taken for granted.

Ask many who’ve become self-employed, and they’ll tell you: the first shock to the system is not having a “known brand” backing you. The 2nd shock is not being able to pick from an array of team members to ask for that-thing-you-need-by-next-Tuesday. You have to figure alot of it out, by yourself.

Same applies if you have business partner — there’s all the creating you have to do together. Even if you have the money to hire the services of other professionals — there’s still the task of figuring out who said professional is, what you need from them and why, how they can help you, deciding on scope of work, rates…on and on it goes.

And then there’s the most pressing creative task of all — coming up with your unique & compelling product or service — from scratch.

Have you gotten too comfortable at work?
Slotting into an organisation that already has systems in place, has its benefits. However, it can also give rise to a kind lethargy that gets worse as the years go by. Herein lies the problem: is too much structure killing the creativity of even your star employees?

I’ve worked with individuals who leaped from employment to self-employment. We had to engage in ALOT of creativity to get their new venture started. Getting clear on what to offer the market, structuring that offer, naming the business, clarifying who the preferred target market is, best sales strategies that play to their strengths….the list of what we had to creatively brainstorm was (and still is) endless.

I’ve also worked with individuals who made the leap from large organisation to startup. Same story. We had to get creative about their plans for the business unit they’d been hired to grow. How exactly did they want to do that? Where were the gaps that needed filling, who was best placed to fill these gaps. Could they put together a definitive job description for a new employee? What information did they need from the other business units and why? What kind of culture did they want to create in their new team?

Quite often we also had to get creative about their own personal brand- how they wanted to shape their character (and thus influence their reputation) in the organisation and the industry at large. The list of items that required an hour long (minimum!) creative brainstorm process was long.

One thing that came through loud and clear — in too many organisations, this stimulating, exciting process isn’t occurring enough. And that’s how the lethargy sets in.

Whether it’s, leaders who don’t realise how important it is to make time for creative brainstorming, or teams being overwhelmed by the day-to-day, we’re just not doing it as often as we need to be.

How to start?
Are things feeling drained and strained in the team you’re leading? Book a meeting room, put time aside and get into the creative brainstorm process. What will we discuss, you ask? Here are just a few topics — does this team have a vision? Are we all clear on what that is and how each of our roles fits into it? Does the team (and organisation’s) vision still resonate with you? Do team members feel valued? Are they growing professionally? Where are the gaps in our workflow? Are we even working cohesively as a team? I could go on and on….

And for the process to be effectual, participants need to feel comfortable enough to share openly. Otherwise it’ll just be another-meeting-that-was-a-waste-of-my time (we’ve all been for those). So as a leader, setting a conducive tone for the session, matters. The process requires facilitation, so if you can’t do it, hire a coach/trainer to facilitate.

When I run workshops in organisations, I care even about fine details like, is there enough natural light & fresh air in the room? Is there enough standing room for those who want to walk around & stretch during discussions? These things contribute to whether the session is fruitful.

At one organisation, I was scheduled to start at 9am. After learning that participants left the previous day’s session (run by another facilitator) at 10pm, I advised the Group HR Manager that we should begin an hour later, the next day. No point having exhausted minds in the room at the start of a workshop.

But what if I just don’t have the time?
If you realise you’re caught up in the day-to-day, understand that this process is not a distraction. Rather, it is THE thing that can shift things dramatically in your team. I’ve seen this happen over and over again. In short, you have to make the time.

Here’s another reason you have to make the time: you’ll lose your star players if they’re not stimulated enough. These are often the very people who get bored first. They recognise that they add value when they’re allowed to be creative. You may be one such person — you’re bored at work and you’re not sure why or when this started happening. This creativity piece may be the answer.

Next steps
Ask yourself 3 questions: am I allowing myself to be creative enough? Is my team still inspired? Have we allowed the day-to-day to make us lethargic?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above. It’s time to prioritise creativity.

For more on creativity, visit Episode 15 of the podcast here.