The business world wants creativity. Or so they say.
A recent article headlining LinkedIn purported that “if Steve Jobs worked for you, you would probably fire him.” Outlining an odd work schedule, undertakings unrelated to the task at hand, a tendency to act before process, and interaction issues relating to being too blunt, the author points out that Jobs-like individuals “get in the way of smooth operations.” And when you weigh those issues against the standard measure of employee productivity, he’s right.
For a strong creative mind, the pursuit of delivering on ideas can become a lifetime of work. With Jobs, it was the pursuit of beauty in technology, accumulating product after product in an effort to make the world better. When able to align deeply-driven individual pursuits within a larger organizational vision and work to deliver on the mission, a strong creative can change the world. The ability to be a Jobs-like figure comes down to an understanding of five elements to engage creative talent, a warning, and one secret ingredient to creative productivity.
To successfully engage creative talent, the following five elements should be considered:
1. Traits. These are our mental models. This is where we as individuals think, feel and move from. Both natural and nurtured— our learning, training, experiences and art of craftsmanship all come together to shape our possibility.
2. Habits. Our habits can be our savior—or our undoing. Their danger lies in the fact that each one is immaterial, pervasive and nonsensory. Changing a bad habit is formidable, yet totally possible when you engage mental models, interaction and context.
3. Tools. In the hands of creatives, tools are more than physical objects to employ—they are possibilities. The tools that tend to make the biggest difference are the ones that help organize disparate information. They are structures that, when applied to problems, make solutions pop out. A creative’s strength comes from experience within his or her toolset. One of the greatest values one can leverage is an expansive knowledge of which tool to pull out and when—experience gained through play, experimentation and success.
4. Scope. As a creative’s ability to build solutions grows, they seek out greater challenges. With every solution comes a new application of a tool, or new delivery method for a message. A creative will become driven to do more, to reach more. It is then, when setting scope, that a creative becomes limited. Here is where the company can gain creative value—via the introduction, shaping, organizing and prioritizing of projects.
5. Freedom. When an innovator allows oneself to create, it becomes about the opportunity and freedom to immerse. Creative rampages, if allowed to meet their total possibility, can move through hours into weeks. Research sabbaticals can move from months to years. To be able to truly develop a solution or strategy, a designer/architect/engineer/leader needs time to recognize the whole of the challenge: understanding relationships, breaking down problems, experimenting with solutions, crafting messages and looking for the best position.
And Now, the Warning
Recent developments in brain science continue to be monumentally astonishing. The use of neuroscience to examine the physicality of the brain is becoming more mainstream, and in some parts of the United States, brain scanning is beginning to be advertised as a service. Research on the relationships between mental health and one’s creative tendencies bear a heavy context in light of the historically troubled mental health of many creatives.
One of Jobs’ larger messages within Apple—adopted by innovators, creatives and designers everywhere—was: “Here’s to the crazy ones.” In recognizing the fact that 100 percent of our creative capacity comes from the brain, it is pertinent to place some amount of emphasis on mental health. When it comes to intellectual talent, a healthy regimen should include the examination of one’s mental state, especially in the pursuit of long-term creative productivity.
To breed and maintain “different,” creative talent—whether planner, designer or writer—tends to require that one spend a solid portion of work time in isolation. Instead of surrounding oneself with people, he or she will immerse in research, collections and subject ephemera. It is in this isolation that the deepest insights can be connected and solutions found. The same isolation, however, can also hinder important relationships. Finding a culture that spurs positive energy is necessary. Organizations that encourage creativity and progressively build it into their culture can quickly reap productivity benefits. One need only look into the unique work environment at Zappos, the highly successful online retailer of shoes and clothing, to see how creative energy can generate a hard, upward shift on productivity, customer service and revenues.
The Secret Sauce
Neil Gaiman is an author of short fiction, novels, comic books and more, whose work has been honored with the Newberry Medal and the Carnegie Medal for Literature. Within Gaiman’s writings, there exists a library of books never written. I expect that if we were to explore the nonfiction section, we would find a vast number of ideas never pursued. In the end, both are heartbreaking.
Every person has the ability to be creative. It can be as easy as picking up a writing instrument. The secret sauce is the confident action in the pursuit of your ability—to design, to innovate, to create something new in the world. Being creative involves the snatching up of each opportunity with the intention on delivering a completed idea. This can be done in playful exploration (asking questions and trying new things) or in focused craft (applying long-developed skills and learned craftsmanship), but above all, it must simply be started.
By understanding your traits, applying your habits, having access to your tools, narrowing your scope and engaging your freedom, you can become a creative powerhouse. Now is your time to begin. iBi
» Oh, and one more thing…
Creative momentum is continually lost to simple distraction. In today’s oversaturated world, it’s easy to get tied up wholly in distractions. We are so immersed in the messages of the media that we consider it an organic part of our environment instead of a true interruption to mental flow. If you can remove one distraction every day, your productivity will quickly begin to blossom.