Apply creativity to your role…always

Whether it is life, strategic direction for the company, or the next project, my internal questions have always been:
• Do I want to follow in footsteps, or do I want others following mine?
• Does the company pay me to think like others or to create my own thoughts and actions?

Whether intrinsically or extrinsically motivated, creativity is a key component of success and career satisfaction.

“But I’m not creative!” Malarkey. You just haven’t given yourself permission to be creative. Over time, society and self-preservation has taught us to “play it safe” go “by the book” and be “risk-averse”. However, this stifles your natural creativity and limits your potential in all aspects of your life.

The first step in tapping your natural creativity is giving yourself permission to think big and dream.

Giving yourself permission to think big or dream will guide your thoughts and actions toward the reasons you were really hired: starting and completing new projects, shifting directions and planning new initiatives, developing the future of the company. It also allows you to plan the direction your work life will take. That’s the fun about internal brainstorming, no one will tell you why not, or how it cannot be done.

Brainstorming is brainstorming, without being inhibited.

Even though there may be some jobs where creating new boxes may not be encouraged, this should not stop you from integrating this into your routine. Personal growth and development is a process you should always make time for. What a better way than by creating and dreaming to influence and building into you. Thinking big and dreaming can help you and your company, today and in the future.

Most people think their next job movement will be up, of course. But we challenge you to think wide and high, not on the limitations but the possibilities. Think about merging your current or future skills into what will bring you the most experience and self-satisfaction. Motivated employees are always high performers; even if there goals lie outside the current work environment.

Action: Make a list of the skills you have today, then on top of the paper put where you want to get. What’s the perfect job for you; a role you want to challenge yourself to be in the future? Start brainstorming the possibilities and areas to move toward that top future goal. This may involve getting experience outside of your current employer or profession, but don’t forget to think creatively about things you can do within your current setting. Remember that no one is stopping you – except yourself.

This is a great exercise to go through with a mentor. The mentor’s experience can help to identify creative paths to your goal. And, discussing your goal can help you clarify what it is you really want. Who knows, your mentor might already have an opportunity that’s a perfect fit!

Now, repeat this exercise for your team and your organization. Don’t be surprised if there are ideas that apply to all three domains.


Don’t just think outside the box, create new ones

“Just think outside the box” a manager says to a team member.

When was the last time you had your own thought for the company, or even better yet, for yourself?

Thinking outside the box to us means taking a step back and not letting the limitations of the current influence ALL your work.

Another way to look at this is being maximally creative.

Can you step back far enough from your current activities and thoughts to really brainstorm outside the box?

Unfortunately, this can be quite hard for many people to do. We get so caught up in the assumptions and limitations of our day-to-day work that it can be very difficult to get outside this “box”. There is also a significant amount of risk in proposing “outside the box” ideas. Will they be accepted? Rejected? Laughed at?

There is a quote from Robert H Schuller that asks, “What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”

In our opinion the risk and associated fear of failure are both functions of the “box”. As long as your ideas are tied to the current situation, even if they’re outside it, there will be this inherent stress.

Only by breaking from the limitations and assumptions of the current situation can you experience the free-flowing creativity that generates true innovation. Therefore we say:

“Don’t just think outside the box, create new boxes!”


Action: Flipping Assumptions Exercise

One way to create a new box is to brainstorm as if your situation was the exact opposite.

For example:

Issue: We need more revenue
Elements of the current box: 
  1. Our organization is an academic non-profit
  2. There are many layers of bureaucracy to work through for new projects
  3. There is very little money for new-project development
Elements of the opposite box:
  1. Our organization is a for-profit corporation
  2. The structure is flat and streamlined for new projects
  3. There is a healthy project development budget
  • Poll staff for new project ideas
  • Have a new project contest
  • Find new markets/applications for existing products and services


Now you try:

Elements of the current box: 
Elements of the opposite box:


Check out this video about product development company IDEO. They have built a robust process for facilitating creativity and flipping assumptions. In this case they are reinventing the shopping cart.

Video (20min total)

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Coming Soon

Be sure to catch our next post: “Don’t respond to email…yet”

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