Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

Have You Lost That Creative Feeling?

February 24, 2017

If you want to hire a creative employee, you’ll have a 98% probability of success by bringing in someone who is 3-5 years old. On the other hand, you’ll have a 2% chance of success by hiring an adult. –attributed to a NASA study

A European speaker at the conference I attended this week opened with this remark. I didn’t try to validate it. It’s almost a truism.

As we age, we so easily fall into ruts. (For the young people, that refers back before all the roads were paved. Wagons and other vehicles would go over the same path and over time grooves would be worn called ruts. So you could just let the horse pull the wagon or take your hands off the steering wheel and the vehicle would just follow the rut.)

Check it out if you’re old enough to read this post.

  • Have you tried any new foods lately?
  • Have you read any books that cause you to stretch your mind?
  • Have you traveled somewhere out of the ordinary?
  • Do you have the same ideas and prejudices that you’ve had for years?
  • Are you in the same profession doing the same job the same way?

Or, like children.

  • Do you try different combinations of things?
  • Do you learn something new every day with joy and anticipation?
  • Do you dream of things being different?
  • Are “what if” and “why” a dominant part of your vocabulary?
  • Can your imagination just take off at times and you can sit in it for extended periods of time?

Try this.

  • Sit quietly for 20 minutes a day and list ideas. At least 10 ideas a day.
  • Meet and talk with someone new every week. Maybe make it 5 people instead of 1.
  • Begin to learn another language. That forces your brain into new ways of thinking.
  • Are you fascinated with NASA’s discovery of six earth-like planets? What can you imagine about them? What if we could travel there?
  • Pick up a book on a topic you haven’t read since elementary school.

Many of these I’ve tried. I had a great opportunity once to start a magazine. I looked at the space we’d cover looking for what’s new and different? That worked for 8-10 years. But things changed. So I tried to imagine what was next in industry. So, I went off in a new direction.

And that is the next step. I’ve always imagined things, but seldom had the courage and confidence to do them. That was then. And I grew up.  Even now I hold back at times.

What is holding you back? Dream of a new you.

Making Process Better But Destroying Goals–Leadership Lesson

July 10, 2015

Making the process better, easier, and cheaper is an important aspiration, something we continually work on—but it is not the goal . Making something great is the goal. I see this over and over again in other companies: A subversion takes place in which streamlining the process or increasing production supplants the ultimate goal, with each person or group thinking they’re doing the right thing—when, in fact, they have strayed off course. When efficiency or consistency of workflow are not balanced by other equally strong countervailing forces, the result is that new ideas—our ugly babies—aren’t afforded the attention and protection they need to shine and mature. They are abandoned or never conceived of in the first place.

The quote is from Creativity Inc., Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand In The Way of True Creativity, by Ed Catmul, president of Pixar and Disney Studios.

It’s Friday leadership day. I’ve been reading Catmul’s book on leadership. It is a fascinating look into the creative process of Pixar–and into leading a creative organization.

How many of us have been involved in a project or organization where people (leaders) keep refining the process and then refining some more, and then they lose sight of the overall goal.

I certainly have seen this in business. And in church work. And in non-profit work.

What’s the goal?

Usually it concerns wowing the customer with a product whose quality and timeliness goes far beyond customer expectations. 

Didn’t we just see Toyota do that recently when they took the eye off the goal of pleasing customers?

How many Albert “Chainsaw Al” Dunlaps have you seen trying to cut a company to prosperity? This “Rambo in Pinstripes” destroyed Scott Paper, Sunbeam, and who knows how many other by his terrible management.

A leader works tirelessly to assure everyone affiliated with the company or organization or committee is firmly focused on the end goal. They never forget whom they are serving and what quality consists of.

Another part of what Catmul is talking about is fostering new ideas. Don’t let the process drown out creativity.

I recommend this book for leaders and creative types (who should be all of us).

Having Civil Discussions In A Church Setting

June 30, 2015

Someone says something in a church setting. Someone else gets upset. Angry even. Threatens to leave. Or, worse, starts spreading misinformation in an attempt to put the other at a disadvantage.

Or a church or non-profit organization beginning to discuss a business item. Emotions rise. Lines are drawn. Feelings are hurt. Totally lost in all the non-discussion is one of the last commands of Jesus to his followers–This is how they will know you, by your love.

I’m in the middle of reading a leadership and creativity book. More will come later. The book talks about the creativity process at Pixar studios. “In a healthy culture, all constituencies recognize the importance of balancing competing desires— they want to be heard, but they don’t have to win.”
People discussing in a healthy culture focus on the problem. Not on people. Not on theology or philosophy. The discussion is how do we fix what is broken, or how do we solve the problem. An attack on a person is quickly silenced.

Reading this book, Creativity, Inc., brought back memories of when Dave, Jane and I sat in the conference room in the 24th floor of the IBM building in Chicago discussing what a new magazine with the title, “Automation World” would be. The discussion often was loud and full of energy. The magazine developed from the discussions was born, grew, and led the industry for several years. 

Those discussions were all positive. We fed each other’s creativity.

Then we know of other types of people. They sit at the far corners of the conference room. They listen to enthusiastic people full of ideas. They like to shoot arrows at the ideas, and sometimes even at the person. From the book, “Negative feedback may be fun, but it is far less brave than endorsing something unproven and providing room for it to grow.”

I am by nature analytical. I can tell my level of engagement in the topic by my reactions. If I’m totally engaged, the N and P of the Myers-Briggs comes out, and I can bat ideas around with the rest. If I am less engaged, then the T part shows itself and I instinctively analyze and then look for holes in the argument.

I have to intentionally catch myself and change my thinking in these situations. 

In many meetings I’ve endured, my wish was for others to do the same!

Drawing From The Deep Source of Life

June 1, 2015

She was confronted by the owner of the company where she worked. His demeanor was angry as was his usual way of relating. Frustration boiled over him like an untended teapot on a hot stove. 

He was accusing her of many examples of wrongdoing. She was confused. The accusations were either greatly exaggerated or outright fabrications. She has told someone something. Huh? The accusation was vague. She had done something–it had never happened.

Then at a deep internal pause, the idea crept into her consciousness–she had been betrayed. Someone was out to get her, promoting themselves at her expense.

There are only a few choices at that point. She was on the defensive. The other person had the initiative. She could fight back, but the owner was famous for never backtracking. She could refuse to play the game and just continue doing the best work she could–oh, and also begin quietly probing contacts for job openings elsewhere.

I have just begun reading a book called Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth by Samuel Chand. He opens with a chapter on betrayal.

While I was contemplating my own experiences with betrayal, this verse from Jeremiah was part of a daily devotional:

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of the drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit. –Jeremiah 17:7-8

I love this metaphor. Jesus uses a similar one when he says, “I am the vine, and you are the branches.” Or also when he talkes about the Living Water.

When I’ve had some of these painful situations or when I’ve observed others going through the trials, I’ve seen where there is that life force that flows through life that provides strength and perspective.

Leaders who lack that life force drift into operating by pride, greed, narcissism. Parents not connected to the life force of God parent through intimidation (screaming) or by bribery. Others crumble into despair, depression, bitterness, anger, and hatred when going through trials.

I love to sit in contemplation of God’s Living Water flowing through my body and mind and soul. It’s the pause that refreshes. Then I can go and create.