On Creativity

Unleashing creativity does require good management and process.

I have been thinking a lot about creativity lately. Some days I feel more creative than others. It depends a lot on the flow of work and how motivated I feel. The balancing act of managing business responsibilities and driving innovation is a continual tension.

Daniel Pink’s book, Drive, is excellent reading on the topic of motivation around creative work and how it contrasts with the reward systems of our previous industrial age’s routine work. I would highly recommend it to understand how to work with people in this creative age that engage in non-routine work.

Creativity is what differentiates. In the trenches, it feels like an ebb and a flow. Sometimes, I can catch the right wave and ride it in while other times, the undertow of relentless demands bury me.

I find I am not alone. I manage a team of creatives and I observe the same challenges in motivation in others. However, over the years, I have found some things that help drive creativity that I believe can help you continually innovate as well. Here are some things I am mindful of:

  • Your environment matters. Who you are around, where you work and live, and the ambience of your work space helps to stimulate ideas. I find I do my best work away from the noise and demands of deadlines. Being with other creative people creates a symphony of ideas as well. The outside does affect the inside. Pick well.
  • Intrinsic motivation drives me. Something happens to how I think or feel when there is an external reward or carrot presented. Extrinsic rewards are great for locking into a specific goal. They have proven to be highly effective. However, they have to be carefully introduced in creative endeavors. Creatives have a desire to do something because of the intrinsic reward of the work itself. The why matters more than how much.
  • Collaboration systems need to be world class. When we collaborate, ideas get refined or clarified. However, we can also easily interrupt. People don’t tend to like going to the office to get things done. They find other places away from the distractions. I focus heavily on accessible and asset-building collaboration systems. It creates the balance of teaming with individualism to create.
  • Set things up for action. Many thoughts and ideas pass quickly. Your entire workflow and system needs to be set up for easy capture of thoughts and implementation of those ideas. For me, I have both mobile and workstation devices with tools that make it easy to execute immediately. Think it through.

Moving fluidly between the urgent world of other people’s demands and executing on creative ideas can be difficult. Make some of these changes and see how it frees you up a bit more.

How can these strategies help you?

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