Fostering Creativity

Do you ever let your mind wander?

[Punchline] Sometimes it wanders so far it gets lost.

Creativity versus Productivity

Corporate America is founded on productivity where we demand long days full of meetings, deadlines, and to-do-lists.  Everything we do has a process and an expectation.  The expectation is that everyone is at their desk with faces plastered to glowing computer screens and the rhythmic sound of keys clicking echoing across the room.

Now, while this image of working America is changing toward being more creative, the necessity of productivity still exists.

Productivity is immediately measurable, and creativity is not.

Productivity is security knowing that a specific set of steps lead to the completion of a defined task. Although a little creativity may be present, many tasks from auditing financial records to a heart transplant are all production based. They start with a specific end goal in mind.

Creativity, however, has little security about knowing where you are going, when will you get there, and what it will look like when you arrive.  Creative people all have their own set of steps, often more like rituals, to complete their jobs and the people who manage them know that they require only generalized instructions and very little oversight.

Creativity and Productivity

My business is a great example of the merger between creativity and production.  We design places where people live, shop and work.  The production part is assembling the construction documents so a construction company can build what is designed. This amounts to about 90% of the work.

The remaining 10% is the creative part.  And this is difficult to manage and predict.  Developments where people want to live, shop and work, need to inviting, designed to match the landform, and be compatible with its neighborhood.  It needs to meet market expectations, the developers budget, and be distinctive.  Our creative people start with a blank paper and start.  Sometimes it’s a few days, but sometimes it’s several weeks.

While our business relies on our production, our reputation relies on our creativity.

Fostering Creativity

Managing production is linear: it follows a set process where the outcome is predictable.  But as a business, we need to learn not to manage creativity but to foster creativity.

Here are several steps I have uncovered that help in fostering creativity.

  1. Encouragement – For the most part, your creative staff needs to know they have a different path to follow than the production staff. They need to know they are free to work the times they are most creative, and in the places they are the most creative.

Creativity most often requires a wandering mind, and if working in the late hours of the night and drawing on paper taped to the walls to foster their creativity, then that is okay.

  1. Outside Interests – Often it is the strangest interests that help spark creative ideas. Your creative staff needs to know you support these ventures whether it is an afternoon of shooting pool or a trip to a museum.
  2. Failure is safe – Trying something new needs to be encouraged. When presented to the client, they may hate it, but nearly 100% of the time a new idea springs out that becomes the preferred design.
  3. The production staff can be creative – it is not only from the creative staff should you expect new and fresh ideas. Let the production people know that they have the latitude to try something new.  It can be in how to produce designs, present information, and communicate with staff.

The Bible

The ultimate Creator is the God of the Bible.  He has given each of us certain gifts of creativity. Proverbs 22:29 says.

Do you see someone skilled in their work?
They will serve before kings;
they will not serve before officials of low rank.

All work is a gift from God. And all work requires some level of creativity, even though some are tasked with more creative responsibilities than others.

For our businesses to excel in the creative aspects of our professions, we need to learn to foster creativity and allow it to generate the kinds of results God intends.