Creativity in a pinch

Too much to do and not enough time.

It’s a phenomenon that I would argue plagues all of us, whether we realize it or not. The fascinating part about it, though, is that now more than ever, we’re expected to work longer hours, be involved in more projects, and assume more responsibility and accountability – all with fewer resources (and often for less pay).

To top it all off? You’re still expected to be innovative and develop creative solutions to everyday business problems – whether it’s working with a client to uncover their marketing challenges, or focusing on improving business processes internally at your organization.

As a relatively new communications professional in the ‘workforce’, I’ve felt these pressures and strains and am intrigued by discovering solutions to the following questions:

How, then, do we foster, maintain, and promote creativity and innovation at work?

How many times must we come face to face with a problem, and decide to execute on the very first solution we think of simply because of time and budget constraints – as opposed to because it’s the very best solution?

About a year or so ago, I was fortunate enough to take in a session on workplace creativity by Todd Henry of Accidental Creative. Todd is a big believer in 3 core characteristics that together, make up the most desirable worker, employee, manager, and so on. They include:

  • Prolific
  • Brilliant
  • Healthy

Rightly so, Todd shared with us that more often than not, we’re likely to cover only 2 of these areas at any given time – i.e., we may be prolific (productive), and brilliant (we have great ideas), but we’re completely burnt out.

How do we become prolific, brilliant, and healthy?

Todd has a few ideas. Including:

  • Taking causal relationships into consideration when working to solve a client issue – i.e., not crossing an idea or approach off the list simply because it wasn’t right for another project. What may not suit one client could be absolutely brilliant for another.
  • Ignoring the ‘ping’ – i.e., consciously making a decision to be in the room or at your desk and focusing on the task in front of you, fighting the urge to check your email or your Twitter feed.
  • Working & problem solving in teams – i.e., the best ideas are a collective of many different inputs, typically not put forth by only one person.
  • Effective time management – i.e., not scheduling meeting after meeting but instead establishing downtime in your day for ideas to emerge on their own.
  • Stimuli – i.e., much like the old adage “You are what you eat”, you typically only create what you take in. It’s important to read, paint, draw, build, test – this is where your creative inspiration comes from. Build time into your days and weeks to create unnecessarily.

If I can add in my own tip, it is this: give yourself the downtime your body and brain deserve. Caring for your health, happiness, productivity, and creativity requires this. Tim Kreider hits the nail on the head in his article, The ‘Busy’ Trap. One of the most valuable lessons Kreider gives us is this:

“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”

So, what’s inspiring you? 


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