The framework for creativity

How do your find your creative zone?

Finding a creative zone is a popular topic for writers, artists, journalists, designers, and many other professionals that create content for a living or as a hobby. Some thought leaders like Graham Wallace have tried to define the stages of creativity in academic terms as a formal process.   Others, like Todd Henry, promote a lifestyle of intentional behaviors and rhythms that lead to “accidental creativity”. I’ve read other articles that promote starting the day early, finding that special thinking place, or playing a specific type of music in the background. For me, my best creative times come on a weekend morning with film score or piano music playing. In the end, it’s a personal thing. We each have to find what works for us.

Photo Credit Jeff Cremer

Photo Credit Jeff Cremer

Many technology professionals don’t consider themselves creative people.

I’ve worked in the Information Technology for most of my professional career. I remember the day I took an internal job transfer to the Marketing department and was accused by IT colleagues of “joining the dark side”. That’s just not something that happens very often.

Something that I don’t agree with is that many IT professionals don’t consider themselves creative professionals. They see their jobs as process and rule followers. If they see problem X then they follow the steps in the Y process to get the result of Z.

Reality is that we hire technology professionals to create custom solutions and to find ways to help us work more efficiently. We want them to take costs out of the business by automating processes with technology tools.  So as an IT professional myself, I consider creativity to be part of the job description. I see a direct link between between successful with my job and having the ability to be creative.

Put people in a position to be successful.

I remind my team of this concept often. As their manager and as an organizational leader, it’s my job to put them in a position to be successful. There are a few tactical ways to do this:

  • Keep their work prioritized so they focused on a few things at a time and don’t become overwhelmed with context switching.
  • Move their work that is beyond their current output capacity to a backlog of work tasks and communicate the priorities and current state to the requestor.
  • Give them freedom to think and be creative as they design and create solutions to problems.

There is definitely a place in business for transformative big successes that produce an entirely new product or service. The printing press, steam engine, motorized car, and personal computer come to mind. But I like to define success one day at a time. I think about success in the office in terms of cultural impacts and incremental progress at a steady pace.

Giving workers the freedom to think freely to find their creative zone.

Daniel Goleman paints the picture of a “creative cocoon” in his book Focus – The Hidden Driver of Excellence. Goleman says “Good days for insights had nothing to do with stunning breakthroughs or grand victories. The key turned out to be having small wins – minor innovations and troubling problems solved – on concrete steps toward a larger goal. Creative insights flowed best when people had clear goals but also freedom in how they reached hem. And, most crucial, they had protected time – enough to really think freely. A creative cocoon.”

When I read Goleman’s words, I immediately identified with them because of my own preferences in work style. I don’t always get it right, but I do strive to follow that pattern. Give employees direction and purpose by telling them the ‘what’. But don’t tell them the ‘how’. That’s the fun of the job. As I said before, we are hired to be creative and make stuff. 🙂

How do you find your creative cocoon?

(Photo Credit – Jeff Cremer)