Against the Stream

Lidor WyssockyBlog

Most organizations in the world aim to be innovative. Without a doubt, they demand their employees to be creative. At least so they say. Many of these organizations, however, fail to provide their employees the right settings for creativity and innovation to flourish.

Being creative is fun. But let’s be honest: when it comes to real-world businesses, taking a creative path can also be risky. The potential benefit is often enormous, but it can have some short-term cost not everyone is willing to pay. Finding a creative solution can take time, while many companies are keen to see the implementation — any implementation — started as soon as possible. The solution you choose might fail — failure is an inherent part of ongoing innovation, but many companies do not embrace it as part of the process. Finding a creative approach might also require different activities, resources, or capabilities like engaging customers, going out to the field with prototypes, etc. — while many companies are not willing to take the chance of doing things they are not accustomed to.

If you know deep in your heart that your project can highly benefit from a creative approach — if you see the project really needs innovative ideas to succeed — and you happen to be working in an organization that just doesn’t support such creative initiatives, you are likely to experience this gap day in and day out. It is not healthy for you nor is it productive to your organization.

But this doesn’t mean you are on a dead-end. There are a few things you could try which might just do the trick, if not at the organizational level, at least on the personal level.

First Thing First: Talk About It

It might seem obvious, but in the real-world, it isn’t. So many of us experience the gap between what we are expected to do and the lack of proper conditions to do it and fail to communicate it to upper management.

You might say managers are paid to know. You might argue it is not your task to deliver this message. You might claim it will not change anything. You might be right… But then again, if you don’t try, you will never know.

If your manager says you should deliver a creative solution, it is healthier to get everybody aligned with what this means exactly. Gently.Click To Tweet

Be proactive (yet, not aggressive) and make sure your managers know that creativity requires things like taking risks, accepting failures, and sometimes just a bit more time. These are not easy messages to convey. Many managers might not accept that. Yet, I honestly believe that if your manager says you should deliver a creative solution, it is healthier to get everybody aligned with what this means exactly. Gently.

If this works, you’re in a great position (so you don’t really need to read any further). If, however, it doesn’t, there are still things you can do to be more creative despite the real pitfalls in your organization. To start with, you can use a valuable resource we all have, although many of us are not aware of it: our dead-time.

Turn Your Dead-Time into Creative Time

We all have dead time. That’s the time when we are supposedly idle. More accurately, we are not working on any of our primary tasks, projects, or any other significant aspect of our lives. Think for a second about all those moments during the day when you are doing something trivial like walking from the parking to the office, or standing in line in your grocery store, or waiting for a train. Now, imagine you can turn all these precious minutes (sometimes even hours) to fun creative time. Well, you can!

Turning your dead-time into fun creative time doesn't require your organization's approval.Click To Tweet

Using your dead time for observing, exploring and imagining will enable you to develop and practice your creativity. seempli is a great way to do that. And the best part is, you are actually turning this time into play-time for your mind, so it has the benefit of making you more relaxed — it enables you to detach from that high-pressure project you are dealing with. Later when you get back to working on that project, everything will look different. You are even likely to come up with some creative solutions to problems you are facing.

Turning your dead-time into fun creative time doesn’t require your organization’s approval. It doesn’t need any equipment. In fact, it requires only one resource which goes down the drain in any case by default: that idle time. So, even if you work in an organization that doesn’t actively promote creativity, you own your dead-time, and it is up to you to make the most of it.

Find Allies

The next thing you can do to promote creativity within the organization is a bit more challenging: finding allies.

Having a creativity-oriented mindset across the organization is ideal. But that doesn’t mean you can’t apply creative practices to a local challenge or in the context of a specific project especially if you have allies that understand the potential benefit in taking a creative leap.

Using this approach is not without risks. Like any local initiative, if it fails (and it can fail), you’d probably have to explain why you didn’t take the “standard” approach. That is when having allies becomes useful. If you can convince the sponsor of the project to support these creative decisions, it would be great. But even lower-level support can become handy.

Show that it Works!

If nothing else, showing your managers an actual benefit — a creative solution that actually works — has a great chance to make the difference and convince them to support creative exploration in the future. If you are alone on this and didn’t manage to find strong enough allies, you’d better start with a local low-profile challenge.

Don't create the false impression that the innovative approach is 100% fail-safe or easy to apply. It isn't. But when you can show the benefit in practice, there's a greater chance the organization will be willing to pay this premium.Click To Tweet

Take one single (and as much as possible isolated) challenge your project is facing, and try to solve it with a creative approach. When you succeed, you will be able to demonstrate the benefit of this approach in practice. When you do that, don’t forget to mention the risks or short-term cost this approach might have had. Don’t create the false impression that the innovative approach is 100% fail-safe or easy to apply. It isn’t. But when you can show the benefit in practice, there’s a greater chance the organization will be willing to pay this premium.

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Finding this room for creativity is by itself a creative challengeClick To Tweet

Remember that while creativity at the organizational level is something to aspire for, in most cases there’s room for creativity at the team level or at a personal level. It might be difficult to push for company-wide innovative decisions, but you probably have enough room for making smaller creative decisions which can still have a significant impact on your project.

Finding this room for creativity is by itself a creative challenge. Don’t be despaired by the constraints your company might inflict. On the contrary: use them as an opportunity to be even more creative.