Simple Parameters Drive Creativity

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During the golden age of movies, which took place between 1933-1963 (some would argue it started in 1915, but the box office dollars disagree), The Hayes Motion Picture Code was in place to make sure films were wholesome and moral. I’ve read numerous accounts of directors saying that it was more rewarding to make movies prior to 1963 because the parameters placed on filmmakers by the code forced directors to be more creative—causing the films to be of a higher quality.

In talking with a Broadway producer last year, I learned that the preproduction period never exceeds 12-weeks. The reason is that the 8-12-week parameters are just the right amount of time to ensure excellence on opening day. The period is long enough for the cast to learn their songs, steps, and costume changes, and short enough to not cause anyone to get bored with the show.

Placing these types of soft parameters on projects is enough to drive the creative flow without choking out or overstressing the artists. The heightened creativity increases the entertainment value, which turns into box office dollars during the show’s run.

Unfortunately, if stress stays in play too long, not only does our creativity fail us, but we see negative side effects. According to ULifeline, an online resource for college mental health, “Emotional stress that stays around for weeks or months can weaken the immune system and cause high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and even heart disease. In particular, too much epinephrine can be harmful to your heart. It can change the arteries and how their cells are able to regenerate.”

Unwarranted or unrealistic pressures placed on employees from a boss who doesn’t understand how to encourage innovation leads to catastrophe in the areas of creativity and innovation. However, soft parameters can drive a sense of focus on a project that propels it into an active state that draws the support of the entire team.

Ed Catmull, the co-founder of Pixar, understands that an overly stressed environment destroys the team and honing a quality environment filled with good people drives innovation. In his book, Creativity, Inc. he says, “Find, develop, and support good people, and they, in turn, will find, develop, and own good ideas.”

There is an investment in good people that must be embraced for innovation to excel. Prior to the 1980s, companies never used the lay-offs to balance the budget. Today, employees never know when some form of downsizing will put them out on the streets, making it difficult for a person to innovate. Creativity must be nurtured within companies, which requires companies to allow for failure.

If people are let go because of a mistake, the simple act of watching someone being fired hinders the entire team’s creativity. But if people are treasured and the mistake develops a clear understanding of what doesn’t work, then the team benefits from the practice and empowers others to innovate.

Catmul speaks frankly about employees when he says, “If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.”

The light pressure of an audience’s need or request drives quality workers to step up their creative game and produce an unexpected thrill. Empowered creatives always come up with a great solution or a better form of the requested innovation.

To have this type of success on your team, implement the following steps:

  • Lay out the simple parameters of the project (allowing complexity to come from the design, not the idea)
  • Embrace failure as a lesson learned for the next steps (never allowing fear into the creative process)
  • Empower the creatives to explore multiple possibilities (never settling for the first idea)
  • Maintain deadlines (without creating added pressure)
  • Wait expectantly for the emerging solution to solidify (the polishing process makes all the difference)
  • AND, remember that products are not finished until its release date (or a few weeks later, but rarely earlier)

A team that understands failure adds to their learning and innovation comes from play, is positioned to create something far better than originally conceived. Their empowerment comes from focused parameters and the freedom to explore. Anything opposing these key elements hinders the team’s ability to innovate.

© 2019 CJ Powers

 

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The New Season of Creative Mindfulness

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I remember the changes that occurred in business when upper management altered its focus to an innovative mindfulness called a paradigm shift. Every executive I knew was searching for a new way of looking at processes and conducting business. Changes in operations led to consolidations and the tossing out of unneeded practices. Even sales teams shifted their selling techniques to fit the changing marketplace.

During the fourth quarter of last year, a new mindfulness started to appear. Fresh research was published by Linked-In, Adobe, and the Forrester Group. All of the results and documentation pointed to the emergence of this new mindfulness being that of creativity. Executives at Fortune 500 companies started to pay attention to the fact that creativity was directly correlated to business success.

In his new book, Creative Calling, releasing on September 24, 2019, Chase Jarvis shares how the practice of creativity in business will soon be established as a standard for a healthy employee. The creator of the Creative Live website takes it a step further by insisting that creativity will be considered just as important to each day like exercise, nutrition, and meditation.

For this very reason, I have shifted the focus of this blog and my new podcast to help people grow their creative thinking and abilities. We are all born with creativity, which is seen in every child prior to them starting school, where we are taught to focus on logic.

The logical side of life is tactical in nature and the creative side is strategic. It didn’t take long for business futurists to figure out that within another decade Ai technologies will replace the vast majority of tactical jobs, leaving only strategic and creative positions available for people.

To help people start increasing their creative abilities and thought processes, Jarvis illustrates in his new book the I.D.E.A. system.

IMAGINE

The imagination can create hope and a vision for our future. By improving one’s ability to imagine things, a businessperson can bring clarity to new processes and gain an understanding of what is required to implement that new future. The imagination can also drive an individual’s focus to clarify their intentions on how to proceed.

DESIGN

Jarvis’ design phase is all about establishing a daily practice and conforming our lives to support expressions and transformation. The average person in business today fears change and is hesitant to move forward in what appears to be a blind expedition into the unknown. However, the strongest employees are the ones who are at the forefront of creating change.

EXECUTE

Creativity isn’t innovative or more than just a concept unless it is fleshed out. The businessperson has to learn how to execute their innovation, turning their vision into reality. Even the most ambitious plans can be accomplished one step at a time when a businessperson learns how to execute creative ideas.

AMPLIFY

The business world has turned into a community that requires the participation of many hands for the out-rolling of new projects, products, and services. Finding ways to impact our partners and engaging our communities, increases our productivity and success rate. This amplification process provides a natural byproduct of replicating the best part of ourselves in others.

Developing our own creative thoughts and abilities is critical for our survival in the coming years. This is due in part to the unprecedented challenges in our economy, environment, and technology. We can’t erase the past that put a powerful computer/phone device in the hands of every business person, so we must learn and master what the device can’t provide us—CREATIVITY.

© 2019 by CJ Powers

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Networking for the Future

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Networking is a term that many fear and avoid yet it’s essential for business growth. The negative connotations rise from the riff raff who prey on people during professional networking sessions. They are in it for themselves and have no comprehension of how powerful maintaining a network of courageous professional relationships are to their future.

Others become disenchanted by the process due to those who immediately escape a conversation the moment they determine you aren’t a potential customer. They are short sighted, not realizing you may know a dozen perfect customers in your circle of influence that will add to their business growth.

After participating in numerous networking events, I’ve learned that there are three things all business people can use from the experience to grow their business.

Great Courage

It takes a lot of gumption to enter a room of strangers. The initial atmosphere causes many to connect with those they already know rather than exploring the unknown. No matter how skilled the person is they find themselves digging deeper into their soul for the strength to put themselves into the vulnerable realm of possibilities.

Courage is not about being comfortable, but about the choice of facing fear head on. We tend to forget that the courageous around us feel just as vulnerable as we do, but they’ve taken the further step of pressing through the fear courageously. It is merely a choice to take action, while feeling exposed.

This ability to choose courage over fear is a tool that will always force a business to land upright regardless of any temporary setback it might endure. It’s also the formula used by most businesses to grow. We know that businesses are either shrinking based on ignorance and fear, or they are growing because someone was courageous enough to take a risk.

Listening Skills

No one cares if you have a solution for their business unless they first learn that you care about them. Taking time to meet someone in a networking environment requires huge listening skills, especially in the din of most rooms designed for socialization.

Selective listening isn’t considered listening at networking events. The person only listening for a potential buying signal is shortchanging their future. Listening is a tool to learn about the person first and their needs second. Anyone who doesn’t take time to first learn about the person will never care about his or her customer.

The old saying about having two ears and one mouth gives us the perspective of talking a little and listening twice as hard, which actually helps at networking events. It’s also an asset for the person that wants to grow their business. A customer that feels like the vendor understands their need will always be a happy customer.

Clarifying Pitches

Noisy rooms force a person making a pitch at an event to be concise and understood at the audience’s level. Using jargon and rambling on about what you do is a sign that you may not know your core business or what value your current customers see in you.

By sharing your core competencies you avoid using stereotypical phrases, which stops the person listening from lumping you into a group of all others that do the same thing. Your razor sharp focus helps the person understand what differentiates you from the others who carry a similar title.

Setting yourself apart from the stampede of cookie cutter functions is critical to be noticed over the marketing noise that permeates the Internet, business market and event space. A quality pitch is one that is all about the uniqueness that makes you who you are, which can’t be replicated by any competitor.

Having the guts to meet new people, taking time to really hear about who they are and what they are trying to accomplish, and fine tuning your presentation so its easy to distinguish you from others, helps develop long term relationships that will eventually pay off.

Networking is about surrounding yourself with quality people and developing those relationships so you can help them when needed and they can reciprocate when you’re in need. These lifelong skills always drive business growth and force us to continually better ourselves for the next great adventure we face.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

Creativity—No More Corporate Box

Failures within the Fortune 1,000 world have become critical over the past ten years. To learn how to protect corporations from bad decisions, IBM polled 1,500 CEOs to learn the #1 leadership competency required to survive the future. The answer was “Creativity.”

Two years ago a dozen corporate futurists also stated that creativity was moved to the number one slot of the top ten skills list needed for advancement. Business analysts stated that the only growth companies were those that thrived in creative environments with innovators on staff.

The flurry of activity surrounding creativity in the corporate sector suggested that HR departments needed to set up creative training sessions, adjust hiring scripts and find ways to compensate those who created beneficial solutions. But hundreds of HR departments did nothing.

Over the years HR has become a science, while creativity remains an art form. It’s hard to scientifically measure the value of a creative to determine which one should be hired. It’s also difficult for a director, who was taught that people are supposed to work in the figurative box that the company made, to design a program that trains logical people to play in a box-less environment.

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Corporations needed to build the box lifestyle for employees during the days of industry in America. By the time the personal computer was invented, corporations needed people who thought outside of the box. For our future, corporations need to hire people who don’t work, but play, not in or out of a box, but in a box-less environment.

And they don’t get it.

Who doesn’t get it?

Well, let’s start with SEARS or any other relator that is headed toward bankruptcy. The list is getting longer every year. Just think about SEARS having survived for 124 years both inside the box and outside of it, but now that a box no longer exists, the company has no clue how to survive. Some are guessing its doors will close during its 125-year anniversary.

I was once taught that business is always moving. If its not moving forward with growth, then it’s moving backwards with decline. A business is incapable of standing still. I was also taught that innovation (creativity) was the only thing that could grow a company exponentially. Creativity is movement.

The companies throughout history that disrupted their business market with new innovative solutions always captured 40-90% of the market and forced all other competitors to share the leftovers.

The fact that progress is impossible without change stumps numerous leaders. But a creative knows that change is inevitable and chooses to create the change rather than worrying about what may or may not take place by the hand of others.

Creatives are the leaders of our cultural future.

© 2017 by CJ Powers