For today’s Creativity Challenge we’re going to do an easy exercise that will help you get your creativity started – even when you feel stuck! Whether you’re just starting out, or consider yourself very creative, it’s normal to feel stuck once in a while. The best way I’ve found to get around that is simply to put pencil to paper and draw! The physical act of drawing will help spark ideas and get your creativity going again! So, today, here’s what I’d like you to do:
Put your pencil down on a piece of paper and close your eyes. Make a mark on the paper…or a number of marks! Then, open your eyes and take a look! What do the marks remind you of? Use your imagine and then draw in the lines, shapes and colors to complete your creation!
Can’t wait to see what you come up with! And don’t forget to post your creation on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook to be entered to win one of my original drawings! You can also email me a copy at firstname.lastname@example.org!
I’ve still been thinking about the discussion I had last week during my Art of Being Creative Workshop on how difficult it is for people to find time to practice creativity. One thing I know is, just like anything else, finding time to practice means actually ‘making and then taking the time’. So, here’s a few suggestions on how to do that:
Make time for creativity practice first! Before you get busy with your busy day!
Schedule your creativity time on your calendar – and add an alarm!
Start small. Schedule 10 – 15 minutes. It doesn’t have to be long. You just have to do it!
And, because I know that starting, and practicing anything new is easier with a coach, I have a challenge for you! Every morning this week I’ll be posting a new ‘creativity starter’ on my website, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Post what you’ve created in response for all five days and you’ll be entered to win one of my original drawings! And, more importantly, you’ll be well on the way to making – and taking – the time for creativity, a habit!
Are you giving yourself time to be creative? I’m asking because yesterday, in The Art of Being Creative workshop I facilitated at the IAPD/IPRA Conference, the topic of time to be creative – or, more accurately, ‘lack of time’ to be creative – came up over and over again. Whether it was pressure at work to get as many things done as quickly as possible, or the need to juggle multiple responsibilities at home, people simply felt that they didn’t have time to devote to practicing creativity. And that’s a shame. First of all, because, like anything else, the more time we spend practicing creativity, the better we become at being creative! Second, when we dedicate time to being creative, we’re more likely to come up with creative ideas and solutions. And finally, because, when it comes right down to is, spending time being creative is fun! Creatively solving a work or home problem, sewing a dress, playing guitar or just sitting outside sketching are fun, enjoyable and rejuvenating for us as human beings. So, this weekend, have some fun, and spend some time simply being creative!
Do you like to wait? Anywhere, at any time, for anything? You don’t? I’m not surprised. In fact, those who are familiar with Toyota Way/Lean, know that waiting is a waste: something that doesn’t add value to a service or product and that consumes precious resources.
If we don’t like to wait, why do we do it so often? And I’m not talking about in supermarket lines, on hold for customer service, or at the doctor’s office. I’m talking about waiting to do the things that we truly want to do in life. The things we dream about, both personal and professional. Big or small, why do we so often put off doing those things that will give us joy, make us better people and help us fulfill our purpose?
One of the biggest reasons I’ve found, is fear. For many people, even the idea of starting something new, whether it be life-changing like opening a new business or transitioning to a different career, or much smaller like getting back to drawing or writing poetry, can generate a lot of fear. Fear of failure: What if things don’t turn out as I planned? What if I find I’m not talented enough? Or it’s not like I thought it was going to be and I don’t like it. Or, the fear of success: What if I get too many clients before I really know what I’m doing? Do I really know as much as I think I do? Maybe I should just wait a little longer, gather a little more information, go to more training classes…
So, instead of getting started, we wait…for more knowledge, more money and stability, or the perfect time. And the longer we wait, the longer we put off getting started, the scarier getting started becomes.
And that’s because confidence only actually comes from doing things.
Think about anything that you’re confident about doing now. The job you’re currently in, volunteer activities you take part in…even something as simple as driving a car! Then think back to how you felt before you actually started DOING that activity! Chances are, there was a certain amount of fear involved. Over time, as you did the activity over and over again, fear was replaced by comfort as your confidence developed though learning-by-doing.
So, think about the things you really, really, really, really want to do. The things that call out to you from the depths of your heart and soul, the things that you’re waiting to do, but are currently afraid to get started on. Then figure out the first small step, and do it. Because once you do, you’ll begin to develop the confidence that will allow you to take the next step, and the next. If you don’t, and you continue to wait in fear, you’ll simply be wasting your time and energy, the most valuable resources any of us has.
Many organizations spend a lot of time ‘training’ people. I wonder, though, how often that ‘training’ is effective in helping people change the way they work? In many organizations, ‘training’ simply means having people sit in a room and listen to someone tell them how to do something. Even if there’s a practical component, it’s often not enough to ensure that people can apply the concepts to their own work. So, after training, they go back to their desk and do things the same way they did them before. Contrast that with an athlete ‘in training’. For an athlete, being ‘in training’ means that each day they’re actively doing things to increase their ability. Being ‘in training’ isn’t a one-time thing, it’s an ongoing process of learning-by-doing; of practicing, in a disciplined and strategic way, with the help of a coach. Being ‘in training’ helps the athlete continuously make the changes they need to improve their ability. And it helps them build the stamina needed to reach the goal. So, as we start the week, something to think about: in your organization, are you ‘training’ people or are your people ‘in training’?
How many of you have made New Year’s resolutions? Or have new goals at work? Maybe they’re something like “eliminate all junk food from diet” or “reduce the number of $ spent on xx by x date”. I often find that goals, whether personal or professional, are stated this way. In the negative. We use words like eliminate, take away, and reduce, thinking that we can ‘get better’ by subtracting! In general, though, as human beings, we associate ‘better’ with more of something, not less of it! So, if you want to get better, at home or at work, try stating your goal as something positive to strive towards, like “Healthier Living Everyday”. Then you can build towards that by adding in one new positive behavior each week, like: Week 1: Eat one serving of vegetables at every meal. Week two: Exercise 15 minutes a day. Continue to add on one new ‘improvement behavior’ each week, and soon you’ll find that by adding, instead of subtracting, you’ll build discipline, stamina and the ‘habit’ of getting better all the time!
Quick question for you today. How helpful would you say your organization is? How about your department? What about your team? Not sure what I mean by ‘how helpful’? Or maybe you’re just a little puzzled about why I’m even asking the question itself. If you are, I’m not surprised because ‘helpfulness’ isn’t something, like profitability, productivity, or efficiency, that’s commonly considered in business. I mean really, how often have you been called into a meeting to discuss progress towards ‘helpfulness’ KPIs? Probably never! However, just because ‘helpfulness’ isn’t something that most businesses currently focus on, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be. There’s a number of very good reasons why!
First of all, ‘helping’ makes people feel good. Both the people that are receiving the help, and the people who are giving the help. When people feel good they’re much happier and productive and more engaged in their work. And, what organization isn’t trying to increase their number of happier, productive and engaged employees?
Second, helping the people who work for – and with – us is a great way to model and practice the way we expect our employees to treat our customers. After all, don’t customers hire your company because they want someone to help them? Help answer their questions and help solve their problems, no matter what? And customers never want to hear the words ‘no’ or ‘I can’t’. Yet, how often do you respond to questions or requests for help from other teams and departments within your organization by saying exactly that. “No”. “Sorry, can’t do that.” “It’s not my job.” “Not my responsibility.” If you don’t model and practice helpfulness within your organization, how can you expect people to act helpfully towards your customers?
Just like anything else, being helpful is a habit. And like any other habit, the more it’s practiced, the stronger it becomes. So, if you want your organization to develop a ‘helpful’ habit, here are some suggestions!
Say yes. I know it sounds simple, but saying ‘yes’ is the easiest way to start a ‘helpful’ habit. And it works on the personal, team and organizational level. When someone asks you to do something, instead of saying ‘no’, simply say ‘yes’. Then find a way to do it, even if you aren’t sure, at the moment, how. Figuring it out will have the added benefit of helping develop creativity, and courage to do new things too!
Define what ‘helpfulness’ looks like! Again, it might sound simplistic, but if your organization doesn’t define what ‘helpful’ behaviors are, how will everyone know what to look for? How will they know what behavior to practice?
Talk about help and helping. Ask “How many people have we helped?” at meetings, and in conversations. Make the importance of ‘helpfulness’ visible. Because, the things that are focused on are the things that people see, and understand, are valued.
So, I’m going to ask you again. How helpful is your organization? If you don’t know, now is a great time to start thinking – and doing something – about it! Because the best time to start making a ‘helpful’ habit is today!
Go with Purpose! “What’s the purpose? Do you know? Do others?” People that I’m coaching hear me ask these questions all the time. And I ask them, because, unless everyone is extremely clear about why we’re doing whatever we’re doing, and what we expect to accomplish, it’s easy to get off track. Not sure what I mean? Then think about how much time you’ve spent in meetings in which the purpose – the reason for gathering people together, and the required outcome – whether it was a decision or a completed work product – wasn’t clear. Chances are, if everyone wasn’t clear, up-front, on the purpose, then whatever the hoped-for outcome was, probably didn’t occur! And that’s not surprising because, unless we ‘go with purpose’, clearly understanding and communicating the underlying reason and the expected outcome, for everything we do, then all we’re really doing is ‘hoping’ that we’ll achieve ‘something’. So, this week, whether you’re meeting with customers, creating new software or coaching someone, take a few minutes, at the beginning of each activity, to make sure that you, and everyone else, is clear on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it! I hope you have a wonderful week, and ‘go with purpose’!
Does your organization want to stand out from the competition, delight customers, engage employees and be around for the long-term? In a nutshell, does your organization want to be great?
If it does, but you’re struggling with how to get there, I have the answer. And it’s simpler than you might think. If your organization truly wants to be great, then don’t just copy…
Although many organizations search for ways to become great by reading books, taking courses and benchmarking other, high-profile companies who seem to have it all figured out, unfortunately, much as we’d like it to be, copying what any of these other organizations has done, isn’t the way to greatness. Don’t get me wrong. Reading books, and taking courses can help jump-start our thinking, and, there are definitely things we can learn by going to see what others are doing to work towards reaching their goals and fulfilling their purpose. But, it’s important to make sure that we don’t fall into the trap of believing that copying, lock, stock and barrel, what others are doing is the path to greatness for us.
Here are a couple of reasons why.
First, even though other organizations might, on the outside, look ‘similar’ to yours, they really aren’t. Only your organization has your particular customers, your people and your vision, mission, values, history and culture. What ‘worked’ to make others great, was created in response to the specific needs of their customers and their organization, not yours.
Second, even though we tell ourselves that it would be nice to save time and that copying would make things easier, in the end, it’s not what really satisfies and fulfills us as human beings. Creating does. Creating means figuring out how to use the knowledge we’ve gained from previous experiences in new ways, working towards challenging targets we don’t yet know how to reach, and participating, collaboratively, in efforts to create better ways to work, serve others and reach organizational goals together.
And that’s what greatness is all about.
If you’re still not sure that creating is the answer, think about some of the ‘great’ organizations. The Toyota’s, Amazon’s and Tesla’s of the world. Although they may have looked at what others were doing, and how they were doing it, in the end, they didn’t copy solutions from other places, or simply implement another organization’s model. They created. Created products, services and ways of working that differentiate them from what other organizations do and how they do it.
So, as I said, it’s simple. if you want your organization to be great, don’t rely only on copying.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this simple statement over the past few weeks. As we start out the New Year, I’m going to ask you to think about it too.
Why? For two reasons.
First of all, there’s a lot to ‘get done’ out there. For all of us. Families to take care of, personal and professional dreams to make come true and a huge number of problems that need solving: climate change, hunger, poverty, homelessness and discrimination to name just a few.
Second, every day, as I listen to the people that I’m helping, I’m truly humbled, amazed and proud of what each of them is accomplishing. Whether it’s pushing themselves to connect with the people who work for them more frequently and more personally, creating unique ways to make customers’ lives better, or simply trying things THEY never believed THEY could do, the joy I hear in their voices, and the smiles I see on their faces reminds me that each of us, no matter how ordinary we think we are, do truly extraordinary things on a regular basis!
We really do!
So, as you start 2018, a new year, a symbolic time for new beginnings, I have a request.
Please remember that ordinary people do extraordinary things. Every single day.
Because, in the end, that’s what we really need to move forward, to make a difference and to solve the numerous problems that occur in our lives, our organizations, our families, communities, countries and in the world. It’s easy to think that what we, ourselves, can do in our ordinary lives, on a daily basis, doesn’t matter, but, in truth, it does. Every choice we make to help someone else, to treat people (and animals!) kindly, to say ‘yes’, even if we’re not sure how, makes a huge difference. Both to the people we’re helping and to how we perceive ourselves.
And if you think that what you, an ordinary person, can do isn’t enough, or isn’t important enough, think again. Even if you help one person, for one moment, every day, you’ve made a huge difference. Because in this vast world, there’s simply too much for one person to do alone. Everyone’s effort is valuable and counts.
So, as you begin the new year, please remember, what you do, and who you are, ordinary as it may seem, is extraordinary! And that we don’t need super-heroes or super-powers to save the world and solve its problems. We simply need you.
Wishing you a wonderful, joyous and extraordinary 2018!