While there are several myths floating around social media these days that are harmfully inaccurate and borderline felonious that certainly warrant being busted and laid to waste, I’ll leave that to others more patient, prepared, and better versed than I to tackle.
For me, the top myth I have encountered that deserves to be “busted” over the past 20+ years doing the innately interesting work we do at IDEAS embracing the expansively curious subject matter our clients bring to us is that “only creative people are creative”. Better said by too many of the wonderful people I’ve had the pleasure to work with when we first get started with their particular project’s engagement … “I’m not creative, you guys are the ideas people.”
That’s just not true. Everyone is creative. Again, EVERYONE IS CREATIVE!
Someone may not be as experienced, formally trained, or quick to communicate an idea within a certain field, say engineering, or musicianship, or finance, or philosophy. But everyone has ideas. Everyone has insight. Everyone has imagination. They may not have the confidence to share their thoughts, many having been beat down over the years by aggressive corporate cultures, hierarchical team dynamics, dogmatic leadership, or simply being excluded from participating. But time and time again, I have found that those without the pedigree on their sleeve, sitting in the chairs along the wall and not at the big table, or not familiar with the lexicon de jour to confidently use terms like “mindshare” and “synergy” are often the ones with clarion insight and rifled focus on what is truly core to the endeavor at hand.
One example is from our early days at IDEAS when we were facilitating a StoryJam (our design thinking iterative process) for an online security company. The group was getting bogged down with digital details in how to best articulate their story. However, it was the administrative assistant for the CIO who thankfully piped up just before lunch with “You know, we protect some pretty important stuff’ which immediately simplified the conversation and provided a ground truth that then anchored the rest of the day’s story work resulting in a clear and concise story about who they are and what they do to guide the creation of their brand charter, focus their marketing, and drive the next generation of their product development. None of this would have been possible had she not felt comfortable to share her comment within the confines of a safe place among her colleagues where are all input is welcome and respected.
This is one of the main tenants or rules we establish when we do a StoryJam … no nuking! In order to get the very best thinking from everyone, all ideas … no matter how hair-brained they may be … are welcomed and considered. If one person suggests handing out jet packs to every guest, and someone else says that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, then not only does the person who suggested it close up and not stick their neck out again with another idea, but also other people in the room will restrain themselves from sharing their ideas to avoid getting similarly dismissed publicly. Creativity is universal, but it is most fragile among those who do not have the luxury or freedom to express it regularly.
Another time, it was the most die-hard engineer working for a major aviation defense contractor who took what we delivered as a complete Experience Design package for a manufacturing campus redesign and reformatted it into an action list with accountabilities and due dates. What a revelation! His operational creativity and implementation motivation suddenly reframed our entire Experience Design Plan into a logically executable and trackable matrix. Not only did this ensure the successful application of our recommendations, but opened our own eyes to a more applicable deliverable format for some of our clients who live on the other side of the cranial hemisphere from most of us at IDEAS. Even supposedly “creative people” who exercise that side of their brain on a daily basis can learn and benefit from the creativity of others, especially those from outside the professional realm of “creatives.”
Back in the day when we first started off on our own, we would often celebrate the financial creativity of our company CFO for how to best manage our cash flow. Nothing illegal or illegitimate, but her creative approach to bookkeeping and the company’s chart of accounts helped us make it through a few skimpy times when clients needed to extend payment terms. We also had an administrative team back when we were still with Disney (Wow! Will be 20 years on our own this July!) who took ownership of the lobby to our building on the backlot of the Disney-MGM Studios as it was known in those days. Each season or holiday/festival calendar week they would come in over the weekend and decorate the lobby into a wondrously themed environment that really uplifted both our clients and staff as they entered IDEAS.
Having creative outlets not only brings personal joy and collaborative camaraderie at work but also improves personal performance and organizational buy-in. Just imagine what would have happened to those motivated people decorating the lobby had an executive walked in and wondered out loud what the heck they were doing and under who’s authority. Everyone is creative. What everyone is not, is accepting and appreciating the creativity of others.