Thursday, January 15, 2009

Creativity Can Help Save Your Job -- Here's How to Find Yours

Be creative.

These are the words being echoed in workplaces across the world.

Be creative in coming up with new ideas to grow the business.
Be creative in finding ways to outsmart the competition.
Be creative in finding ways to work more efficiently.
Be creative in coming up with ways to cut costs.

They're just words, but two words that pack a wallop for a lot of people.

Be creative. OK.

What if your idea of being creative is taking a different route to work? Or wearing a blue shirt with brown pants instead of black? Bosses have said over and over that those who add the most value will be the ones who keep their jobs. Does that mean if you're uncreative, you could be in danger?

Probably not. If you're adding value by doing a great job, then there's no reason to believe your lack of creativity will hurt you. At the same time, coming up with new ideas is a sure-fire way to not only solidify your position currently, but possibly even garner you a promotion -- or increase your appeal to other employers who may be willing to pay more for your creative talent.

And let me be clear here: Creativity is not just the purview of those in areas such as marketing or design. Every workplace needs creativity in order to survive in today's highly competitive marketplace. You may not believe you're a creative person, but I bet you are. You may just need to exercise different muscles in order to really get yourself in top shape so you can call on your creativity more often.

So, let's look at some ways to develop your creativity:

1. Play. I'm not talking Guitar Hero. I'm talking about learning to look at everything in your world as something to explore. There's a reason that kids rip into toys on Christmas morning and then spend more time playing with the box it came in. It's more fun because it can become anything and everything for that child. Start playing with things in your job -- would you be more productive if your desk faced another way? Should invoices be another color or another shape to avoid getting mixed up with other paperwork? Why can't all meetings have a big bucket of Legos for everyone to play with? Experts say that children learn through play -- so why have we stopped playing as adults?

2. Challenge yourself. The next time you're stuck in traffic, look at what's in your glove box. Think of how you could use each item if you were a) stranded in the woods b) asked to make an art project or c) had to describe each item using at least 10 words. You can also do this while at home -- just use items in a desk or kitchen junk drawer.

3. Understand "no" is your friend. Lots of creative folks are told "no." John Grisham is a famous case, receiving dozens of rejection letters for his first novel. Why do you think artists are often starving before they are multimillionaires? It's because they were told no over and over again, but kept plugging away. Often, being rejected really boosts your creativity. So if your boss says "no" to an idea, that just means you're being pushed into a new realm of creativity. Be grateful for it and keep thinking.

4. Be vulnerable. No one likes to do things they're not good at. You don't want to take ballroom dancing lessons if you're so klutzy you can't take a flight of stairs without tripping. You may think art classes are for people who actually know the different between white and ivory. Not so. In fact, the more inept you believe yourself to be at something or the more you don't like it, the more you should embrace it. If you're conservative, take the most liberal person at work to lunch. If you hate country music, listen to Hank Williams. Learn to speak another language. Only by exposing yourself to new and different experiences can you start to jump-start your brain into seeking out new ideas.

5. Go for it.
Once you begin embracing your new-found creativity, you may be shy about sharing it. You may hesitate to propose your new ideas to the boss or co-workers. I'll be honest -- they may reject them in the beginning. After all, if you've not been known for your creativity, people may be a little taken aback when you seem to have morphed into something new. We often have a hard time initially accepting change. But don't let that stop you. Once you consistently offer new ideas, others will begin to see you in a new light -- as someone who is creative and energetic, as someone who is willing to pursue new ways of doing things in a challenging marketplace. And who doesn't want someone like that around?

What are some other ways you can become more creative at work?

Lijit Search


Paige said...

LOVE your ideas for bringing creativity to the workplace.

I like (from time to time) working in groups in the workplace and bouncing new ideas off of each other. You never know whose idea could prompt someone else's thoughts. Teamwork!

Anita said...

It's always fun to play around with ideas when you're with a group of people with a common goal. The only time it doesn't work is when the teammates don't really trust one another, and then it's the manager's job to work at bringing them together.
Thanks for your comments.

Anonymous said...

This is a very important post, Anita - especially the part about avoiding what you're not good at. I can improve in this area and ask for help from others. Thanks for getting me to think about what my avoidance behaviors are and how to drop them.

Anita said...

My hope is that more people will try to "stretch" themselves outside of work in order to develop more confidence in other skills -- and then will be more willing to be creative on the job. I'm glad you found these ideas useful!

Anonymous said...

I like to carry a notebook to jot down ideas that I have throughout the day. I try to spend some time to go back over my notes to see what I can do to brainstorm around the ideas that I've jotted down. Writing seems to help to get my creative juices flowing.

Anita said...

That's a great idea. Think of how many times you have a great thought when you're just about to fall asleep or while showering. Having a pen and paper nearby can save you a lot of frustration when you're trying to remember them!

Anonymous said...

Anita -
What an important and often overlooked concept! I like the message that we can work on being creative - actually teach ourselves how to think more creatively.

I recently attended an art workshop for adults. They put out all kinds of materials and let us create anything we wanted.

The facilitators gave us handouts describing how the creative mind in action is less likely to focus on stress - another great benefit of using (and honing) those creative juices!

Anita said...

Thanks for sharing your story. The idea that creativity can also help relieve stress is great -- something we all need to find more ways of coping with these days!

Working Girl said...

This is a lovely post. A lot of people don't believe they are creative, for whatever reason.

I've always felt that the way to get started in "being creative" is to start saying yes to things that scare you a little.

You know those ideas that pop up in your head? The ones you normally squash down with a "That won't work"? Try saying yes to one or two of them. Give them a chance, at least.

This works for me whenever I am starting to feel stuck and horrible.

Anita said...

Working Girl,
You expressed your thoughts beautifully...thanks for sharing. I hope everyone takes your words and suggestions to heart.

Anonymous said...

I really like this post...especially #3. I've never thought of taking 'no' and turning it into a personal challenge to up my creativity. That is a gem I'm going to file away. Thank you!

Anita said...

I have to admit that my book agent kept pushing for more and more when I first submitted my proposal. It was frustrating at first, but then I just dug in and really started pushing my limits to come up with something great. Finally, I did. She was happy, and I was thrilled because I knew I had really pushed myself into a new place. It's not always a fun journey, but well worth it.