Doing Creative Work Anywhere
Many of us feel that we aren’t innovative or creative. That we don’t tap into that part of our brain enough and that creative work is reserved for artists, musicians or advertisers. The reality is that we are all creative and we can bring innovative thinking to our roles every day.
In a recent session I delivered to new hire employees in IT and Finance at a bank, we discussed how to leverage innovative thinking in their front line roles. The questions came up: “Aren’t we just supposed to do our job the way our manager wants us to?” The obvious answer is ‘of course’. All employees need to meet (and hopefully exceed) their manager’s expectations. But the reality is the managers in the room expressed that they wanted the new professionals to bring innovative thinking to projects they are working on. They expect creativity and fresh ideas. They welcome new thoughts on how to problem solve.
Regardless of what stage you are in your career, you can bring innovation to what you do and how you do it. Young employees bring fresh ideas and aren’t steeped in the status quo. Experienced employees bring industry knowledge and big picture thinking to be able to see challenges from different points of view. Being innovative doesn’t mean you need to build a new app or create a new product or start a new company. It means that you bring a new thought or different perspective / approach to your work. You can do this is in any work situation from the front line to senior leadership roles. The key is not get stuck in doing the same things over and over and to make innovation part of how you approach your work.
Why We Get Stuck
There are lots of reasons for why we get stuck in our roles and can’t seem to generate anything new and creative, they include:
- Repetitive tasks
- Lack of empowerment
- Personal disengagement
- Facing on-going resistance to new ideas
- Critical colleagues or managers
- Defeatist mentality
- Resistance to change
When we don’t feel supported to try new things or our opinions and thoughts are not valued, we shut down and don’t tap into creative ideas. If we are overwhelmed at work and don’t have breathing space, we don’t have an opportunity to step back, see the big picture, and identify new ways of doing things. To avoid these road blocks and ensure you are being as innovative as possible, you must:
- Be positive – believe there is always a solution to every problem
- Collaborate – two minds are better than one…so three or four can really help
- Don’t be shy – speak up and share your ideas
- Transfer your skills – apply skills from other areas of your life / career to your current role
- Be curious – learn about how others have innovated or how different industries approach a similar problem
- Seek support – ask senior leaders for support in presenting a new idea and opportunities to test it out
- Be patient – sometimes new ideas have to percolate for a while before surfacing
- Take a break – a change of scenery, going for a walk or taking a day off can help to eliminate stress and allow for creative thoughts to emerge
- Brainstorm – list as many ideas as you can before you begin to eliminate and edit
Being innovative often requires letting go of the old, embracing change and being willing to try something completely new. Don’t be scared. We often talk ourselves out of new thoughts because we believe we will fail. As a friend always says to me “What would you do if you knew you would succeed?” It’s a great question, because if we have the confidence and assurance we will be successful we are more likely to look for innovative ways of achieving our goals. The fear of not getting it right, will limit your ability and desire to innovate. Letting go of internal resistance and going for it is the best way to innovate….and the great news is, the more you do it, the easier it will get!