CREATIVITY, DREAMING BIG
This past weekend in the eyes of many people living in the northern climates, it is the start of summer. Hopefully, you enjoyed the long and beautiful weekend. After days of rain, the sun was out and it was time to plant in Wisconsin. Like growing new things in your garden, you too can grow, think of new ideas, change old habits, and create new, more productive rewarding ones. One of the biggest reasons we don’t want to create new things is fear. Fear can bring our best intentions and ideas to a screeching halt. The best way to conquer fear is to identify it and understand it. Here are some of the most common fears that prevent us from achieving our creative goals.
- Fear of imperfection…People often shy away from new ideas because they’re afraid the outcome won’t live up to their expectations. Successful people will tell you that you have to accept falling short of your goal as a necessary step toward achieving success.
- Fear of the unknown…Sometimes known circumstances, however, bad or difficult, are more comfortable to deal with than facing the unknown. There’s no way to get out of that rut, however, unless you’re willing to take a risk. New ideas always involve some risk.
- Fear of judgment…Do you frequently ask yourself, “What will people think?” Too many people postpone goals simply because they don’t want to run the risk of being viewed as silly or foolish. Were you afraid to present a new idea because someone would laugh?
- Fear of mistakes…This is a biggie. Consider Thomas Edison, who performed 1,600 failed experiments before he invented the light bulb. A friend asked him why he was wasting so much time on the project. He responded, “Of course I’m accomplishing something. I’ve learned 1,600 ways it doesn’t work!” Were you ever afraid your idea would not work?
What energizes you when the tank is empty and you don’t have any new ideas or you’re afraid that your ideas are not worthwhile? What ignites your creativity? Inspiration fuels your dreams; it unleashes your imagination, sparks your creativity, so you can create, so you can think differently. Frankly, all information in the world is useless, unless you’re able to rekindle your aspirations and realize your dreams. Dreams help ignite ideas!
We put off doing all sorts of things, big and little, important and not so important, but perhaps the saddest thing we postpone is our dreams, our new ideas. Tucked away in a secret part of us is a desire to go back to school, to take music lessons, to travel, to climb that mountain, to write that novel. Too often these dreams are put off until the right time.
Many of us idealize the future, believing that the right time will magically arrive in five or 10 years, and that’s when we plan to pursue our dreams. Chances are, however, that the future will be much like the present (busy), so the right time is now, not five years from now. Putting off your dreams creates a deep sadness. As poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote, “For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’ When the elderly look back on their lives, they rarely regret things they have done; it’s the things that they have not done, the dreams they never follow that they regret.
As you begin your journey to conquer your fears, put your dreams at the top of your to-do list. Dreams are far too easy to postpone and yet they are perhaps the most important thing to pursue if we are to achieve job, balance, and harmony in our lives.
It’s important to get you work done, but it’s equally important to have fun along the way and pursue your dreams. This refreshes your spirit, enhances your creativity, and gives you something to look forward to. If you have nothing to look forward to at the end of the day, then you have no incentive to be creative.
The challenge today is that ideas, philosophies, and techniques that worked in 1977, or even in 1996, are disintegrating in the harsh glare of 2006. Today’s world and Forest Service requires radically different ideas about work. Resources are tight, and management is held to higher performance goals at all levels. Conditions in most organization demand imaginative solutions. Your dreams, your ideas are ever so important today. The status quo is no longer acceptable.
When the status quo of the environment is to accept
all ideas, people become accustomed to the positive
reinforcement, and respond by producing more and
better ideas in order to recreate the positive experience.
Business Week, “Creativity Overflowing,” Michael Arndt, Pages 50-53, May 8, 2006 (www.businessweek.com).
Quality Progress, “Selling Quality Ideas To Management,” Brien Palmer, Pages 27-34, May 2006 (www.asq.org).
Babson Insight, “The Different Domains Of Innovation,” Tom Davenport, May 2006 (www.babsoninsight.com).
Wall Street Journal, “Management a la Google,” Gary Hamel, Page A16, April 26, 2006 (www.wsj.com). Article at http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB114601763677436091-RZdaVtvykRAz4EhCKs0KervA0Eo_20060503.html?mod=blogs
Harvard Business Review, “Match Your Innovation Strategy to Your Innovation Ecosystem,” Ron Adner, Pages 98-107, April 2006 (www.hbr.org).
Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths & Total Nonsense, Profiting From Evidence Based Management, Jeffrey Pfeffer & Robert I. Sutton, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA 2006.
Often the difference between a successful person and a failure
is not one has better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one
has to bet on one’s ideas, to take a calculated risk…and to act.
Force Urgency To Generate Ideas
Andrew Jackson Higgins, a 20th century boat builder and founder of Higgins Industries was an innovator who believed a good idea could come from any source. To get those ideas, Higgins constantly pushed his staff and vividly reminded them of the cause…a US victory in World War II…they were all working for.
He encouraged employees to drop by his office at any time to share ideas. Higgins wanted to hear them all…even ideas that seemed impossible to execute. One day Higgins call all his top engineers into a conference room and closed the door. He announced that no one would leave the room until they could come up with a design for an exit ramp for a special boat known as an LCM (landing craft mechanized), that could travel in shallow water. The boat was urgently needed by the Allied forces. Ideas were tossed about, considered and rejected. When the engineers wanted to leave for lunch, Higgins ordered sandwiches and told them to keep hashing out ideas. In the end, the design was inspired by the lid of a cigar box…a ramp that would allow tanks to quickly exit the boat.
Used in the D-Day landing and assault at Normandy, as well as at Iwo Jima and other locations, the LCM made U.S. invasion by sea over an open beach possible. Higgins was later credited by President Eisenhower for building the boats that “won World War II.”
Tom Kelly, the general manager of the famous design company Ideo has a negative view of negative thinkers and obstructionists who fancy themselves as “devil’s advocates,” and says “Every day, thousands of great new ideas, concepts and plans are nipped in the bud by devil’s advocates.” To put these devil’s advocates in their place, he suggests your organization adopt the following ten “people-centric tools, talents or personas for innovation.” There are three “learning” personas: the Anthropologist observes human behavior to see how people actually interact with products, services and spaces; the Experimenter does continuous trial-and-error prototyping of new ideas; the Cross-Pollinator explores other industries and cultures to find new ideas. There are three “organizing” personas: the Hurdler knows how to bend organizational rules to get around roadblocks to new ideas; the Collaborator works with others to create new combinations and multidisciplinary solutions; the Director assembles a talented cast and helps spark their creativity. Finally, there are four “building” personas: the Experience Architect who designs compelling experiences for the customer; the Set Designer creates a stage on which innovation team members can do their best work; the Caregiver anticipates customer needs and is ready to look after them; the Storyteller builds internal morale and external awareness through narratives explaining what the company is all about. Kelly explains that the personas are about “being innovation” rather than merely “doing innovation,” and says they can be used to keep the company devil’s advocate in his or her place, or tell them to go to hell.
Thinking big is sexy, but thinking small can get results, say authors Alan Robison and Dean Schroeder in their book, “The Power of Small Ideas: Why Small Ideas Outperform the Big, Dramatic Ones.” According to the authors’ research, sometimes it’s the small things that can make a difference in enabling businesses to sustain competitive advantage and ensure performance excellence…two key components vital to every organization’s success. While rival companies are quick to up the ante when a business takes a big step, small improvements can be just as important to the bottom line and are more likely to go unnoticed by competitors. “Because most small ideas remain proprietary, large numbers of them can accumulate into a big, competitive advantage that is sustainable. That edge often means the difference between success and failure.” Any by paying attention to small ideas, a company is more likely to examine its processes at the detailed level necessary to achieve performance excellence. Robinson and Schroeder cite the example of the Grapevine Canyon Ranch, which focuses on exceptional guest service in a spectacular setting. Every two weeks, the owner meets with the entire staff, and each person is expected to show up with one idea…no matter how small…that will improve the ranch’s operation. Suggestions range from “Install a kick plate on the door into the kitchen” to “Put a step stool in the tour van.” It’s these tiny details that management might overlook that ultimately add up to big success.
Some thoughts from a few Dreamers…….
I find it interesting that there are so many obstacles in getting people to generate ideas. I have never found it to be a problem. I have always saved my ideas. Unfortunately, ideas disappear along with the passion. Show people ways to save ideas and people will always have the enthusiasm for generating more ideas.
I have been reading Creativity Fringes for numerous years and want to give you my personal kudos for keeping us informed. I learn something new every month. I believe in your messages and think that creativity is crucial for organizational success in the Forest Service.
If you are interested in learning more about creativity or wish to share any experiences, please contact Karl Mettke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back issues of Creativity Fringes are posted at the Federal Consulting Group (http://www.fcg.gov/creativity_fringes.shtml). (Historical)
Thank You For Taking Time To Be Creative…