June 15,2018 Culture

Words To Create With

Words To Create With

Words to Create With

Why would you do that” “That’s weird” “Why don’t you do it the right way?” “What were you thinking?” “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” These are the stunting phrases for words to create with.

All these phrases presuppose that there is an absolute right and an absolute wrong. I would speculate that many would agree that there are many paths to get to the same destination and some that would even question that there is an absolute to anything. But where I want to focus is on what happens to the person when they are chastised when they try to do something different or for their words to create with.

The Effect of These Phrases

When you say something like this to your employees, your students, your children, you get a handful of negative and observable results. Emotional reactions of fear, risk aversion, and compliance. Behavioral losses of curiosity, individualism, and autonomy. Your product will follow suit becoming standardized, sterile, and vanilla.

Why Creativity Matters Micro Level

You may be asking, why does any of this matter. I want people to be able to follow the rules and processes, it creates order. And it does create order, efficiencies, and reliability. But I’d like you to look at this in the long term, at least 25 years from now.

On a micro level, the world is changing for people and how they make a living. Companies continue to become leaner as they do more with less. The repeatable processes are routinely shipped off to other countries where they can be done cheaper. Those processes that haven’t been outsourced are being automated by machines. We are now reaching the level of machine learning and intricate algorithms that are performing analysis and data-based decision making. For your children’s self-preservation, their focus should be on the skillset of the future, the skill that computers won’t master, the skill of creativity.

Why Creativity Matters Macro Level

From a macro level, our worlds seem to be consistently flipping upside down every three-months. Nationally we are facing a barrage of issues with healthcare, bias, and the economy topping the list. While the problems are not new, neither are our proposed solutions. Our national fervor and partisanship is leading to an inability to discuss, debate, and explore new approaches which are stagnating our progress as a country.

Looking through the window of a meta-analysis, the problems of the world are compounding. Rampant poverty throughout the 3rd world, nationalistic dictators violating human rights creating a generation of refugees, the population growth and the depletion of natural resources, and the future challenges climate change will create. These are all wicked problems without present-day solutions nor do we have the mental capability to resolve these issues globally. This stresses the importance of creative thought today to help unlock the innovative solutions in the future. Being innovative is no longer just a nicety, but a necessity.

How We Stunt Creativity

This is not easy, I get it, I’ve been a father, a teacher, and a manager. When I look back I see all the mistakes that I made. With my daughters, I remember getting frustrated at just trying to get them to listen, to pick up their mess, or to just get dressed because we have to leave.

As a teacher and pushing the students to conform to the lesson plan, because the time we had was limited and I would get rewarded if they would pass the test at the end of the course.

As a manager when I would ask for creative solutions and be overwhelmed with what I asked for because I wasn’t ready mentally to accept the level of innovation and the disruption that it would have caused. Why do we do this, because it’s easier to manage, to teach, to parent when there is conformity, control, and everyone places nice.

What Can We Do

It starts with you and preparing yourself for the unexpected. You cannot ask for creativity and innovation if you’re not ready to receive it. Remember, it is okay if there are times where this happens, think of applying creativity as you would a trump card, you can’t play it every time or there would be chaos. What can we do to stimulate the worlds next great thinkers? It starts at home, it moves into the classroom, and continues into the workplace.

Managers, with any organization, there are taboos and blue elephants in the room that the organization isn’t ready mentally to address. So, find the areas in your work where you can be creative and where you can’t and focus your teams’ efforts where they can make an impact. Reward your team for the approaches that they take to work and not results. Lastly, focus on your interactions and encouraging curiosity, testing ideas, and trying something different each day.

Teachers, your autonomy of leading your class shrinks each day and your expectations are changing from developing minds to producing higher test results. But find your pockets where you can effect change. Lead your students through thought experiments, encourage their debating of concepts and ideas, and challenge them with ambiguity to let them wrestle with ideas.

Parents, your days are long and by the time you get homework has taken your best self. This makes challenging conversations that much more difficult to have with your children. But try to find small 10 to 15-minute windows with them to spike their curiosity. Ask them how they think something works, build an elaborate story together, or default to my favorite and go build with Legos.


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