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Creativity is more than just a list of bullet points

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So it’s become common for companies to pay thousands of dollars to organize training workshops for their employees so they’d become more creative and innovative. They seem to hold onto the belief that a list of theories and bullet points on Powerpoint slides would spark the mental slumber many disengaged employees have entered.

Before wasting time on creativity workshops, I think companies ought to ask themselves, “What kind of environment do we have? Do we have a work culture that’s so strict about rules and regulations? One where everyone’s scared about losing their jobs? One where people are more likely to keep information to themselves than collaborate?’

If the answer is yes, then they should just keep their wallets in their pockets. You can’t have creativity in a fear-filled environment. To be creative, risks need to be taken, and with risks come losses. So if people are too scared to take risks, and step out of their lane to try something new, then creativity will not happen.

It’s as simple as that.

But someone might argue that these rules and regulations are important because they streamline productivity and help companies achieve their bottomline. So we can’t have a company completely with no rules and regulations.

It would be anarchy.

Well…that’s true.

Kind of.

To distinguish how rigid your internal infrastructure is, you – as a leader – need to listen to what’s going on among your employees and be aware of what happens at the interface between your employees and the customers (or businesses if it’s B2B). If employees need to get a thousand signatures before an idea is implemented, or if customers repeatedly hear comments like, “I’m sorry I can’t help you. It’s an online system and this just the procedure,” and the result of that are hundreds and thousands of dissatisfied customers and helpless employees then maybe some things need to change (just not this* type of change).

Because these systems and procedures are there to help people, and not get them entangled like flies in a cobweb. Yet if the employees enforcing them are just going to reiterate bullet points from some handbook, then really, what are they doing there? Shouldn’t the automated system just take over their jobs completely? Why are they even there?

That’s why it’s interesting to see how monstrous corporations start getting tripped by tiny startups operating out of some dorm room. The tiny startups have agility, flexibility, and can easily respond to volatile job markets while the monsters are turning around and around in the same place, trying to figure out their orientation.

So if you’re a monster in your market, and you want to operate with the agility of a startup, the solution is simple; employees need to be empowered, to be given the freedom to take some risks knowing their leaders will protect them if need be.

That’s something to think about.


What are your thoughts on the topic? Tweet me @ahechoes to let me know.

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Also, check out my fiction short story collection, “All Bleeding Stops and Other Short Stories from the Kenyan Coast” and subscribe to the newsletter here; 
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Published inCareerCreativity