Creativity is Career Rocket Fuel

Nurturing Creativity – A Worthy Endeavor

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 In an ever-changing business environment, what is the single most important factor to lasting success? A stellar résumé? High emotional intelligence? Top notch interviewing skills? Maybe it all comes down to “who you know?” These are all good things but they won’t get us far without another ingredient that matters even more.

 There is one element that acts like rocket fuel in terms of powering our careers forward: CREATIVITY. Think about it. It is not the obedient drone that makes an impact. It is the creative outlier with the crazy ideas who solves big problems and makes the world better.

The old model of working was about showing up, being loyal, keeping your head down, and not making waves. Today, that approach is pretty much career suicide. Creativity is the antidote that can keep us thriving both at work and at home.

In Linchpin, Seth Godin, makes a compelling argument for re-thinking the value of being an “obedient worker.” Godin stresses that creativity is what allows us to become indispensable in today’s marketplace. According to Godin, “This is the time to bring our creative spirits to market and we will be rewarded for doing so.”

Most of us feel an incredible pressure to innovate at work. We are expected to make significant contributions every single day. The typical workplace culture does not necessarily support us in fulfilling these expectations. Long hours, lean teams, pressing deadlines, and fear-based leadership styles get in the way of creative thinking.

It comes down to choice. We can choose to be mindless cogs waiting for permission and the support we desire in order to innovate. Or, we can make a conscious choice to show up every single day determined to make a creative difference. Should you choose the latter, here are seven ways to stoke your creative fire.

#1 – Write it Down

Most great ideas begin as flashes of inspiration. Keep an idea notebook handy and jot down random ideas as they come to you. My best ideas come to me when I am out walking the dog so I use the voice memo function on my phone to capture them. Put your ideas into words so they can begin to take shape before they slip away.

#2 – Get Moving

Many studies show that we do our best thinking when standing up and moving around as opposed to sitting still in front of a computer screen. Some companies have instituted “stand up meetings” to ensure discussions are productive and idea generating. I know you have heard this many times before and it deserves repeating: take regular breaks away from the desk.

A brisk walk on your lunch break or some good old-fashioned pacing around the office will get your creative juices flowing. Make a priority to hit the gym for a midday spin class or yoga session. Riding a bike to work is another way to fuel your creative spark. Get moving and then choose not to feel guilty for doing so!

# 3 – Create Space

Do some office cleaning, reorganizing and decorating to create a workspace that energizes and inspires you. Hang a white board and use it. Add some live plants or lay a colorful rug on the floor. Maybe water is your muse. A small table fountain can provide an inspiring soundscape.

#4 – Encourage Creativity In Others

Keep an open mind and show support when others offer creative ideas. Resist the urge to bat down suggestions that seem outlandish or to immediately add your reaction. Keep the conversation flowing by asking questions, showing genuine interest, and nodding to keep teammates talking.

#5 – Watch Your Mouth

The most creative people I know tend to use positive language and focus on possibilities rather than obstacles. Replace “but” with “and.” Rather than, “That won’t work,” try, “Hmm, I wonder if that is possible?” Positive language helps our minds stay open to new ways of thinking.

#6 – Take Creative Risks

Creativity is the exact opposite of playing it safe. It requires putting your heart on the line and risking failure. Hopefully, you work in an environment in which creative risk taking is rewarded and not punished! If not, maybe it is time to go in search of an organization that truly supports creativity as a path to excellence.

#7 – Do YOU!

Very simply, following our creative passions makes us happy! When you do things that bring you joy, it is bound to affect your attitude and job performance in a positive way.

In the past decade, there has been an emphasis on finding a career that brings us a sense of purpose. However, it is unrealistic to expect our work, even work we are really passionate about, to fulfill all our needs and desires. Sometimes the best thing we can do to increase our creativity at work is to do what brings us joy in our spare time.

Maybe that means picking up the guitar that is gathering dust in the corner. Or, committing to working on that children’s book that has been rattling around your head for years. Perhaps now is the time to sign up for that watercolor class you have always wanted to try. No more procrastination – do what you yearn to do!

Pursuing our creative hobbies and interests offers other benefits as well. Doing what we love helps us find our tribe and offers a conduit through which we can form deeper connections to others.

It all comes back to choice. Nurturing our creativity is not a self-indulgent distraction. It is a worthy endeavor. It may be the most important work we do in this lifetime. Hmm. I wonder if that is possible?