People often complain that creative types are difficult to manage if they can be managed at all and many of them are high maintenance in nature. There is some truth here but I don’t necessarily think that is case. My favorite types of creative people are what I called the “Da Vincis”. They are people who can use both sides of the brain. May be this is what Roger Marin refers to as “Integrative Thinker”. I picked up his book The Opposite Mind (while I was stucked in Denver airport for a connecting flight back from Palm Spring where we had a planning session) and I was reading it during this holiday. I buy 10 books a month and I read only one of them. Here is a good one.
“In integrative thinking is such a good idea, why don’t people use their opposite minds all the time? Craig Wynett, head of corporate new ventures at P&G, answers with a great metaphor; he blames our ‘factory setting.’ Like you car’s ignition timing, your computer’s screen brightness, or your washing machine’s spin cycle, your mind emerges from the factory for a specific mode and speed of operations. Few factory settings ever get adjusted, and many of us wouldn’t know how to change them if we wanted to…….your mind setting can be adjusted, if you know how.”
I’ve worked with many super talented and creative people (I don’t mean craft but mental mode) and they can sometimes be idiosyncratic and be careful, as they can become dysfunctional if you don’t provide the right working environment for them. I truly buy into the fact that we are heading into a “creative” economy and these are the people who can provide organizations a competitive edge. If you can inspire, manage and empower these creative classes, it is definitely a sustainable competitive advantage for any organization. Here I provide a few tips to work with the super creative people - level three creative according to my definition, the top in the creative class which people can also apply analytical thinking and reasoning although it is not their operating system. I call them the “Da Vincis”. I have managed and mentor many “Da Vincis” in my long consulting career and it is also something I truly enjoy. Here are four tips and I (you) may come up with a few more:
Let people see and touch creativity:
Creativity is not part of any corporate culture for most organization. Logic overrules creativity 99% of the time. It is important to explicitly inform people that creativity is truly valued and that needs to be reflected in the physical environment. Certain things need to become part of the rituals. Cultivate an environment that induces creativity. Give people the “white space” for them to jam their ideas. Also provide private space for people to work alone (not all creative types are team players). Some people work well when left alone while others find working in a team far more stimulating. Make it a point to identify when people do their best work and treat them accordingly. Do not impose any single formula for all. Spend money on good furniture. Buy Herman Miller (Speaking of which I just ordered a batch of Mirra and Capers chairs for our office today; I am not an Aeron fan)
Creativity and structure can co-exist:
Creative people can be somewhat undisciplined and be reluctant to follow rigid rules. I hate rules too. In real world we have deadlines and milestones, we must make sure that there is “just enough” structure to ensure that they remain on track and follow time lines but not so much as to stifle creativity. Keep reminding them there are more exciting things to do after this otherwise they will drag on and on because they enjoy the journey so much. Just show them more goodies ahead.
Institutionalize “Strategic Time Wasting”:
Any atmosphere of crisis and tension kills creativity. Creative people need downtime to recharge so always give them time to dream. There is nothing called optimized creativity. Exploration requires time and we need to accept the fact they may have “strategic time wasting” mission as part of their job description. . A situation of constant stress does not let new ideas to flourish. We should encourage them to apply their imagination in the workplace and make sure they are appreciated for those efforts.
Have faith in the people that you picked:
Have faith in the process and the people and do not try to micromanage their work. While routine tasks are important, you have to give people the freedom to explore “white spaces” and work out what may seem foolish ideas. Sometimes their ideas need to be shielded from the sharp knives of business constrain, especially when ideas are incomplete or untested. This will create more favorable conditions for innovative ideas to flourish.