As creative people, we’re forced to live surrounded by reminders as our focus and our work are easily clouded by tasks. But at the same time, a good solid reminder never hurt anyone. Actually, reminders keep us from missing opportunities that could be vital to our success.
Unfortunately, it’s our own success that forces us to need these reminders most of the time. Success can hurt us worse than failure ever could. There are, however, a few reminders that are important for us to remember if we want to succeed not just in our work, but in our lives:
- Stay attentive – Be aware. The best creative people are paying attention. They never allow themselves to become self-consumed. They pay attention to the entire world around them – which allows them to notice things. Being attentive is not hard to do, but it will separate us from the rest of the pack. When we are attentive, we notice what others don’t and have the ability to use that knowledge, those ideas, and those concepts when the time is right.
- Remember people are not commodities – People matter. Always. Never take them for granted and never think that someone does not matter. If we continually use people and do not appreciate them, we will wake up one day and be alone. When we don’t respect the people around us and move on to the next “valuable person”, we’ll leave nothing but a trail of broken bridges keeping us from being able to travel between relationships. Respect people. Value them. Never take them for granted…ever.
- Use social media for good - Don’t just try to make yourself look good. Name dropping, show boating, self-retweeting – these all create impressions. Don’t tweet something you would never say. People are paying attention.
- Don’t believe the hype – Hype is dangerous. When we believe hype, we don’t dig for facts and truth. Hype puts us in a position where we’re unable to make our best decisions. The easiest way to avoid hype is to ask questions…and lots of them. We can’t allow ourselves to believe the hype, no matter how flattering or seducing it becomes.
- Don’t believe your own hype – You are good at what you do. Believe that – just don’t believe the hype. There is always more we can learn, more we can do, more we can accomplish. There is always room to grow, get better, get more efficient and develop. When we believe our own hype, we start to become arrogant and lose the ability to serve others. We feel we are entitled and that’s never a great posture for creation, leadership, or inter-personal relationships. We can easily combat our own hype by having people around us who will stop us in our tracks. Without people who love us – for who we are, not what we do – we allow ourselves to get into really dangerous territory.
- Be willing to have hard conversations – We can’t be better without hard conversations and honesty. People hate conflict but, more often than not, conflict creates the friction necessary to get to the BEST stuff. A few minutes of discomfort in a conversation can create the trust that allows us to grow and win!
- Do unto others – Pretty simple: treat people how you want to be treated. Walk a mile in their shoes before you react. It will change everything.
- Champion Others – Want to succeed in life? Champion others before you promote yourself. You will learn a ton, you will become far more effective, and your creativity will soar. We never go wrong when we help the people around us achieve their dreams. Further, it is a great feeling knowing you get to help be part of something BIGGER than yourself.
- Humble is always better – Proverbs will be all you need. Read it, then apply it. When we stay humble, we put ourselves in the best position to win at whatever we’re attempting. The best way to stay humble is to ACTIVELY SERVE PEOPLE. The more we serve, the less we make life about ourselves.
- Be confident, but coachable – You are allowed to be confident. In fact, we need you to be confident. But never stop allowing yourself to learn. Staying coachable is important because it proves we don’t believe we have it all figured out. Being coachable gives us the opportunity to add new tools to our toolboxes.
- Work hard – Be early. Be efficient. Care about what you do. If your name is on it, it should be as good as possible. Don’t make excuses. Come with intensity, intentionality, and be willing to do what it takes to succeed.
- Never Quit – Quitting is easy. Staying, showing up and being willing to keep getting up and coming back – this is the recipe for success.
- Pray for Wisdom – The bible tells us if we pray for it we get it. It’s that simple. In a world desperate for answers, praying for wisdom can be the best thing our creative class can do each day.
Creativity is becoming more valued in our world today. Ironically, studies show that creative ideas are actually less embraced than ever before. The reason? The level of uncertainty that those really good creative ideas create.
A 2010 study conducted by Cornell professor Jack Goncalo shows that most management teams resist the most creative ideas because these ideas force us into uncertainty. Really creative ideas tend to be novel ideas, but novel ideas do not have history or a proven track record. In a world that relies so much on results, not having the data to support our ideas often provides management with an easy out on the most creative and novel ideas. The companies that learn to embrace the risk and take some chances fail often. But when they succeed, they do it on a major level by embracing the fear and the uncertainty in order to execute the most creative ideas available.
Because of most corporation’s need for results, they are allowed the luxury to dismiss creative ideas simply because they appear to be impractical. The problem is this: when we always play it safe and practical, we never break out of the clutter that exists in the middle – where everyone lives. It’s easy to be normal, predictable, and safe. The lie is that safe is good but, in reality, safe is the most dangerous place in the world to live. When we are safe, we are easily ignored – and being ignored is far worse than being hated or failing. Irrelevance in your community is the kiss of death.
People have a general but subtle bias against creativity. We live in a world that is quick and easily digestible. So often, we attempt to water down our art and make it easy to consume; we remove the best, most sticky, the actual creative elements from our ideas in an effort to make it work for everyone. We need to make our ideas accessible, not common.
Knowing all of this helps us as creative leaders. We are responsible for addressing the uncertainty and biases as we present, develop, and begin to execute our best creative ideas. We are responsible to find the WHY’S of our ideas. Why will it work? Why should we take the risk? Why do we need this idea? Why would we be willing to encounter the risk and what is the reward? As I said, people want to embrace creative ideas, they just get get scared…and that’s okay. Defending our best ideas is part of the hard work necessary to make amazing and creative ideas come to life – ideas that just might change our world.
Creativity is a battle. It’s fighting for great and refusing to settle for good. It’s being willing to fight and do hard work to develop something new, better, different, unique, awesome. It is an honor to get to lead creative teams into battle every day. From time to time, though, we have to be reminded that we are responsible for showing up and fighting every day. As we develop in leadership, we find ourselves responsible for others’ creativity, as well. We move from being individually creative to being a true creative team – even if our teammates are volunteers. There are five things we need to remember as we lead our creative teams and attempt to create momentum:
- Just because we lead does not mean we know it all. – It’s not just OK to admit this, it is necessary. When we are good leaders, we are surrounding ourselves with diverse teammates who have unique skill sets that compliment our own. When we let people become owners instead of renters of our vision or departments, it makes us better. Unfortunately, creative people are often insecure and fear losing their “position” rather than realizing that the success of the team or teammates is success for everyone, including them. We have to learn to trust the people that surround us.
- Be Gumby – We have to be flexible and preach flexibility. Without a flexible team and system, the frustration will not be manageable. Understand that things rarely go as scripted. People bring different filters into relationships and at the end of the day, if we are flexible, we can figure out the best results and creations.
- Imagination Hustle. – As creative teams, we are first and foremost problem solvers. We have to be in touch with our ability to see, feel, smell, think and communicate differently. Employ these practices regularly but, in doing so, understand that employment requires WORK. We have to be committed to a whatever-it-takes mentality that doesn’t give up, refuses to wear out, and agrees to be “CAN DO” instead of buying the lie of “can’t”.
- Chitter Chatter – Leaders communicate, but also encourage, communication. Communicate frequently – internally, externally, with other teams, with volunteers. Then, keep communicating. Be willing to be inventive on how we communicate. Do whatever is necessary to communicate the message, cast the vision, and get the point across.
- Understandably Unique People & Projects. – Creative teams are full of eccentric and unique people and projects. Understanding this helps us find solutions on how to manage projects, systems, and staff. Embrace the unique qualities of your surroundings. We have been hired, and look to hire, unique people to deal with unique problems because they are unique. Remember that. They don’t fit and thats not a good thing, it’s an essential thing!
We dig. Do you dig?
Sundays are whiplash.
There are emotions everywhere on a Sunday because we are passionate about creating great experiences for people to engage our Creator. Most of us get the privledge of working with volunteer teams in order to create these environments. Since we are responsible for creating great and creative church services it is our job to champion and critique everything…but our words carry a lot of weight.
When we choose to engage conversations is important.
When we get to thank someone do it … NOW
When we get to brag on a person or a team do it … NOW
When we can highlight something great do it … NOW
When we have to make a correction … WAIT
When we have to engage in a hard conversation … WAIT
When we need to coach through something major … WAIT
When we need to encourage someone do it … NOW
The WHEN is as important as the WHAT. How we approach individuals and teams inside the emotion of a Sunday will impact how they respond for the rest of the day. This will set a tone. We need to think before we speak. Use wisdom. Sundays are for bragging on our teams and Mondays are for correcting, coaching, and redirecting for the next service. Do the work before Sunday and remember that in the moment the best we can do is be a champion..
A very important lesson that I have learned in life is this:
Adjust or be adjusted.
As creative people, we need to be intentional with our ability to adjust. We should daily be ready to adjust to markets, timelines, circumstances, personalities, opportunities, risks, or even successes. As creative teams, we develop solutions. When we stay in a posture of flexibility, we allow ourselves the option of adjusting. Often we risk getting rigid. We figure out what we believe is the right way and then we hold tight to that method. The irony is, often times we are right…for a moment.
We are right because we see solutions different than someone who looks more practically at the same situation. But then, we buy the hype that we are right and ego enters the equation. Ego is like kryptonite to creativity. Creativity and ideas are fragile and delicate. They need to be protected and preserved, not boasted and flaunted. We must allow them to grow until they are ready to be shared.
When we refuse to be willing to adjust, we get adjusted. It’s not an opinion, it’s a reality. Think of the industries – not just companies – INDUSTRIES who refused to adjust and are no longer relevant to culture. Textile companies no longer exist. Home phones are more rare than ever before. Newspaper/print media is disappearing right before our eyes. The importance of staying flexible and adjusting is a tension in which we all must live. How can we stay in a posture prepared to adjust? Here are some ideas:
- Stay nimble – Keep your organization or team lean enough that it can call audibles and be flexible.
- Fall in love with results, not systems – Our mission does not change, but our methods should always be changing, morphing, and developing.
- Fight ego and stay coachable – Know-it-alls don’t know it all. Always be reading, learning, and watching what is happening around us. If we are not aware of our current location in our culture, we won’t know how to react.
- Find out “the next” – Be on the look out for what is happening, what is trending. How will it effect or enhance what we do day in and day out?
- The sound of our core – What is our core audience saying? People who are passionate about what we do – are they fired up or are they losing interest?
- The sound of the hater – If we don’t have some haters, we probably aren’t doing anything worth noticing…which means we’ve already started to adjust from relevant to indifferent.
- Avoid the copy cat – Copying and not creating keeps us from being able to know who we are. It prevents us from being able to adjust. When we have lost our identity, we won’t know where to turn.
- Be responsible – Be responsible with our finances, our resources, our momentum, our creativity, our team members. When we’re responsible with what we have, we are able to adjust more readily.
Being able to adjust is like going to the chiropractor. When things get out of line, we have to get reset. It may cause pain and hurt for a moment, but in the long term it corrects and straightens out our posture. Staying ready to adjust is core to being able to succeed.
The best creative concepts are birthed out of the idea that we may not know the answer, but we are willing to try and figure it out. Finding solutions and making the complex simple is key to great creative teams. One of the biggest creativity killers is an ego. When creative people start to believe they can avoid the fear of creating because they have it figured out, they and their teams get in a lot of trouble and lose their ability to truly create.
A study done by Jaussi, Stefanovich & Devlin proposes “four categories of effective followership for creativity and innovation.” In other words, well-balanced teams are composed of some combination of the following personality types:
- 1. Creative Skeptics – Skeptics are not afraid to ask hard questions. Skeptics are willing to challenge ideas. Skeptics want more than just words, they want to see action and will challenge status quo and assumptions.
- 2. Creative Statics – This personality is rational and calm. They provide stability and some concistency to the team. This personality is never too high and never too low. The Statics have the ability to remain flexible, a lost art with passionate people.
- 3. Creative Supporters – This personality is quick to resist brand new ideas. They tend to be open to creative solutions, but prefer to see them executed incremental steps. They like when new thoughts build off of existing thoughts.
- 4. Creative Catalysts – The people who come in and inspire by disturbing and disrupting. Catalysts drop ideas like bombs. Those ideas go on to become massive momentum creators.
As creative team leaders, it’s our job to make sure we are finding ways to incorporate all of these personalities on our teams. None of them are more important than another, but when we have a great balance of these types, we become our most creative – as well as our most productive. We must be intentional in how we balance these personalities and how we orchestrate their impact on our organization. When our teams become unbalanced, creativity and innovation suffer and the unbalance leads to irrational creation concepts.
At the end of the day, we have to find people who fill roles we don’t…and we have to embrace diversity on our teams. Without diversity we are not only limiting our organizations we are limiting our impact on culture. A culture we have been called to not only be part of…but to lead.
Do you do personality inventories for your team? Are you being intentional in how you are building and developing your team?
Every year around this time, I start to get excited about the STORY conference. This is the conference for the creative class. I love the approach Ben takes to create this experience and the inspiration that is shared by attending.
The theme for STORY 2011 is IMAGINE NATION, which speaks to the power of spiritual imagination. In Exodus 35, the artists of Israel came together to build a dwelling place for God. They carved poles, fashioned gold, and constructed curtains “with cherubim woven into them by expert hands.” The job of these artists was to envision the kingdom and use their gifts to heighten peoples spiritual imaginations. An “Imagine Nation.”
I was honored to get to be part of the STORY BLOG EXPERIENCE. In this, I had the chance to interview Ed Dobson. Interviewing Ed was absolutely amazing. It was one of those times when you talk to someone and you know they just LEAK wisdom. I wanted to talk to Ed all day. If you don’t know about Ed or his story check this out. A-Maz-Ing. Here’s the interview:
- 1. What is your best personal definition of a STORY?
A story involves the mind, the sense, the imagination and produces some sort of change.
- 2. What is one way you have found to grow or engage your imagination?
Jesus said, unless you become like little children you wont see the kingdom of heaven. So, when I watch a little child, I try to act like a child and that stimulates my imagination. They jump in puddles, dig in sand..they don’t miss the little stuff in life. By thinking like a kid, it expands my imagination.
I was preaching on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, so I started thinking…what would a kid do? So, I brought out two goats and started going through the whole Leviticus passage…unfortunately, we had 3 services so the goats were peeing and pooping between service. At the next deacon’s meeting, they passed a rule that we could not use any more live animals in service. I said I won’t until I do it again, until the next time.
So, it’s thinking like a kid.
Another time I wore a suit and I had a kiddie pool with water in it. The point was are you going to splash around or fall all the way in to God, and I fell in with the suit in the water. So, it’s thinking like a kid would think that hopefully helped the story.
- 3. In your experience what is the best non-traditional form or STORY telling you have seen, heard, or experienced?
The greatest storyteller I have ever heard was a guy named Hadden Robinson. He was tall, wore a suit and tie, and his ability to captivate your mind, heart, and soul was incredible. He did it without props, overhead, or power points – just with the power of a story. And I would say that was my greatest experience. And you know, he didn’t have shaggy hair and wasn’t dressed in jeans. He was the antitheses of cool, but his story was captivating to both young and old.
- 4. If you could encourage a creative person with one tip on being imaginative, what would you tell them?
Go through whatever story you are telling and try to think like a kid. How would a kid tell the story?
- 5. What is one thing you are excited about sharing with the tribes attending STORY 2011?
First of all, I had never heard of the STORY conference, so I have no clue what it’s like. My son-in-law went last year, he is the worship arts director of a large church in Grand Rapids. So my answer is I have no clue, but I am hoping to learn more than I get.
If you’re a writer, filmmaker, artist, performer, entrepreneur, church leader, communicator, or other type of creative, you won’t want to miss STORY 2011. To register visit http://story2011.eventbrite.com/ or if you need a little more information visit the STORY site: http://storychicago.com/
There is art in life. But in order to have access to it’s power, we have to be paying attention.
More often than not, people discredit the art in their life as commonplace because they don’t feel they are creative or creative enough. We take for granted the fact that we have the ability to create art in things like our jobs, relationships, kids, meals, trips, doctors appointments. You name it, art exists in it…but it’s easy to miss if we’re not paying attention.
One of the first things a person using their creative muscle discovers is the importance of keeping their antenna up all the time. A friend of mine, a songwriter, has written some of the biggest songs ever sung in corporate worship. I asked him one day where he gathers inspiration for these culture-shaping tunes. His answer? Everywhere.
He takes the pictures, smells the air, experiences the relationships. He lives his life. He is consistently tuned in to the fact that the next song may be on the breath of someone he talks with or in the branches as they sway in the breeze.
Time after time, we find ourselves waiting for that “lightening strike” of creativity; for amazing ideas to fall out of the sky and hit us in the head. We go to youtube, or google, or some other church’s website or vimeo and are “inspired” by their work…but, in reality, the inspiration is right in front of us.
See, we control the work. We control if we are paying attention, taking notes, experiencing life ALL AROUND US! Our real lives have the potential to inspire us far more than any blog, tumblr, instagram or flickr. So, GET OUT, PUT YOUR ANTENNA UP and CREATE from the art of YOUR life.
What are some ways you have learned to keep your antenna up?