Archive for the ‘innovation’ Tag

Creativity as survival

There are quite a few of us on the net urging the business world towards creativity.  I liked Sonia Simone’s message yesterday, a straightforward directive to get in touch with your creative side or perish like an old, abused machine. 

I think it’s important to distinguish between creativity and innovation.  The latter is a sometimes result of the former.  But many creative efforts don’t lead to innovations or anything else tangible or obviously helpful.  Still, every time we open wide to possibility, every time we get out of our own way and open to inspiration, we strengthen our survival skills. 

If you think words like perishing and survival are too strong for this context, make no mistake, the counsel of so many bloggers, mentors, experts, and thinkers these days to attend to your creative development is deadly serious.  Unlike a sport or knitting, you don’t take up creativity as an amusing distraction; you don’t practice it only on Saturdays.  Rather, you adopt the creative life like you adopt a nutritious diet, and it sooner or later permeates every waking moment.  You become a person who is open to ideas, and change, and possibilities.  You become a profound listener, a keen observer, a compassionate colleague.  You evolve in every fiber of your being.  You become able to face the future with calm assurance.

And yes, the implication is that if you do not attend to this evolution you will be lost in the rush.  If you accept your sadness or oppression or boredom as simple facts of life, and do not attempt to ‘be the change you want to see in the world,’ your business will fail, and your efforts will go unrewarded.  You’ll be left wondering why you’re not successful when you did everything by the book.

Even though, or perhaps because global population has grown astronomically, we need every soul to seek fulfillment, we need every mind to open wide to ideas, we need all people to learn to respect and appreciate one another.  Unless this happens, our old ways will carry us quickly to extinction.  We’re being challenged to become better than we’ve ever been – more knowledgeable, clever, and compassionate.  And the way this kind of development is most readily accessible is through creativity.

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Hats off to Ditkoff

Awesome.  Yesterday’s post at Heart of Innovation by Mitch Ditkoff sets it all out for us.  100 easy ways to be more creative at work.  Check it out, print it, hang it by your desk.   It’s one blog post that can become your life saver.

Of course, the biggest step in changing anything is the very first one.  You have to start somewhere, you have to initiate change, your willing (yearning) spirit is the single most important ingredient in any innovation.

Most likely, you have no yearning for improvement unless you’re unhappy with things as they are.  And who am I to deny your complacency?  Maybe you’re plenty comfortable and content with your job and your life.  If so, stop reading now.

But if you are anything short of bliss-filled, you can probably use some new approaches.  I’m here to reassure you that life doesn’t have to be suffering.  If you’re unhappy, frustrated, uncomfortable, unappreciated, or just generally sad or feeling lost, maybe it’s time to re-cast yourself in a new light.  Once you decide to experiment with such renovations, the possibilities will endlessly multiply.  Mitch’s list is a viable jumping-off place.

An element of this argument is abdicating control.  When seeking personal change, it’s necessary to relinquish your accustomed hold on things.  It’s essential to take a step back and let the universe speak.  It’s required that you do your best to forget your own idea of yourself.  If you’re stuck in your thinking or problem-solving, the first thing to do is give it up. 

And today I’ll suggest that the second thing to do is go straight to Mitch’s list, close your eyes and pick one.  Follow it through and then thrill to the ways it brightens your outlook, improves your process, returns you to meaningful productivity.

Impermanence

There’s nothing like a visit to aging parents to get your priorities in order.  Many of us baby boomers nurture the old folks as best we can, as they uselessly while away the years in cloistered communities.  That generation built our world, and now they wander the corridors aimlessly, their living assisted but their lives remaining shrouded in mystery.

A friend recently reminded us that business should not be an end in itself, but it should be a vehicle to take us to our dreams.  For my parents’ generation, the world they built after World War II was so glorious as to seem a dream come true.  But my peers and I have turned so much of their culture upside down, and the changes since the 60s and 70s appear to threaten the old folks’ core values and proud accomplishments. They have a hard time understanding that their business was a vehicle to today, and not the crowning achievement they were sure they had created.

As we develop our brands, and innovate,  and find new ways to work, it’s useful to reflect on today’s seniors and remember that our innovations are fluid things, ripe at any time for change.  Like a new car, a great idea begins to depreciate as soon as it’s implemented. 

We grow our businesses because it’s necessary to earn a living, and it is the way we know to satisfy material needs.  We innovate because such modifications improve our income, and keep our interest peaked.  In these writings, I urge the development of personal creativity because such practice will keep open your windows of possibility, and guard against fear and atrophy.  Even so, this mid-week morning I’m here to remind us that none of this is final, it is all vehicular, carrying us to unknown worlds beyond.

I don’t know what will happen when my generation reaches the stage of dementia.  There are too many of us and we can ill afford the astronomical costs of assisted living.  I do know that we’ll be vastly happier then, however, if we take care now to understand our lives as journeys, and our achievements – no matter how grand or revolutionary – as mere baby steps on the long road to heaven. 

Playing by the rules

I’m working on a writing job currently that has lots of rules, including a long list of words one is forbidden to use. Why? It’s a rule, that’s all. Rules are rules. We stop there.

Rules seem to be necessary in society. Wherever three or more are gathered, there the rules shall be. It’s the basis of civilization, the only way we know to approach peaceable life together.

Rules are usually established by wise leaders, who set down these maxims for good reason. But the hoi polli who must live by them soon forget their reason for being, and simply accept them as rules and therefore indisputable. The human propensity for fear keeps us in the thrall of rules and dictums from on high. For the most part, we let these forces do our thinking for us.

At some point, though, you can step back from the rules. You can consider what your own judgment is, apart from givens you’ve been force fed. You can make the conscious decision to adopt or reject the rules. In a way, that’s what branding is all about: communicating to others your own well-considered set of rules and regs. It’s certainly at the core of innovation, where not being bound by rules is the first practice.

Naming

A hefty serving of business wisdom was offered up in a telecast I heard last week, featuring the founder of Starbucks (Howard Behar), the founder of StartUpNation , and the author of a new book about business success. One of the many salient points made: as established by Peter Drucker many years ago, the results-oriented activities of any business are its marketing and its innovation (while all other activities are mere costs), and naming something in itself is an innovation. Their example was the labeling of Starbuck’s drink as short, tall, and grande; a naming that became an important innovation that helped to establish their incredibly powerful brand.

Having the motivation and courage to start up your own business is admirable in itself, but many folks stall when it comes to naming their endeavor. As I chat with other virtual assistants, it’s clear that this is often a real stumbling block.

“A thing’s name is its numen,” said Northrop Frye eons ago. I memorized the statement at the time, for its pithy truth. Definition of numen: divine power or spirit; a deity, esp. one presiding locally or believed to inhabit a particular object. Deciding upon your business name is deciding upon its spirit. In one sense, it’s a terrifying choice to make; but on the other hand, if you’re really into and ready for the experience, probably the spirit communicates itself to you voluntarily, and your business name appears effortlessly.

As an example: it’s not my business name, but my business website has the domain name, asthemoonclimbs. Unwilling to duke it out for the perfect keywords pertaining to virtual assistance, at the time I simply went with the spirit that presented itself. Excited to be concentrating on my ancient skill of writing, and thinking about all the tragically terrible writing out there, especially on the internet, and thinking about how the Zen archer moves beyond the use of bow and arrow, and – I must add – having maniacally high expectations for my own productivity, I was struck by the domain name out of the blue, and didn’t fight it for an instant. If a person says their name is Fred, you have to call them that whether they look like a Fred or not.

To satisfy the curious, the phrase ‘asthemoonclimbs’ comes from a poem by Archibald MacLeish:
A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs.
A poem should not mean, but be.