Workplace Rights

Weekly (10/10/11)

Topic of the Week  The Way: Bringing More Creativity to Work:

The Way: Bringing More Creativity to Work:

  • Create.
  • Collaborate.
  • Compete.
  • Control.

The Way: Bringing More Creativity to Work

If we all had a dollar for each time we were told to think outside of the box most of us would have enough money to retire. I can't tell you how many readers have written to me about how their bosses try to micromanage and control the creative process. How ironic is that? Which reminds me of two creative geniuses who died recently, Steve Jobs and Al Davis. There are few people in history who've put their unique stamp on the world as did these two. Who else had a better track record of turning the status quo on its ear? Beyond all the remarkable eulogies of late, remember that both of these men were often vilified for being autocratic control freaks during their lives.
Managing creativity is one of the most difficult challenges facing any organization and executive, but essential to master if breakthroughs are required. That's why we all can't read enough about Steve and Al and why I've included the four "Cs" below to give you a look at the myriad of ways that creativity can be forged within an organization. For more, check out Jeff Degraff's book "Innovate You" (Ballentine, 2011).

Create. This is where most people start when they think about creativity. Someone pulling a new thought, idea or approach seemingly out of thin air. What is often overlooked is the true source of creating. Often it involves adding on to other ideas, tearing standard operating procedure a new one, thinking of the second right answer or just making enough mistakes.

Collaborate. Many of us have a notion of creativity as a solo process. But I've found the best ideas involve getting many minds at the table. I've been part of collaborations that totally changed everything and I've been part of collaborative efforts that have devolved into name-calling and rancor. In my experience the key is to create a level of trust among people so they can take chances with each other.

Compete. Ad agencies used to do this all the time. Put teams of creative people in competition to create the best possible campaign. Competition can create a fertile ground for new ideas and approaches but it can also spin out of control and be ultimately destructive. That's why of all the 4 "Cs," competition is the most challenging to manage and produce results with.

Control. Back to Jobs and Davis. When a leader is a true visionary there is a certain logic to just letting them run the show. But even with two leaders as bold and creative as Jobs and Davis, they both had teams of coaches and executives to help fulfill their vision. The key here is to ensure that the process is going in the right direction but to still give people some room to innovate in how they get there.

"Insanely great" and "Just win baby" sum up how to live your life better than any watered down corporate vision statement ever will. Al and Steve, we're going to miss you.

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via


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