While sitting at my desk waiting for a phone meeting, I decided to open the Legos helicopter kit I won in our office Christmas gift lottery. The colorful instructions were easy to follow, and the 15-minute task was kind of fun and…creative? No. Maybe cathartic, maybe focus-inducing, but to me, not creative.
This started me thinking about what creative really is (maybe it was the focus-inducing part that started me thinking – hey, whatever works).
Now, being in a business that markets CREATIVE services, you’d think the definition would just roll off my tongue, but maybe I was too focused, so I consulted Mr. Webster, who said that it’s “having the ability to make new things, or think of new ideas.” Yup. Thanks, Dan-o.
Over the years, I’ve come to understand that the general public’s perception of those of us who sell ideas (and their implementation) for a living is that we’re just naturally creative – born that way – and that others probably aren’t. In my experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
It’s just that the implementation part of what we do, the tangible results, are exactly that…tangible. Right there in front of people’s faces. And, a lot of our work gets broad distribution; high visibility. But is it any more creative than…
…the surgeon that invents and perfects a new technique that saves or improves lives?
…the production worker who comes up with a way to streamline a process, saving considerable time, waste and cost?
…the teacher that finds a way to get students interested and enthusiastic enough to truly understand and absorb a difficult, yet important, subject?
…the chef who makes simple, everyday ingredients look and taste like gourmet cuisine?
…the plumber who comes up with a way to efficiently get water into and out of your newly remodeled bathroom – without having to tear half the house apart?
…the trainer who recognizes your unique, individual needs, and devises a custom program that gets solid, sustainable results (and is actually kind of fun)?
The answer to each of these questions, and the numerous others that could be asked, is…(drumroll):
I think I’ve heard the statement “I’m not very creative” hundreds of times during my working life – by all kinds, shapes and sizes of talented, intelligent, successful people who, almost apologetically, declare their lack of creativity.
Know what? They’re wrong.
We’re all creative. The only differences are the types of our endeavors, the degree of visibility each receives, and – this is the biggie – how hard one is willing to work racking his or her brain to achieve an envisioned “masterpiece.” (If you think people in obviously creative businesses – advertising, writing, photography, fine arts, product design, architecture, etc. – sit around sipping Chai tea, pondering deep, artsy thoughts, and then…BAM!…the solution just plops out because they’re incredibly blessed and just so damn creative, guess again.)
For the most part, it’s work – typically under considerable time, quality and budget pressures – and never 100% satisfactory to those who truly strive for excellence and continuous improvement. Or, as a close friend – a program cost analysis director for a very large defense supplier – said: “Yeah, you’re right, even finance guys have the opportunity be very creative…but they have to want to. Most just settle for turnin’ the crank,” a reference to doing only what’s required, and not making waves.
So please…no more “I’m not very creative” statements. Because in your own daily “studio,” you’re potentially more creative than the everyday creatives are.
Oh…one more thing about Legos. Maybe, in my book, just following instructions isn’t creative, but the original inventors, and the people who dream up all the cool build kits (and the instructions) sure are. Plus, did you know that there’s a website for people to submit ideas for future Lego build kits? There are hundreds of ideas, some ho-hum, some unbelievably creative. Check it out when you get a chance:
And next time you’re here, I’ll get you a Chai tea.