Last night, I came across a very insightful post: “18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently”.
If you see yourself as creative, or endeavoring to be more creative, it’s certainly worth your time.
For me, it was incredibly positive reinforcement. Much of the social feedback I get in corporate settings tends to discourage these traits; I now feel somewhat vindicated.
Since I work with so many people who also have strong creative tendencies, I thought the list was worth elaborating on — especially for those of us who work in demanding business environments!
Why This Resonates With Me
Interjecting a creative thought or two into the discussion can be seen as distracting — or even disruptive — to the task at hand: finishing the con call on time!
I now realize that my need to express my creativity in a corporate setting is one of the reasons I’m such an enthusiastic blogger.
There are big ideas out there that I think need to be shared; putting them in blog form allows people to consume them when the mood suits them, or ignore them entirely if they choose.
I feel better, and I’d like to think I’m helping the cause.
I believe we all owe our co-workers, partners and customers our best creative output. Everyone who is able should bring something to the commons for all to benefit from. Even if it’s not always well-received :)
What follows is a replaying of the list of 18 creative traits mentioned in the article, with a bit of my personal commentary around each.
Creative People Daydream
Guilty as charged. If the meeting is boring, or I’m not engaged with what I’m doing, my mind wanders in sort of free-form, pattern-recognition mode.
Frequently an observation pops out, which I file away for later processing. If the problem is complex, I’ll use a whiteboard to get concepts on a board, and then look for patterns and relationships.
Classic definitions of “work” don’t support this activity, but in today’s knowledge-worker economy, I would think a healthy component of creativity is essential to career success.
I tend to make mental notes of things people say or do — even though the meaning might escape me at the moment.
And I read voraciously — anything I can get my hands on. More mental tidbits tucked away for eventual use.
Later on, when I’m thinking about something, it’s amazing how many prior observations will bubble up and “snap in” to the framework I’m debating.
But you’ve got to observe things to process things. I think a natural and healthy curiosity helps greatly here.
They Work The Hours That Work For Them
Not really a choice for me — my work hours are largely defined by external requirements. For example, customers don’t want to meet at 10pm, when I’m often at a full boil.
And I'm not a morning person -- don't expect much out of me at an 8 am meeting.
It’s hard to have an inner dialog when there are other people around. For me, there are plenty of opportunities: sitting on airplanes, riding a bike, alone in my hotel room on a business trip, etc.
I don’t think I’m being anti-social — I’m doing what works for me. And I'm quite comfortable being by myself.
Time alone gives me time to process, reflect, synthesize, etc. — and attempting to carry on a conversation doesn’t help that.
They Turn Life’s Obstacles Around
I get the idea, but that hasn’t happened to me yet. So far, I can’t really point to any gut-wrenching challenge I’ve been thrown in the journey of life. Nor would I ask for one simply to be more creative.
But there are plenty of creative people I know who have gone through a harrowing experience, and it’s given them a certain burning energy and passion that I do admire.
Doing this in the physical world inevitably involves travel, which has its limits.
Fortunately, we can all scour the internet for different perspectives and intellectual experiences that enrich us. What a wonderful time we live in. I’m in the habit of wandering widely on the web, just to see what’s interesting out there: politics, economics, science, culture, music, etc.
I guess it’s related to just being naturally curious.
They “Fall Up”
This one particularly resonates.
I’m not all that afraid of personal failure, being wrong, being unpopular, etc. My co-workers sometimes look at me as if I had a career death wish.
If I look back, I can find many “failures”, but I don’t see them that way — they were building blocks that lead to a better understanding.
They Ask Big Questions
I find myself doing this habitually. It's one of my most annoying traits. I do try and keep it under control.
Regardless, I find myself feeling obligated to do this, especially if I sense we have lost our way. One trick is to ask “why” at least three times. I can see people getting visibly irritated with me - especially when they don’t know the answers :)
I often find myself telling people that I’m not doing this to be disruptive, it’s just that I’m a very curious person who wants to understand better.
Big questions need to be asked, and not just by the CEO.
I do this, but I do it to communicate better. There’s an awful lot of context you can learn from a person by watching their body language, etc. I’ve always thought effective communication demanded empathy with your audience, and studying people closely helps me do that better.
They Take Risks
I do, and I don’t.
I’m more than willing to risk my own reputation, etc. — what's the worst that can happen? -- but I shouldn’t knowingly put others in that position without their permission.
Anytime I propose something, I have to ask myself — will this potentially affect others negatively?
And, if so, I tread very carefully indeed …
They View All Of Life As An Opportunity For Self-Expression
When I first read this, it sort of clicked into focus for me: yes, I do this. I didn't realize it before, but now I do.
I took a quick inventory, and realized that just about everything I do (or want to do) has an indelible stamp of “me” all over it: my work, my blogging, my communication style, my music, my relationships with people, and more.
Some people might call this “personal branding”.
Your ability to follow your true passions gets somewhat hampered when you get a job, mortgage, marriage, kids, responsibilities, etc.
You owe people certain things, and that’s often in direct conflict with your innate desire to follow your muse.
It's called being responsible.
But as I’ve progressed through life, some of these responsibilities have lessened, which has given my the ability to more fully invest in my passions both at work and in life.
For me, I invest the time to evaluate how something would look from different perspectives other than mine. If I’m coming up short, I actively seek out people with viewpoints very different than my own.
And I’m always enriched by doing so.
They Lose Track Of Time
True story: at one time I had a great admin that knew I tended to get lost in whatever I was working on. She would politely interrupt me a few minutes before an important meeting or phone call -- or when it was time to go home. Otherwise, I’d just blow through the appointment or whatever, never realizing what time it was.
People talk about “getting in the flow”.
My problem was getting out of it when duty called :)
They Surround Themselves With Beauty
Hmmm. That wasn’t very important to me at the beginning of my career, but it’s sure important now. I now take a deep interest in art, interior decorating, music, opera, theater, food, wine, etc. Aesthetics really matter to me these days.
People tell me that I have an uncanny ability to find powerful connections between seemingly unrelated things, and explain the impact to others. You might see some of that in my blog posts — but that’s a very narrow lens indeed.
Get me going over some adult beverages, and I’ll start making all sorts of seemingly bizarre connections that make perfect sense to me.
I try not to scare people too much when I do this.
They Constantly Shake Things Up
I have reasonable freedom to do this in my personal life. My wife knows that I’ll call her on a Thursday, and often suggest we go somewhere new on the weekend. Of course, she’s already made plans, but …
In the working world, it’s a bit more constrained. A great deal of focus is given to “getting things done”, so I have to temper my natural inclination to shake the tree from time to time.
Over the years, I’ve gotten much better at evaluating the best times and techniques to do this. Although I know those who would debate this assertion :)
One of things that always triggers a response from me is when people say “this is the way we do it”. Which causes me to start asking questions …
They Take Time For Mindfulness
In the article they discuss how meditation can help. I’ve tried — my brain goes so fast I can’t seem to quiesce it for any reasonable amount of time.
But I agree with the spirit here: take time to contemplate -- what’s the big picture, what’s the context we’ve been handed, what are the levers available to us, what are the risks and obstacles.
If “mindfulness” can be equated with creating a philosophical perspective, I think I qualify here.
The Challenge Of Being Creative In the Corporate World
Despite what you might read about the importance of creativity and innovation in the business world, we all know the day-to-day reality can be quite different.
I’m not being negative here — just pragmatic -- but so much of what companies have to do tends to discourage creativity on an individual level.
There are good reasons for that, but it can be frustrating for those of you who are creative types.
The successful “corporate creative” types I know have learned to adapt: not by smothering their creative instincts, but by learning how to amplify and harness their unique talents for the greater good.
They understand their role, they are patient, they don’t ask for credit.
All they ask for is to be heard.
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