Creativity. What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Creativity can thrive in the right atmosphere and choke in the wrong one.

What is the ‘right’ atmosphere?

It’s civil. It’s rich with respect, kindness, helpfulness, and active listening. In fact, civility makes the work environment more pleasant and that enables employees to produce more … better … results.

Don’t take my word for it. I was reminded recently of a 2015 NY Times pieceNo Time To Be Nice At Work” by Christine Porath, Associate Professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. She focuses on the impact of incivility in the workplace.

In short, Porath’s research reveals the impact of un-civility on:

  • focus (it went down)
  • mistakes (they went up),
  • employee problem-solving and idea-generation (it worsened).

In one study, an experimenter belittled a group of peers. Afterward, they performed 33% worse on anagram word puzzles and came up with 39% fewer creative ideas during a brainstorming task.

In a second study, participants encountered a rude, admonishing stranger — a “busy professor” – en route to the experiment. Afterward, their performance was 61% worse on word puzzles and they produced 58% fewer ideas in the brainstorming task than those who had not been treated rudely.

There were side effects on witnesses and customers:

The study found that witnesses of the incivility performed 22% worse on word puzzles and produced 28% fewer ideas in the brainstorming task.

… Employees began to contribute less and lose their conviction,

… and customers quit patronizing the business.

About your workplace – are you feeling the love?

Is your workplace suffering from the stressors of these crazy times? Is sense of community falling and lack of civility raising? Here are ways to check. Do your employees:

  • Do employees seem more on edge?
  • Do you see more staff conflict with coworkers, vendors or clients?
  • Do more employees work from home and engage in person less?
  • Do employees seem less focused, less productive?
  • Is your team producing fewer creative, high-quality ideas?
  • Do they seem exhausted at the prospect of another problem to solve?

If so, ask yourself – are your employees feeling the love? Or, has workplace civility taken a back-seat to crisis thinking, confusion, and exhaustion during these challenging times?

If so, the impact can be significant. According to Porath, you can expect less creativity: less relevant, innovative problem-solving, and fewer of the ‘good ideas’ that make your brand or business stand out.

You can expect more senseless mistakes, less focus, and less of the productivity that moves your business forward. I will add that if this goes on too long, you can expect more turnover.

Don’t Let Loss of Love Cost You Business

According to Porath’s research, even in the best of times, attending to, supporting, and caring for each other has a lot to do with our levels of creativity and performance.

Can I get some agreement that ‘the best of times’ doesn’t describe the 2020’s so far?! Turns out, sharing the love, civility and taking a moment for some people-time may be just the thing we humans need to turn this 2020’s thing around.

Don’t know how? CEJ Studio offers coaching and classes on skills and techniques that help you create a happier, more motivated workplace. Reach out!

What’s A Public Speaker?

There was a time when only those with special status were given the privilege of speaking out in a public manner.

Back in the day, kings, emperors, generals, actors, and professional orators were ‘given the floor’ to speak freely to the rest of us. We plebeians were expected to fill our seats and pay attention.

Today, We Are All Public Speakers

Yes, things have changed! We’ve all gained our corner of the stage with the advent of professional journalism, broadcasting, and now, social media and personalized recording technologies. Anyone who wants a public voice can have one. In fact, the minute you open a social media account, you effectively become a public speaker of some type.

That doesn’t mean that we all know how to do it, to do it well, or that we have the confidence to take the stage, however. While we may have a voice, way may not have taken possession of it.

Mastering ‘Speaking Up – Speaking Out’

It is a longer road for some of us than for others. Were you a youngest child who’s family attention hung on your every cherished word? Or, did you grow up in a household where you competed for attention, or where children should be seen but not heard?

Did starting school give you a whole new platform to play and influence or bring new levels of challenge and humility. Chances are, we’ve all been laughed at for saying just the perfect thing at just the wrong time, but the reactions we received are likely as diverse as our ability to handle them. And we haven’t even started on social media yet ….

The point is that where public speaking is concerned we all have a history and, for most of us, it’s fraught.

I Dropped Out of Three Professional Acting Classes Before I Could Speak Up in One

I grew up a reserved oldest daughter in a house full of boisterous, fun boys. I grew up on stage dancing … never opened my mouth. I grew up cheering along my favorite high school teams, but struggling to say hello to the players. I knew I had a voice, I wrote like crazy. But those inner words, my deeper self, rarely saw the light of day. I would have been mortified.

When I moved to NY, one of my dreams was to train and try my skills as an actor. I signed up for three different acting classes (yes, on Broadway), and dropped out of each. When the time came to speak up, to express and reveal through my voice, I couldn’t.

I won’t bore you with the story, but I learned some deep lessons about what happens when you don’t own, don’t use your voice. I worked hard to figure out what my voice was, why the challenges, and how to overcome. Acting did ultimately help. I had a breakthrough! I began to add speaking up, speaking out to my quiet expressions of art, photography and writing ….

I’m Still on That Journey

But, I’ve learned a lot and I love sharing it. Not just the information, the support. I love the experience of being in the presence of humans learning to enjoy their voice and speak their truth. It’s an honor to provide a wing as they learn to fly.

If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that this is an aspect of ourselves that’s hard to practice and master if we do not feel safe. That’s why CEJ Studio is a private space for public speakers, a safe space to learn, experiment, practice.

Now That’s A Public Speaker!

What an opportunity … to grow from those old experiences, fears, or wounds into the joy of embracing our own voice. We can make a chorus, but the voice is uniquely ours. There’s no other like it!

So, what’s a public speaker? Yes, someone with something relevant, revealing, interesting, motivating, inspiring to say … someone who’s ready say it.

Creator’s Checklist

We are infinitely creative …

Photo by Freddie Marriage for Unsplash

We humans are busy creating universes every moment … of every day … from the moment we are born until the moment we pass off of this plain.

We start with a perception.

Then comes a thought, maybe an idea, then … action. Even inaction creates by allowing.

Individually, that’s how we create our lives. Collectively, it’s how we create the world. It’s fun. It’s heavy. It’s who we are.

We choose our game, playground, teams, tools and rules. We play even when we think we are not playing, because not playing is playing the game of ‘not playing.’ No one escapes the game of creating.

Most of us aren’t aware of this. We haven’t thought about it. And yet, we are doing it … creating our moments, our lives, our world all day every day. Look around, you’ll see others doing it, too. It’s mind boggling!

Yes, we play even when we think we are not playing because not playing is playing the game of ‘not playing’. No one escapes the game of creating.


At least once, if not a few times a year, life asks us to take a break, sit back and reflect, imagine, envision our lives. Whether it’s time to create New Year’s plans and resolutions or to run through end-of-the-week assessments, it can increase the quality of our output, our creations, to ask deeper, more intentional questions about what we are doing. I like checklists, so I’ve included a Creator’s Checklist below to get you started.

The more deeply you dive into these questions, the more deeply effective and impactful you can be. It doesn’t matter what you are working on – a line of code, a new design, a fat portfolio, a sultry romance, a loving family, a vibrant empty nest, a symphony …. your final result has a direct line to your willingness to go adventuring in your own mind, heart and soul.

It doesn’t matter how you think all this through, only that you do. Take a walk, consider while shopping, while enjoying that burger or game of chess. Write, journal, talk to a friend, a coworker or counselor. Do it your way, just do it.

Working with a team? What if each of you consider these questions on your own then come together and discuss. Making exploration the ground rule, no judging, creates an open atmosphere for discovery and collaboration.

We humans are original, inspirational, and imperfect. We make mistakes. But, know this…

A moment is gone in the blink of an eye. Awareness and intention help us to make more of them. It doesn’t hurt to step back periodically and ask … What does the world you are trying to create look like? Maybe check that list twice, because … anything can happen …

… we are that powerful.

Creator’s Checklist

  • What are you creating today? Joy? Comfort? Chaos? A solution?
  • How are you spending your time? Time is the most precious raw material we have as creators…
  • Do you have a clear goal? … Not what you want someone else to do, what you want for yourself…
  • Do you trust that it’s the right goal? That you’re the right person for it? That trust powers your efforts.
  • Are you solving a problem or a symptom? Acknowledging which you are doing can keep you from being disappointed about the quality of the solution.
  • Your attention … it’s generally somewhere. Do you know where yours is? That drives your perceptions so choose wisely.
  • Your feelings are the soil of creating. What are you creating from? Are you in fear? Compassion? Awe?
  • Are you assuming? Faulty assumptions are like cracked concrete in the foundation of your idea. Sooner or later, that thing is going to fall.
  • Do you trust your conclusions? Have you jumped up and down on those boards of evidence to see if they hold? Have you tested the fabric for wear?
  • Do you feel good about what you are bringing into the world? Does it make you feel like a hero? That feeling is energy that helps you run faster and jump higher. Not having it means working against your own grain. You know that old phrase, ‘go with the flow’? That includes going with your own flow.

What Are Your Words Creating?

Words matter. They are the bricks with which we build identity and hope and with those, a productive life. This illuminating experiment has an interesting message for us all.

Ikea wanted young people to think about the impact of bullying. They displayed two identical house plants in enclosed containers in schools and piped recorded voices to them 24/7 for 30 days.

One plant got only loving, appreciating messages. The other was bullied. Whoever walked by could watch the messages do their work. Young people were allowed to record some of the messages themselves.

At the end of the experiment, the loved plant had grown and was thriving. The bullied plant appeared to be dying.

Was this science? Not really. There was no control and we don’t know if other factors may have been at play. We don’t really know scientifically what happened there. But, it is curious. And, it does get one thinking about …

The Impact Of Our Words

Public Speaking is a particularly stressful activity and very few begin it feeling enthusiastic and confident. Most jump right into self-criticism … self-bullying, self-creating the Public Speaking equivalent of the wilted plant. That’s not good!

The way we speak to ourselves is just as powerful, if not more so, than the way we speak to others. The way we define our last presentation directly shapes the energy and confidence we will, or won’t bring to the next one. Deem one a failure and the next one will be. How to stop the self-bullying loop?

Find A Success In Every Presentation

Let that set you up for the next.

Did you make particularly good eye contact, even if you flubbed the data? Great! You made good eye contact! Yes … there was the data … but, you made good eye contact!! Did you start moving more comfortably even if you didn’t fully answer that question? Yay!! You’re moving more comfortably. The more you practice and get comfortable with moving, the less distracted you’ll be and more you can focus on the questions.

Every presentation is a step in creating yourself as a speaker, and that step is as strong as you make it. Call yourself a learner and define your speech performance based on the things you did well, then get to work planning the next one. Sure, work on the issues; they will be temporary. But, find the positive and make that your name.

Try to remember the Ikea experiment. Be kind to others and to yourself. Your success as a speaker (and as a human) may depend on using the words you say to yourself to build the beauty of you.