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. That means it’s rich with respect, kindness, helpfulness, and active listening. Not only does civility make the work environment more pleasant, it enables employees to produce more, better, results.

Don’t take my word for it. I was reminded recently of this 2015 NYTimes opinion piece by Christine Porath, Associate Professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. Her work focuses on the impact of incivility in the workplace. I urge you to read the article yourself, but include highlights here: she shows the impact of uncivility on focus (it went down), mistakes (they went up), and employee performance on problem-solving and idea-generation (it worsened).

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

In a second study, participants encountered a rude, admonishing stranger — a “busy professor” – en route to the experiment. 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.

And, there were side effects:

The study found the same pattern for those who merely witnessed incivility: They performed 22% worse on word puzzles and produced 28% fewer ideas in the brainstorming task.

… and employees began to contribute less and lose their conviction.

,,, and customers quit patronizing their business.

About your workplace – are you feeling the love?

Is your workplace’s sense of community, civility, suffering from the stressors of these crazy times? Probably.

Do you have employees, co-workers working from home and more isolated? Are they feeling the love? If the answer is ‘no’, then look around for the impact. Less relevant, novel problem-solving that helps your organization stand out and cement brand. Less focus. Less productivity. Fewer ‘good ideas’ that move your business forward. More senseless mistakes. Loss of business. It turns out, love’s got a lot to do with it. So,

If your workplace feel like this …

What’s the use in trying, all you get is pain

When I needed sunshine, I got rain.

“I’m a Believer”, Neil Diamond

Maybe it’s time to give it a little of this!

We want you to be happy, don’t live inside the gloom

… We want you to be happy ’cause this is your song, too.

“Joy”, by Phish

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!

christie@cejstudio.com

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.

Imagine

What would happen if we did this creating we can’t help but do … more consciously? More intentionally? What does that even look like? I’m not sure, but I know it means asking some questions of ourselves.

From Checklist to Doing It

I like checklists. Here’s one to get you thinking

  • 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.

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’re imperfect. We make mistakes. But, know this…

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

… we are that powerful.

Do Grandmothers Hold The Key To Human Evolution?

Interesting new research is adding evidence to that theory.

Grandmothers and mothers were keeping the kids fed, not man the hunter.

Kristen Hawkes, an anthropologist at University of Utah, studies modern hunter gathers in hopes of gaining insight into how our earliest ancestors may have lived. Her work with the Hadza of Northern Tanzania reveals that not only does the food gathered by the women of the tribe account for a larger portion of daily calories, but that helpful grandmothers make crucial contributions to the gathering.

This doesn’t mean that the calories contributed by hunters is unimportant. But, it does suggest that some of our most humane skills – cooperation, empathy, considering the thoughts and feelings of others – likely arose through this intergenerational gathering activity. And, it’s these qualities that likely kept tribal warfare to a minimum.

Kristen Hawkes believes that gatherer’s sharing and cooperation means more food, less war for the Hudza tribe. It may have meant the same thing for our ancestors and human survival and evolution.

Since a basic sense of safety, cooperation, empathy are rich soil for creativity and innovation, interesting to consider … adding a cooperative, empathetic, considerate grandmother or two to the team? 😉

Find more at NPR/All Things Considered

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.

A Marriage of Skills

We often regard separate skills – science, art – as distinctive, requiring different intellectual tools and capacities. We also divide ourselves and others according to our dominant skillsets (“I’m a math person”).

But, people have capacity in many areas. Narrow our definition of  ‘what we/they are good at’ and we miss the opportunities that human complexity provides.

Steven Jobs

Steven Jobs, co-founder of Apple, obviously had  technical know-how and vision. He also had an artistic eye … Did you know that Jobs considered his design training, specifically a college class in typography, to be crucial to his and Apple’s success. What impact did those capacities have? Apple’s popularity relies not only on technical innovation and performance, but also on the beauty of it’s products and the competitive advantage that has created.

Steven Jobs, co-founder of Apple. Circa 1985. Unattributed photo.

Jobs lost Apple at one point when the board of directors replaced him. Undaunted, he took his technical and artistic skills to work developing the NeXT computer, which paved the way to interpersonal computing by offering foundational aspects of web server software and for the first web browser, WorldWideWeb.

Jobs also led the creation of a division of Lucasfilm called the Graphics Group. It became one of the world’s first successful computer animations film companies. You know it today as Pixar, producer of Toy Story, Coco, and other treasured animated films. Could he have done any of this without that marriage of skills?

From Quinine to Mauvine

While Chemist – painter – photographer Sir Henry Perkins worked to develop a synthetic pharmaceutical treatment for malaria, he accidentally ‘created’ Mauvine, the first synthetic dye.

Back in 1856, a young chemist named Sir Henry Perkins was working to create a synthetic quinine to treat malaria. One day when cleaning up the lab, he noticed that certain chemicals had mixed to form a particularly vibrant shade of purple.

Perkins, perhaps because of his side interests as an amateur painter and photographer, recognized the value of what he’d discovered. He and his brother set to work. No, they did not cure malaria, but they did change the visual landscape of the man-made world by creating a new, synthetic purple dye called mauvine and, ultimately, many others. They made millions doing it.

Perkins and Jobs achieved their particular success not because of a skill, but because of their unique marriage of diverse skills. Remember that the next time someone tries to convince you that school art programs should be ‘supplemental’ or ‘optional’.

What is your marriage of skills?

Is it time to take your own skills inventory?

Look back through your life and note the different interests, activities, hobbies that have captured your attention and heart. How have even those you spent just a little time on influenced your life, informed your perception and thinking today?

Or look at what you’ve accomplished, created, mysteries you’ve cracked, or fun you’ve had. Can you see how diverse aspects of you came together to make that happen? Has your love of gardening somehow fed the way you nurture your team as a manager? Did your sourdough bread baking phase give birth to an ability to wait more patiently for a project, relationship, or skill to rise? Have the movies you’ve loved somehow influenced your retail sales business?

Do you make room for more?

‘Taking a break’ isn’t always about slacking off. Engaging in diverse activities enables us to shift gears, relax, take in different information, and evolve perception. It gives our subconscious minds time to process. When we least expect it, those ingredients can come together and produce new thoughts or different perspectives on old ones. That can make all the difference.

“Play is the highest form of research.”

Albert Einstein, Scientist

A marriage of skills …

A marriage of skills can be as deep and mysterious as a marriage between humans. It’s an invisible chemical reaction, an important part of who you are, what you create and who you will be. It’s an adventure, a discovery, a journey…

… and you are the destination.

Walking Increases Creativity

We’ve all heard by now about the negative impact of inactivity on our bodies, our hearts, our muscles. But moving isn’t just good for the body. Researchers are learning that walking, specifically, can be good for the mind. In fact, it appears that walking can help stimulate creativity.

Reminds me of a book by one of my favorite ‘creativity’ authors, Julia Cameron, called Walking in this World. It explores the value walking has on Cameron’s own creativity and offers new strategies and techniques for creative breakthrough.

Cameron’s first book, The Artist’s Way, is a seminal handbook for all seeking insight and tools on how to develop their creative potential.

What are you still sitting there? Put down that phone and get on up!

Mistakes

Mistakes are an essential element of creating. It’s not a question of ‘doing it wrong’. It’s a question of observing, playing, experimenting, analyzing, visioning, trying things out, trying ideas on. It’s about learning.

If you’re not making mistakes, then you are not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.

John Wooden, Basketball Coach

Mistakes are the arrows painted on the road to a creative destination.

Managers, hear me now…

‘If you are not willing to allow your team to take the ride, don’t expect them to arrive. You may get somewhere. And, it may be somewhere that moves you ‘closer’. But, you will likely be disappointed in the final result if you are expecting your team to innovate, discover or create anew without making any mistakes. Columbus told his Queen that he’d reached the East Indies….

Walk with me:

You are a child. You are playing ‘kitchen’ or ‘toolshed’ or ‘bikes’ or something. Let’s just say it’s ‘kitchen’.

You have the Bake-It-Easier-Than-Mom oven going. Your little table is set and your siblings are seated and waiting. You’ve whipped up your first little chocolate brownie cake and everyone hears the ‘ding’ that lets everyone know that the baking is done. Mouths are watering.

Excited, you open the little door and take the ‘cake’ out. It looks a little grey on one side, but hey, it’s a cake and you made it! You break it into pieces, pass the plates, and everyone takes a bite. Your youngest sibling get’s an awful look on his face as the older one let’s out a ‘eewwww’. You are crestfallen.

You try to recover your baker confidence as Mom helps you determine that maybe you didn’t stir the ingredients enough. The sibs were getting a big mouthful of salt or baking powder. Round two …

Now, let’s say you are the first to try making a cake

Let’s say you are the first person in the world, ever, to make a cake. Since no one has made one before, no one knows what it’s supposed to taste like or what happens when you don’t stir the batter enough. Your first result is just as unappetizing. Except, this time your whole village is disappointed. You decide, “It didn’t work. I’m quitting.”

No cake for the world because you quit. On the upside, maybe the world is a little slimmer, but really, no cake?

Or, the boss of the first cake-maker

Let’s say you were the boss of the first person who ever made a cake. They failed and it was pretty bad for business. You said, “That’s it. It doesn’t work. No more messing with this cake thing. It’s a waste of resources.”

No cake for the world because you put on the brakes?

Your competition

Your competition across the lane may just keep at it. They may begin to understand the problems and figure out the solutions, after one-hundred or so mistakes, and they actually invent the cake. It works. People don’t just like it, they love it! They love cake and they aren’t going back. They love the baker for making it. They buy that baker’s bread and muffins and pies, too. That baker probably agreed with Thomas Edison, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” Until, they found the one that did.

That baker now knows a lot about cake. You know what that means – interviews, articles, guest speaker engagements, a prime spot in the culinary history books. Probably a picture, too.

I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.

Thomas Edison

(Sometimes a mistake isn’t a mistake)

Sometimes, it’s not about getting it wrong. Sometimes it’s about timing, or being in sync with people’s current needs, expectations, or knowledge about what you are going for and what it will do for them.

For example, I learned as an actress that if you thought a perfect, mistake-free audition was going to get you the part, you would be in for a lot of disappointment. The casting director could want a blonde and you are brunette, or they’d want someone more like her … or him … and you weren’t.

Or, they want the cake to be vanilla and you made chocolate. Or, they want the widget to be fireproof and you made it flammable. Or, they want the ad copy to reach 15-25 year olds and you wrote really great copy for 25-50 year olds. Get the picture?

So, make room for mistakes, misunderstandings, surprises.

Plan for them. Create a timetable that accommodate mistakes and setbacks.

Make sure your team knows that you expect mistakes. That you want mistakes and the work-product – the knowledge and understanding – that comes from them. Who knows how that will give back in the future?

Be prepared. As you communicate your openness to mistakes, your team will make them and watch to see if you mean what you say. Mean it. Then watch the energy flow. As they believe that you’ve truly given them the freedom to create, to innovate, they redouble their focus, efforts, and creative thought with abandon and then, you are on your way. You grow a confident team that surprises you and themselves in ways none of us can imagine. You take us all places we haven’t been yet.

That’s what mistakes are really good for. Not just the learning they produce, but the creative freedom they bring when they are an expected part of the process.

If you are about having your innovation cake and eating it, too, mistakes are part of the recipe.

If the work is creating ’new’ … a new dish, script, program, painting, system, procedure, technique, company, song, fragrance, answer, question, a new solution, …

… people are going to be making mistakes.

That’s part of the fun 😉