Why Creativity For Work?

Why should you care about bringing more creativity into the workplace? Don’t you need people to just get stuff done, without daydreaming? Well, yes, stuff does need to get done, and also there are good reasons to bring in more creativity.

In my workshop last weekend I spent a lot of time on creativity games that help exercise the creativity muscle. Just like any other skill, the more you practice it, the better you get at it. We covered a lot of ground, but today I want to tell you about one game.

I have a game called Disruptus in which you draw different picture cards and then do one of four things with them: 1) improve on what’s pictured; 2) use what’s pictured in a new way; 3) come up with a new way to do what’s pictured; or 4) take elements from two pictures and combine them to make something new. I find that some answers aren’t that exciting, but sometimes something great happens. For example, I had to improve on the weight machines at a gym. Now, I think using weight machines at the gym are a combination of boredom and pain, with a bit of humiliation thrown in. But I had to improve on them so – what if each machine were enclosed in a pod, and there was a video game you could play by using the weight machine? No one has to see you do it, you get to do something fun, and focus on something other than how much it hurts. I’d totally try that gym!

The thing about creativity is that sometimes it doesn’t give you exactly what you’re looking for. I mean, I’m not in the business of making games or opening gyms, so for me that business idea won’t get me far. But it sure could make someone a lot of money! And the more I stretch my brain like that, the more ideas I can get that might actually help me in my own business.

If you were to do this sort of game at work, you could use the boxed game Disruptus. But you could also brainstorm a list of things at work and use those instead. Sometimes having a custom made game works better.

(Many years ago, my then boyfriend now husband and I wanted to play the game Scattergories. But we didn’t want to pay $40 for it, and besides, we didn’t like all of their categories to begin with. We knew nothing about sports, for example. So we brainstormed a whole bunch of categories, and came up with some that were a lot more fun, like “things to do when you’re bored” and “jobs you’d be ashamed to tell your mother you do” and used Scrabble letters to pick from. Now when we play, we pick a letter and about a dozen categories, and try to come up with a word that starts with that letter in each category – and we know we won’t have to come up with any sports teams or players.)

What could you come up with if you started slowly, like “how can you improve on the soap dispenser in the bathroom?” and moved up to “what is a new way to deliver our product to our customers?” Not every answer will be useful, but sometimes even the crazy ones have something of merit to them. After all, once the concept of drones delivering items was impossible. So were self-driving cars. You never know what possibilities you might find in a game like this!

How can you see yourself bringing this sort of creativity game into your workplace? Can you set up a place where there is no wrong answer, and everyone’s crazy ideas are celebrated? I’d love to hear your own approaches to stretching your creativity for work.

The Pace Of Growth

It pulls me in over and over again – the promise that this time, big change is coming. Exponential growth in your business! Huge breakthroughs in your personal life! I sign up, fork over the money – and experience incremental growth.

Clicker Heroes Cost orange and Rate blue of Treebeard leveling

I get upset by this. Look at those other people! They just took off and now they’re doing great! Why am I only a fraction of an inch closer to my goals now? My husband looks at my progress and says “That class didn’t work.” Then I get defensive and tell him what progress I did make, and how important it is, even though it’s not what I told him I’d get out of the money and time and energy I invested.

What I’ve come to realize though, is this: incremental growth, over time, is incredibly powerful. I don’t feel like I’m making a leap of faith now, I feel like my feet are planted firmly on the ground. And the ground has been built up over years of work, so I can trust it and believe it’s going to stay that way.

My mentor Jesse (check out Thrive and if you go, tell them Talia sent you!) says that a one degree shift can change your destination by hundreds of miles. If you leave San Francisco going east, and shift one degree north or south, where you hit the east coast will be drastically different. You don’t need to make a huge change to get a huge result over time. That difference might not be visible right away, but three thousand miles later you’re not where you would have been.

I feel like all my classes, all my breakthroughs, all my progress, have given me one degree shifts. Sometimes less! My husband looks at my business and doesn’t see the cash rolling in, and thinks nothing has changed. I see a difference, but it’s subtle. And it takes another shift, and another, and another, each one nudging me further, to have me facing the direction where I can really thrive.

All this leaves me afraid to promise too much from my own classes. I don’t want to tell you that you will experience a huge breakthrough, or be 100 times more confident when you’re done. I do believe that I can offer you a number of one degree shifts. When you’re done working with me, you won’t be in the same place you started. I’m not the only one who can help you, and over time you should work with lots of different people to get all of their viewpoints. And, I think I should be one of the ones you consider!

I’m offering a couple of workshops next month on Talking In Circles: The Art of Speaking Up In Groups. They are April 7 and 21, both in the SF Bay Area. You can get more info and register at eventbrite.

Please visit my web site if you are interested in working with me one-on-one, with your team, or in a group program. They are all powerful and fun ways to make these shifts. I’d love to talk to you about what we can do together!

The Myths Around Self Care

Advertisers would like you to think that self care means buying bath salts or scented candles. Or maybe buying a cruise, or a vacation to play golf. I’m not saying these things can’t be ways to take care of oneself, but I’m stating that these are not the only, or even the most important, ways to take care of oneself.

I certainly think it can be lovely to take the time to unwind in a scented bath with scented candles and music or a book from Audible playing. When my muscles are all sore and I need to find a way to let them let go, a hot bath can be just the thing. I don’t, however, think this a daily need.

Self care means, at least to me, that I get exercise every day. That I eat nutritious food at least some of the time, drink enough water, get enough sleep. That I schedule in shopping at the farmer’s market, and cooking for the family. Self care is listening to my body and resting when I need to rest, being active when I need to move, speaking my truth when I need to be heard, and shutting up when I need to listen.

This type of self care isn’t very sexy, although advertisers are trying to find ways to make money off of healthy food and exercise and water, too.

And then, my mentor Jesse from Thrive Academy (see Thrive) said something that really struck me. You know those things you do that waste time every day? The things you do when you don’t wanna do what you need to do? Apparently, it can be self care to schedule some of that in, too.

What he actually said was something more along the lines of this: When you are out of alignment, not doing your work, not showing up as your best self, what do you give yourself permission to do? Do you get to stay in bed all day? Read trashy novels? Watch Netflix and eat popcorn? What if that payoff makes it extra hard to show up as your best self, because you want that guilty pleasure so much? If you can schedule some of that into your day, it will reduce the thrill of the forbidden and give you some of what you crave. That makes your day more fun, and helps you be more aligned.

For me, bubble bath is fun but I live in a drought-ravaged state, so I don’t want to indulge too often. But I love to read. I always reach a place, either late afternoon, or in the evening, when I just can’t think in a business way any more. I used to feel terribly guilty about not continuing to plow ahead. This ended up looking like sitting in front of my computer reading Facebook, or occasionally reading an email, or like overeating while I berated myself for not having the energy I needed. Now, I can sit and enjoy reading a book for a while, knowing I’m doing what I need to do to support myself, using my scheduled self-care time, and not feeling guilty at all.

Do you know how much energy guilt takes?

I’d like to challenge you to try this for a week. Instead of feeling guilty for what you’re not doing, give yourself permission to take a break and do something you want to do for a while. Something that lets you rest, or gives you energy. See if you can feel smug for using your self-care time well, rather than guilty for not working harder. And see if you get more or less done this way. Are you afraid you’ll never get back to work if you ever take a break? You might find your work is easier and you’re more rested if you take the time to rest!

And then let me know how it goes. I’d like to add this into my group program and I’d love some feedback from all of you!

Alignment

Comic character wearing a business suit by anarres

Comic character wearing a business suit By

Do you ever worry about how you come across to people? People say things like “you never have a second chance to make a first impression” and I worry that people will judge me on how I look. Do I need to dress more professionally? Is it acceptable to have purple hair? Will anyone take me seriously if I look young?

Then there’s the other side of the coin. If I don’t have purple hair, am I being true to my creative and bold self? I am young, and I have valuable knowledge and experience to share, can I hold both of these things at the same time? I am gay/bi/trans/queer/straight ally/asexual/poly – what happens to my identity and personal sense of integrity if I hide that?

All of these sides are valid. People want to do business with professionals, and so we do need to look the part enough to inspire confidence in others. And people want to do business with people who are genuine, and so we need to be true enough to ourselves to show our integrity. This can be a difficult line to walk.

Fortunately, when you work with the same people over time, you don’t have to hit the exact right line every day. You can be more on one side or the other from day to day, and the over all impression will still have you looking both professional and aligned. It’s harder when you are meeting someone for the first time, and you want to show all these sides at once.

I am coming more and more to believe that being aligned with oneself is more important than fitting a cultural norm. When I try to fit in the way I think I’m supposed to, I can do it, and sometimes even get a thrill from knowing I dressed exactly right for the occasion. Still, the relief I feel when I stop trying to fit in to someone else’s space and instead create a Talia shaped space is palpable. Everything seems to flow a bit better. The things that seemed so difficult suddenly seem easier and more enjoyable.

For an example – I have decided to start holding seminars and group programs that are just what I want them to be, not things that are designed to catch the eye of corporate bigwigs. If I am found by corporations that’s not a bad thing, I still want to work with corporate teams, but I desperately want to help people stand up for themselves and find their own personal courage and strength. I don’t need to wait until a corporation hires me to help individuals speak up in their lives.

I am looking for workshop space in the SF Bay Area to hold half-day seminars for 10-20 people at a time. I’d love to start a group program this spring, if I can get enough people who are interested. How would your life change if you didn’t feel afraid to be yourself at work? How would your life feel different if you had the courage to say what you really think? The world needs your voice, and I would love to help you strengthen yours.

Seminar Flyer 01

Strengths

How would you grow more – by taking what you’re good at, and getting better, or by taking what you’re bad at, and trying to get better? I may have given it away by that word “trying.” The truth is, we can grow from decent, to good, to excellent, to extraordinary in the things aligned with our strengths, but we will never get more than adequate in the things that are not.

I found the book Now, Discover Your Strengths years ago, but never took the strengths-finder test. I unearthed it recently, and have been re-reading it. I took the on-line test as well. According to the Clifton Strengths Finder, my top five strengths are Input, Empathy, Connectedness, Maximizer, and Communication. I’m not sure that Input and Maximizer are my top traits, but I would include Inclusiveness to the list, and maybe Relator.

Not surprisingly, my strengths all focus around connecting to other people. I feel what they feel, make them feel welcome, and find ways to talk to all sorts of people. It’s why I want to do LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® to help groups be more connected and understand each other better. It’s why I want to start a community focused on play and creativity and acceptance of oneself and others. I feel more alive, more focused, more creative, more joyful, and more worthwhile when I’m in relationship with another person.

This also explains why data entry is so deadly boring for me. I can muscle through some things that I need to do in isolation and that are boring, but after a while I can’t any more. Unless I can carry on a conversation with someone else also doing the boring work, I hate it.

I think our society is much more focused on “fixing” peoples’ weaknesses than on strengthening their strengths. When I was looking at schools for my 2e son, I found that public schools can help him in the places he’s behind, but can do nothing for the places he’s ahead. (It’s the nature of 2e kids to be asynchronous in their development, so he’s both ahead and behind.) You know what this would do to him? It would make him feel inadequate, stupid, unwanted, and broken. I have him at a school that focuses on strengths instead of weaknesses, and he feels smart, capable, wanted, and creative. He’s excited to learn, capable of finding ways to cope when he’s bored (mostly – he’s 11, after all), and wants to share what he knows with others. Would he feel all that if he were in an environment telling him that he should be able to write better by now, why doesn’t he know his times tables by heart, he can’t go out to recess until he focuses and finishes that assignment?

Likewise at work, will you get the best from your employees if you tell them they need to get better at the things that are difficult for them, and shame them for not doing better? It’s much more likely that they will be thrilled when you acknowledge them for the things they do well, and that they will be delighted to grow and thrive in those areas. You will get way more engagement, agreement, and productivity from people who get to work in their genius zones.

It seems like a lot of us don’t value the things we do well, because they come so easily to us. It’s like a thing can’t have any value if we don’t work hard to get it. Besides, if I can do it so easily, can’t everyone? We don’t seem to realize that no one else does it just like us, and that most people don’t do it at all.

It can be difficult to uncover what it is that we do well and easily, especially if we think it doesn’t matter or can’t be turned into a paying occupation. I took a class some years ago by the authors of Inside Job: 8 Secrets to Loving Your Work and Thriving and they said something very similar. They helped me figure out that play and creativity, and bringing people together, are things I do anyway, regardless of where I am, so if I can get paid for that it will be much easier than other jobs would be.

So today, I challenge you to notice something that you do easily and well. What do you do as easily as breathing? Look at your family and co-workers. What strengths do they have? Acknowledge someone for what they innately bring to the table. And help them play to their strengths.

Archetypes

I was on a group mentoring call talking about archetypes as a way of thinking about an issue. The archetypes in this case were: Warrior; Sovereign; Shaman; Lover. I thought this was an interesting tool to use.

Image result for archetypes

 

I started out thinking about how these archetypes functioned in my life in the realm of exercise. The Warrior part of me wants to exercise to be strong; the Sovereign wants me to be healthy; the Shaman enjoys my walks because I can commune with nature, watch the sun rise, listen to the birds, talk to trees, and feed my spiritual aspect; the Lover enjoys the feeling of being healthy and the joy of movement. When I only worked out of the first two, I didn’t exercise much, since it felt like punishment. ‘I must exercise to be healthy but it doesn’t feel good so I want to avoid it.’ It was only when I found the ways that it felt good that I started doing it every day.

My husband is an artist. He needs to draw and paint to feel joy and contentment. So when he spends all his time in his office using Photoshop, he doesn’t feel like he’s working super hard and struggling, he’s doing what he loves. I have looked at him on the computer for hours during the day, and then going back after dinner, and felt entirely inadequate. I can’t focus on my computer that long! But for me, computer time is much more on the side of doing what I should, not what I love. I find joy elsewhere. So it’s not a fair comparison.

I think it’s interesting to apply these archetypes to work, too. Is there a place in your work where you feel joy, or pleasure? Is there a time when you feel connection to something larger? Or is it all about getting ahead and working harder? I think there is a place for a strong warrior and sovereign, so that the right things get worked on, and the work is focused and intent. But if there is no lightness, no connection with something larger, then it feels more like punishment than a cause to work for.

This may explain part of the Gallup numbers saying that only 33% of American workers are fully engaged at work. If work is punishment, I’d want to leave early too! When I have to spend hours working on things I don’t enjoy, I’m not working at my greatest potential, I’m less likely to have the energy to help others, and I want to stop as soon as possible.

So here is the million dollar question – how can you help your employees find pleasure, connection, meaning, and joy from their work?

I’m reading a book about finding your strengths, so I may have more to say in next week’s blog. However, for today, I need to say – it depends. It depends on the things that light up your employees. It depends on what they enjoy, and where they look for meaning. But I can give you a few generalities:

  1. Explain the Why. When you tell someone to make 100 phone calls a day, they might rebel. But if you talk about the goals of the organization, and how this effort can help reach the goals, they may be more inclined to put in extra effort and time. Knowing how each person’s part plays into the bigger picture can help people feel like they are creating something bigger than themselves, which can be inspiring.

  2. Listen to the People on the Front Lines. Just as they say no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy, the people who are implementing your plan are the first ones to see how and where it doesn’t work. You need to know this! Also, they need to be heard. So pay attention! People won’t keep speaking up if you don’t listen the first time.

  3. Build Up Your Team. Make sure people know each other, and feel comfortable around each other. Make sure your team knows how to support each other, how to help each other, and that everyone has everyone’s back. Make sure people feel comfortable showing up as their full selves. If someone doesn’t feel welcomed, they won’t put out any extra effort for the group.

In other words, find ways to engage all the archetypes. Help people feel connected, feel wanted, feel part of something they can be proud of. Otherwise, all you get is minimal effort from one part of your workers.

What the Business World can Learn from the Black Panther

So many super hero movies make the bad guy very evil, and the good guy very good, so there’s no question of who you should root for. I thought the movie Black Panther (yes, there will be spoilers, so if you haven’t seen it yet, you might want to wait to read this) did a great job of making the bad guy very understandable.

I’m going to digress for a moment so no spoilers will show up in the beginning of this article. I was reading some Dale Carnegie (How to Win Friends & Influence People, originally published in 1936) the other day, and his very first chapter is about how people we consider the bad guys consider themselves good guys. Apparently a then-famous bad guy called “Two Gun” Crowley shot a police officer for asking for his drivers license, but Crowley wrote in a letter “Under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one – one that would do nobody any harm.” Carnegie’s point is that no one blames themselves, no one sees themselves as the bad guy. Crowley thought he was defending himself, even though to the rest of the world his actions looked reprehensible.

Likewise, Erik Killmonger in Black Panther believed he was doing the right thing. There is no question that there are Black people across the world being treated poorly. He believed that having better weapons would allow these oppressed people to rise up and destroy their oppressors, allowing them to be fully free. In fact, everyone loves a story of how the oppressed win freedom from the mean bullies in power – look at Star Wars. Everyone believes they are Luke Skywalker, no one thinks they are Darth Vader.

The thing is, how you do a thing matters. Giving people freedom is an important goal. Doing it in a way that kills people is not ideal. Killmonger wants to fight partly because his father was killed when he was a child – but now he’s lost his humanity. He is fighting because his heart was broken, but he’s willing to kill his girlfriend, his allies, his cousin, anyone standing in the way of his goal. In fact, it looks like he would end up as a dictator, rather than providing people more freedom.

The thing is, Killmonger wasn’t entirely wrong. He was right that there are people who need help, that he could help. He was right that Wakanda was standing by and doing nothing, even though they had resources available to help.

What would have happened if T’Challa dug in his heels and said it’s my way or no way? There could have been a victory, but it would have been hollow. It would have been two strong forces fighting to see who was mightier, with many more dead, and with no heart, no humanity left. But that’s not how the story ended. Instead, the king realized there was validity to his opponent’s views, and there was a way to incorporate Killmonger’s desire to help his people with T’Challa’s desire to protect his people. This was a much more satisfactory ending, because the promise was that many more people would be helped without killing others, and in the end heart and humanity matter as ways to be in the world.

That brings me to business. You knew I was going to get here eventually, right? I see many people in business trying to defend their ideas, unwilling to admit that their opponents might have some good ideas too. What happens? People nurse grudges, like Erik Killmonger, until they are strong enough to fight back. Or, people work against the goals of their organizations, like Okoye was helping the women escape from their captors in the beginning of the movie. (According to Gallup, 17% of American workers are working against their employers’ interests.) And instead of coming up with the best ideas, people fight for their way until there’s no one left to fight.

T’Challa had to change what his father had done, and his father before him, for generations – he had to open Wakanda to the rest of the world. This was not a popular choice. But it allowed him to accommodate the desires of Okoye, and Killmonger, and others who felt Wakanda wasn’t doing enough to help other Black people around the world. He had to be willing to stand for his belief that leading with heart was as important as protecting the country his ancestors had founded and kept safe from the world – and he did it because he knew they were strong enough to protect themselves should anyone want to take over. It wasn’t only heart, and it wasn’t only muscle, it was a combination using the best of both.

Do you as a leader listen to your people? Do you listen to your heart? Do you always do what has always been done, or are you willing to hear new ways? Can you be flexible and humble enough to incorporate new ideas into your own? I see T’Challa as a hero, not for being able to fight and survive, but for being able to find a path that can give everyone what they really want – a way to help the people who need help while staying whole themselves.

I haven’t given myself a plug lately – if you need help listening to your people, please contact me. I can help you be a hero too, without bloodshed and without revolution. I don’t have a heart shaped herb, but I do have tools that can incorporate all of your peoples’ good ideas, which leads to happier, more productive people, and better ideas to bring into the world.