August 23, 2011
Do any of these give you a tingle in your gut?
- You walk into an art shop and see the colourful rows of paint tubes begging to be squeezed onto a palette, the soft, alluring brushes displayed from large to small, and canvases of all sizes screaming to be painted upon. You want to handle the materials and begin to imagine what you could create with them.
- You walk into a hardware shop and see the aisles of hammers, screwdrivers and socket sets; solid and chunky and purposeful. You imagine what it feels like to cut wood with that new circular saw on display.
- You walk into an Asian supermarket and see the rows of wonderful sauces, the colourful packages of exotic snacks and tasty treats; you smell spices and marinades and begin to wonder what you would do with some of these tantalising ingredients.
- You walk into a stationer’s shop….or…. a bookshop….or….an automotive shop….or….a camera shop….or….
Feel that tingle? Know what that is? That’s you, warming up to your innate creative genius. You think about going into one of these establishments and, depending on whether you are interested in art or cooking or DIY, you begin to warm up to your creativity.
Now, I know I’ve said before that nothing is innate. I lied.
In case you missed this blogpost from May, I’m coming out of the closet and declaring my fervent and absolute conviction that we are all born creative geniuses. Jakob Moreno saw that the universe is infinite creativity and said that we are creative purely because we were born in the universe; creativity itself therefore resides within us. By creativity, I’m referring to the thing that assists us to problem-solve in our lives; the thing that drives us to innovate and find new and better ways to do things, whether at home at work or anywhere else; the thing that sparks a new strategy; the thing that helps us plan a dinner party or a birthday surprise; and yes, also the thing that artists call on when they are creating. I want to stress, however, that creativity is not the preserve of artists. It is applicable to all people in all areas of life: our work, our relationships, our hobbies and interests, our families, our ‘quotidiana’.
So why do some folks seem to ooze creativity while others struggle to tap into it?
And if we are all so creative, where, then, are all these new leaders? These new artists? These new theorists? These new ….?
They are all around us. Moreno suggested that there are many more Michelangelos than the one who painted in the Sistine Chapel and many more Beethovens than the one who composed all those symphonies. They abound. We are all born creative geniuses, but we must warm up to our spontaneity.
So what’s the difference between people who seem highly creative and those who aren’t?
I just said it. Spontaneity.
Dr. Moreno called creativity the arch-substance in the cosmos, and spontaneity the arch-catalyst. We need spontaneity to set our creativity alight.
At its root, spontaneity means “of the self” or “of the will”. Developing the habit of spontaneity is perhaps equated somewhat with the current flavour of the month, ‘becoming authentic’. It is about being ourselves and bringing all of ourselves to our lives. What it is not, is impulsivity, for spontaneity has built within it, appropriacy and awareness of a wider system. Being spontaneous is coming up with the best possible or most adequate response to a brand new situation in life, or to coming up with a novel response to an old situation. It involves being as truly awake to the present moment as possible. And being response-able.
What gets in the way of our spontaneity?
We do, of course, or rather, it is our fear, our anxiety, our unpreparedness that gets in the way. We are poorly warmed up, we are subject to memories and emotions related to past events, we get afraid of the future and what we might create. We fear our spontaneity. In fact, Moreno goes as far as to say that we humans will fear our spontaneity until we learn how to train it.
Our fear causes us to be at a loss with all our creativity. Because we don’t warm up to our spontaneity well, our creativity is dulled.
Isn’t spontaneity training a contradiction in terms?
Not at all. We can learn to warm up to our spontaneity. It is a state of being. Warming up is the operational expression of spontaneity. This is about learning to know ourselves and learning how to warm up to the unexpected. Many police training and airline cabin crew training programmes see spontaneity training as central to learning how to deal with crises and emergencies.
Learning, even, if not especially, in the workplace, is not just about inducing and consolidating new habits of behaviour; it is about training and developing humans to the habit of spontaneity; to being in the spontaneity state so that they have full command of themselves. This will allow people to be much more resource-full and versatile in the myriad of situations that life presents us with; both the more predictable, repetitive situations as well as the novel, unexpected ones. ’Goose step’ learning, where the learners rehearse and they are meticulously drilled, may result in great precision in carrying out tasks, but a minimum of spontaneity for anything else which might occur unexpectedly.
- Where in your life could you afford to bring greater spontaneity? With your senior leadership team? With your children? With your most challenging staff member?
- Where could you learn to ‘warm up’ differently so that you come up with more creative (and therefore, satisfying) responses to your world? With your staff? With your partner? With your customers?
- Where in your life would you like to apply greater plasticity and innovation? In your workplace relationships? In your personal relationships? In the systems and processes you apply at work? While you are exploring staff retention and engagement strategies?
When we are spontaneous, we are not fear-full, anxious or self-conscious. We are more satisfied. We are freer. Our creativity flows through us with ease.
So whether it’s called ‘Leadership Development’ or it’s helping managers to have challenging conversations more effectively, the work is, in essence, developing spontaneity, and therefore, increased effectiveness, innovativeness, freedom and satisfaction at work.
There. I’ve said it. I’m out.
I’ll leave the final words to Dr. Moreno: ”The fate of a culture is decided by the creativity of its carriers.” If that wasn’t an exhortation for us to train our spontaneity and learn how to warm up more effectively, I don’t know what is.
May 23, 2011
Most of us have had moments in our working lives when we don’t live up to our own expectations.
*Think of the manager who is unnecessarily harsh in a performance appraisal when she intended to be encouraging and motivating.
*Think of how we prematurely reject new ideas from others when we intend to be inclusive and open to creativity.
*Think of how we escalate a conflict situation with a co-worker when we intend to reach resolution.
As Homer Simpson would say…. DOH! We take ourselves by surprise……and when we go away and reflect on our behaviour, we wish the floor would open up and swallow us or there was a rock to crawl under. For some time afterwards, we cringe whenever we think of it and berate ourselves saying, “What was I thinking? I can do better than that!” We certainly don’t entertain the possibility that there was anything good in what we did.
And yet, even in those very worst of working moments there is the seed of something good, if we take the time to find it. No matter how small: an intention; a positive attitude; a good opening line; a calm demeanour; there will be something that we already do well, and that we can build on as we learn how to get the whole performance we are looking for. I know what you are thinking: “What a bunch of new age, PC nonsense! It’s this sort of thinking that is sending the economy to the dogs!”
However, to fail to recognise strengths is akin to throwing the baby out with the bath water. It is demoralising, demotivating and just plain false to think we have to start right from the beginning again. As Dr. Max Clayton states, “…there tends to be an over-emphasis on the inadequacies of people….When people become aware of what is (good) in their functioning,…problematic areas of their life become easier to manage.”
Learning how to shift a behaviour or attitude in ourselves, therefore, is most effectively done using a strengths-based learning approach. A strengths–based approach to learning is simply one that builds on what you already can do: your current talents and capabilities are the spring board that takes you from good to great. Common sense you might say, and yet really, how common is it?
So why not focus on what is working, rather than on what is not?
At Quantum Shift, a strengths-based approach is inherent in the methodology we use. At the heart of the method is the premise that each of us has within us the role of the creative genius; the seed or potential to respond creatively and appropriately to any situation we experience. As we grow up, we use our creative genius to work out how we will respond to the challenges life brings and we develop a whole range or repertoire of other roles in support; and we continue to do this until the day we die. Our ability to respond well across many contexts and situations is dependent on the roles we have at our disposal; and because we develop our role repertoire directly by experience, this means every experience is a learning opportunity, a chance to grow our role repertoire.
Below is a simple method you can use to help you learn and build on the strengths you have already developed. This exercise is always easier if you can enlist someone to help you out. Bring to mind a recent interaction or conversation with another person at work, where you would like to have done it differently (or better). Re-enact this specific incident or moment with your ‘helper’, so they get to see and experience what occurred even if it is only from your perspective. Remember it is YOUR performance that is at the heart of matter, so what YOU did is the key to the situation.
FIRSTLY, ask the question: What did I do well? It is all too easy to go to what you did badly, but it is essential to start with what went well. This is where the other person is invaluable as they are more dispassionate and therefore more likely to see the good as well as the bad. List everything you can observe, no matter how small; you are building your self-awareness as you do this.
SECONDLY, ask: What did I do too much of? Sometimes we do things so well that they become habitual or overly comfortable default settings, and we over-use them, at the expense of other things that might get us the outcome we are looking for. There is nothing inherently ‘wrong’ in what we did, but we over-used it to the point that it got in the way of an ideal outcome.
THIRDLY, ask: What could I have done more of? What other things could I also have done in this moment that would have got the outcome I wanted? What resource within myself did I under-use?
Making this analysis is vital in order to develop a new behaviour or attitude. Reflecting in this way allows us to free up our creative genius and grow something new from what we already have and who we already are.