The Creativity Challenge

When was the last time you were truly creative? And we’re not talking about how you were able to embed your Twitter feed on a website page. When did you last have that breakthrough, new idea that became reality and helped transform the way you do business?

Most industrial marketers are probably saying, “who has the time to be that creative?” We may focus more on the day-to-day tasks – posting our blog entries to Facebook, proofreading our latest press release and scheduling our next email campaign. Often, we’ll make small changes. We send our press releases at a different time to get more pick-ups, tweak our email subject lines for a higher open rate and change how we phrase of our social media entries to be more engaging.

But where is that new discovery or innovation?

Tina Seelig is the author of inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity and holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Stanford University Medical School. She recently gave a brief Q&A to Dan Scawbel of Forbes and addressed the creativity issue.

Generating fresh ideas is actually quite challenging because most people find it difficult to get beyond obvious, incremental solutions. True creativity requires the ability to break new ground, opening up a world of possibilities.

The good news is that Seelig believes that you can develop your creative abilities just like you can take lessons to dance more gracefully or practice shooting a basketball more accurately. While creative skills can be mastered, Seelig says your surrounding work environment, including your colleagues, also plays a significant role.

Creativity needs to develop from the bottom up and from the top down in organizations because it is a characteristic of individuals, small teams, and large groups. Each person needs the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required to generate new ideas. And, individuals need to be embedded in teams and organizations that support, encourage, and foster creative problem solving. Without a creative culture, individual creativity withers. And, without creative individuals, a creative culture can’t thrive.

Do you feel creativity thrives in your workplace? How do you foster a creative culture at work? Read the article and let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.


Taking Risks

I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it. ~Thomas Jefferson

Trying and failing seem to be a common theme these days, but they aren’t new concepts.

Last week, Josh Linkner wrote “The Dirty Little Secret Of Overnight Successes.” It’s no secret that success takes hard work, but in a time of instant news via social media networks, email and the Internet, it can be easy to forget. Additionally, this article reiterates the importance of failing and being willing to take risks. Innovative companies know this, and encourage it. Late last year, Jeff Stibel wrote about his hiring philosophy in “Why I Hire People Who Fail.”

This week’s Harvard Business Review has a video from Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s explaining how risks are required for customer satisfaction.

Risks are inherent in attempting anything. If you try, you risk failing. And that isn’t a bad thing. Because if you don’t fail, chances are really good you aren’t trying hard enough. This is something I heard all winter, every time I fell while skiing (and trust me, I fell a lot this winter). We all fell down when we first tried to ride a bike, right? So why should we be surprised if we fall down when we try something new at work?

If nothing else, our failures teach us what not to do, so the next time we know where to start. It’s easy to play it safe, and it doesn’t mean your projects won’t succeed. However they may not be as successful as they could be.

So, where are you willing to take risks? Have you fallen down recently?

Marketing, General Productivity

One Task at a Time

Industrial marketers will likely find these words ringing true:

“It’s not just the number of hours we’re working, but also the fact that we spend too many continuous hours juggling too many things at the same time.”

That quote is from an excellent blog post by Tony Schwartz, president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of Be Excellent at Anything, on the HBR Blog Network. As marketers we understand.

The explosion of different avenues to generate awareness and demand for your products and services and engagement with your target audiences has you running in many different directions.

You’re likely managing your website, social media, e-mail marketing, GlobalSpec program, print collateral, trade show support, advertising and sales team support. You may also be producing videos, product fact sheets, client testimonials, white papers and more. You’re also trying to stay current on whatever new is coming down the pike (how is your company’s Pinterest page coming along?) and whether there’s another initiative to undertake. Then you need to find the time to analyze your current campaigns, plan for upcoming endeavors and develop long-term strategies.

Technology is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to the juggling act. We can check email and social media 24/7, work from home and take our laptops or tablets virtually anywhere with a wireless connection. We reply to emails during meetings and the kids’ soccer games, eat lunch at our desks and make calls on the commute to work. Does that make us more productive or place us on the fast track to exhaustion? According to Schwartz it’s both.

“The biggest cost — assuming you don’t crash — is to your productivity. In part, that’s a simple consequence of splitting your attention, so that you’re partially engaged in multiple activities but rarely fully engaged in any one. In part, it’s because when you switch away from a primary task to do something else, you’re increasing the time it takes to finish that task by an average of 25 per cent.”

So how do you slow down this multi-tasking train to Burnt Out City? Schwartz offers three policies for managers to promote and three steps individuals can take to be more productive.

Read the blog post and let us know what you think in the comments section below. Is it possible to set clear boundaries for work and play? Can you reduce the time you spend multi-tasking? Is this the way to be more productive?