Are You Limited by Your Own Creativity (Which used to work earlier but now not)?

Though it brings rewards in the end, most of us are afraid of challenging our own thought-patterns as if it were an invasive brain surgery.

We’re designed this way, right?

Wrong.

But yes, we’re conditioned this way.

A few weeks ago I had a discussion with one of my friends who shares a rare frequency and runs a successful design firm.

We talked about building the business, creating A-list teams and providing A-class customer service.

He was discussing with me about customer feedback: designers working with his firm were otherwise very good but lacked innovation. He said that it was true for even their Chief Designer who had experience as little as 18 years in the design industry.

The conclusion was to hire a fresh (but brilliant) design graduate whose job would be to passionately challenge each one of the designs that the design team comes up with.

Last week, I met my friend again to hear the good news that his customer is very happy with the recent design innovations that his team produced.

It worked like a charm. Why?

Because the beginning of the end of any great endowment is: “Falling in love with your own creation”.

Sure, you’ve to believe in yourself, your vision and your abilities. But, at the same time, following the same way of thinking just because that’s the way you’ve always done it, is the sure-fire way to attract devolution at the lightning speed.

The decision of bringing in fresh talent to challenge generated healthy conflict. The conflict was to challenge their designers’ fixed way of being and to ensure that the best comes out in the end.

Sometimes, it’s better to have someone in your team who has eyes to look at the things from a fresh lens.  Maybe it’s good to have ‘No, but, can we not…?’ kind of people rather than yes-men.

Navigate Without a Map

When the performance appraisal happens, and one colleague is promoted,  many of his co-workers don’t feel good. They compare themselves with him and conclude that their boss favors only who flatters her. Always, that may not be the case. For example, read the below story called Navigate Without a Map.

Navigate Without A Map

Background
Peter and Scott – both joined the company on the same day as Analyst Programmers. Both were coming from different background but had two qualities in common. Both were hard-working and committed to their work.

Promotion of Peter
After a couple of years Peter was promoted as a Lead Programmer while Scott did not get the promotion. Scott got upset with this, drafted the resignation letter and went to Stella, his Department Manager. He complained that Stella does not value hardworking staff and promotes only who blandishes her.

The difference
Stella knew that Scott also worked hard for past two years but she had a point to address and make Scott realize the difference between him and Peter.

So, she discussed a scenario with Scott, “While working as a dedicated developer with an offshore client, if you reach a limbo stage when there is no work for couple of weeks. How’d you proceed?”

“I’d call the client and ask for the work”, was Scott’s reply.

Stella explained further, “The client responded that he needs to send you some task specifications but he would be able to send it only after two weeks when he’ll return back from vacation. So the limbo stage continues. What should be the next step?”

Scott said, “Well, since I have no work, I’ll work on my pet project or do something else. May be I will also take some leaves. Given it is a Dedicated Developer Contract, client is going to pay for the two weeks anyways so he can’t blame it on me or the organization.”

“Well,” said Stella. “Let’s discuss the same scenario with Peter and ask what would he do.”

Peter responded, “Well, first of all I won’t come in the limbo stage because I keep communicating with the client very frequently and always make him aware about the work status. But still if that stage comes and I do not have anything on my platter, here’s what I’d do:”

  1. Optimize the code for performance – I’ll utilize the knowledge I’ve gathered in Application Performance Improvement classes I attended in the last weekend of April.
  2. Recheck the code comments and take it to the next level. I understand that there is no comparison between well-commented code and just the code.
  3. I’ll do some research and learn more about my client’s business. I’ll also prepare a document which will outline the knowledge I’ve gathered by performing the research. I’ll share that with the client also.
  4. I’ve some high level idea about what changes he wants to make in the software I’m working on. So I’ll make some draft user interface and modified architecture diagram with added application scalability.
  5. I’ll record such additional activities and submit a report to the client such that he can know how I’ve utilized my time for which he is paying.
  6. I will do…

“OK, Great! This information is sufficient for what I was looking for. You may go and continue your work, Peter.” interrupted Stella.

The realization
Scott realized the point which Stella wanted him to understand. He understood that Peter has an edge over him. He observed that:

  1. Peter had absolute clarity about where to go and how to proceed even when no path/direction was given.
  2. Peter had invested his time to learn different technology verticals which are even indirectly related to his core strength by investing extra time over the weekends.
  3. Peter is a servant leader. He’s willing to learn his client’s language (business) so that he can serve his well.
  4. Peter does not need a map to navigate. Instead, he is willing to move ahead when there’s no map. He will try hard to improvise application’s architecture and would work on making it still better.
  5. Peter utilizes the information in a way it becomes meaningful to the client and the organization. Most important is that he keeps all the important information in the written form.

“I want to take back my resignation,” said Peter. “I’ll learn from Peter and try to be an equal or better version of him.”

Only hard work and commitment are not sufficient. You need to develop an ability to navigate without a map (Yes, wordings are taken from Linchpin by Seth Godin – a good read, btw.)

We’re in a different age where rulebooks are not matching pace with the changing demands of the workplace so start thinking beyond the rulebooks, take personal risks and excel at what you’re doing. Remember, observation power is a big differentiator. And, excellent use of observed information may take you a long way.

Maybe that’s the reason we are given with two ears and two eyes but only one mouth. So speak less, observe more. Maintain a mental database of observed information, index it often and use it to navigate when no map is available. 😉