I was reading an article by Alan Briot called Exercising your creativity as part of my interest in how one promotes the occurrence of creativity. Outside of work hours I pursue various hobbies that could be classed as creative, but I was struck how much of what he said could be applied to my experience of trying to be creative in the workplace.
Briot lists a number of factors that limit creativity and I’d like to pull out some for special attention.
1. Fear of failure
Nobody likes to mess up. Librarians are good at finding what others have done successfully and tweaking it to suit their situation. It’s low risk and we know what the outcome is likely to be. Taking a risk to introduce something new can seem too much effort for low return and *gasp* what happens if it didn’t work?! It’s sometimes easiest to be the follower than the leader. There is little risk in that. Librarians are great at copying what other libraries do. But someone has to be the brave initiator.
2. Fear of moving outside the comfort zone
“you must be willing to take a risk to learn these things and to eventually enlarge your comfort zone and reach a higher level of experience, success and achievement. If you continue to stay within your current comfort zone you will remain at the level of experience, achievement and knowledge that you are currently at. To expand both your knowledge and your achievements, you must leave your comfort zone and take a risk.“
The thought of moving outside the comfort zone of what we’ve always done well is daunting. Yet it might not be because we lack talent or we can’t succeed but rather because we often lack the knowledge, a technique or the support to seek out these things. Having the “space” to play or experiment can mean the difference between stagnation and innovation. I make the assumption that people are interested in growing, learning and reaching a higher level of experience. Growth comes from allowing imagination to have free rein.
3. Time – who has enough of it?
I have yet to meet a librarian who has plenty of “spare” time. Unlike Google, in our organisations we are rarely given time and space to work on projects outside of our core job description. But small pieces of time dedicated to learning something new can result in big projects.
Some of my learning opportunities have come from outside the library-oriented world where I’ve taken workshops offered by the staff development unit. Others have been through blog writers from higher education backgrounds. Even podcasts like the TED talks have been like attending a conference session for me.
4. Fear of critique
It seems that all creative endeavours will have their critics and it can be have a real dampening effect on any potential for imaginative solutions or growth within an organisation.
I confess I’m an experimenter and a messy creator. I like to try things out. If they flop I’m disappointed but I don’t see that there is anything inherently wrong about finding something didn’t work. Maybe it wasn’t the right time. Maybe it wasn’t the right product for the audience. Why cover it up and feel bad about it? It helps to have an environment where innovation is encouraged, where there the “one-chance-to-get-it-right” attitude is not ruling. I know some workplaces don’t have that luxury.
Does your workplace encourage creativity? If so, how? I’d be interested to know.