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Creative & Innovative Thinking to Enhance Your Career in 2007
Deidra Payne, Sr. LexisNexis Librarian Relations Consultant
The end of the year is upon us. We are all busily finishing up year-end projects as well as thinking toward future tasks we will need to manage in the workplace in the New Year. Without realizing it we get caught up or overwhelmed with our daily routines, both at home and at work. The thought of doing or implementing something new, creative, and innovative within our lives is easily put off until another day. I suggest we make a New Year’s Resolution to create and accomplish at least one new idea, plan or action in 2007 to help enhance and re-energize ourselves personally and professionally.
Before you can identify the creative activity you want to accomplish in the New Year, take time to first recognize the things you do well and the tasks you find most enjoyable. What are you most proud of accomplishing or having accomplished both professionally and personally? What keeps you charged or excited about your work and your personal commitments? Take one of the things you have accomplished and imagine ways you can improve upon that accomplishment. Define the things that excite you most about your job (i.e. teaching or creating newsletter, etc…) and consider more creative and innovative ways you can implement these tasks into your daily routine.
You may be thinking, “I don’t feel as if I am a very creative or innovative person!” Creativity is not a gift that only a few people have. It is a part of each of us. As children we are constantly asking, “But Why??!!” – Why must we do it this way? Why is it this way and not that way? What would happen if I did it this way? Beyond being curious, children are extremely open to new ideas and possibilities – even the most absurd and outrageous ideas are plausible in their minds. It is only as we become adults and find ourselves conforming to societal pressures that most of us stop questioning and dreaming of new and different scenarios for every event. As we age we also begin to evaluate the risk and amount of energy required to do something new, different and challenging before deciding if we will pursue it. It is not a lack of creativity that hinders us but our inability to see new choices or our fear of acting upon these new opportunities for innovative change.
For innovation to happen, you must open your mind to new ideas. Our automatic response to a new idea is to judge it. Admit it. It’s true! The trick is to develop the skill of being open-minded about new ideas rather than immediately dismissing them. Create space for ideas to grow and multiply. It might invite silly and absurd ideas, but that’s okay. Creativity only flourishes when you allow yourself to say it is “Okay” to make mistakes. How old are we when we finally truly know everything? Never! We are never done learning. So why do we expect perfection from everyone else and worse why do we expect it from ourselves? If you are not making mistakes -- you are not taking risks, making any discoveries, or being innovative. You are probably stuck in a rut! Thomas Edison failed over 3,000 times in developing a working prototype of a light bulb before succeeding. Yet his approach to these mistakes was to say, “Well, we’re making progress – we know a thousand ways it can’t be done. We’re that much closer to getting there.”
Do you remember the color copier coming into wide use in the late 1980’s? Did you know that Xerox started first marketing them in 1971? They failed the first time, not because of cost or quality, but because it turns out there was nothing in the office in color! Everything in print was still in black and white due to typewriters. The company had to wait until workplace offices used computers with color fonts before proposing this idea again 15 years later!
When you begin looking for new ideas to help you re-energize your career in 2007, look at some random objects or pictures. Ask yourself this question, “When I look at this (object or picture), what ideas come to mind?” Force a connection between what you see and what you have defined as something you want to improve in your daily life or at work. You can discover new possibilities by asking yourself, “What if…?” For example, if you would like to find a creative way to remind your patrons to check out their books before leaving the library – you look outside your office window at the street below and think, “What if I installed a traffic signal light at each entrance?” or as I look at my iPod I think, “What if they could check out a book as easy as they download an iTunes® song from their desktop within their office?” With practice you can create innovative connections based on anything and your environment can spark millions of ideas! History is filled with stories of people connecting random things to invent new ideas. Gutenberg combined movable type with an olive oil press and created his revolutionary printing press.
To get closer to solutions and remove the mental obstacles that block your thinking, phrase problems as questions. Try phrasing problems starting with: "How to..." or "In what ways might..." It is amazing how this phrasing can transform a problem from a mind-numbing complaint into an active question that automatically gears up your innovative brain to think about solutions. Instead of, "We’re losing money," try "How to reduce costs?" or "In what ways might we generate additional revenue?"
There is huge value in coming up with lots and lots of ideas in a brainstorming session. When you begin a brainstorming exercise set a quota of at least 30-50 ideas as a starting point. You’ll notice that the first third of the ideas are the same old ideas, the second third are wacky, but within the last third are the truly innovative and valuable ideas. Bouncing ideas off other people can generate new concepts and solutions. But don‘t edit ideas too soon. Remember, even the “silliest” of ideas can blossom into something genius.
Some tips or strategies you might employ to help you come up with some creative and innovative ideas.
- Work on a problem before going to sleep. Then, while you are snoozing, your subconscious takes over. What did your dreams tell you?
- Think like a child. How would a 5 year old respond to your problem? Let your creativity run wild and worry about the adult details later.
- Think in opposites - imagine how to make your idea as boring as possible. It will put you in a fun mindset and destroy your creative roadblock.
- Pretend that you are someone famous and try to solve the problem from that person’s perspective. For example, if Elizabeth Taylor had your job how would she advocate/convince the powers-that-be that she needed a larger budget?
- Shake up your daily habits. Routine is the enemy of creativity. Challenge yourself to get out of your rut and dare to do things a little differently. For example, rearrange your office or have lunch in a different setting or with someone who inspires or challenges you.
- Break the Rules! Drop assumptions and stir up reality a bit. How might breaking the rules impact your ideas?
- Write it down!!! Ideas can come to you anywhere at anytime. Carry a notebook so you can always make a record of them.
- Discover what works for you. When you feel creative take note of what you are doing. Are you listening to music? Are you alone or with people? Recreate those conditions when you need to get your creative juices flowing.
I have shared a variety of ways to enable you to think more creatively so that you can add more value to your career and revitalize your daily life. We are all aware that in today’s workplace market the concept of lifelong personal job security in exchange for dependable performance and loyalty is a thing of the past. You are now being required to more creatively, innovatively and strategically think of new and improved ways to validate your position. Simply, the burden is on you to add measurable value to your organization. Granted, you may find this to be a challenging task! But a New Year is upon us and anything is possible!
Have a Great Creative New Year!!!
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