As leaders and entrepreneurs, our sense of creativity waxes and wanes. There are days when I feel like I could light the world on fire with my ideas, and there are days where I feel like my eyes are glazed over and I am my own greatest bore. There are weeks when I make it to dance class with regularity and pick up new choreography with ease, and there are weeks when I am drowning in investor dinners and spreadsheets and don’t feel connected to my creative self in the slightest.
Time is the greatest gift to creative people. When we have it, we can pursue our biggest, boldest ideas. When we are short on it, we feel constrained, limited, boxed in, confined, maybe even suffocated. If we are spending all of our time doing things that eat up our spirit, it can be hard to find the time we need to create with abundance and get into a state of flow.
The problem is that many schools and places of work zap our creativity by focusing on testing and results, ignoring the process it takes to achieve the desired outcome. As leaders, it’s up to us to provide the space for ourselves and our employees to be creative so we can create the best possible product, service, or solution.
We need mental, physical and emotional space to engage creatively. Unfortunately, when we’re building big things and solving complex challenges, we often feel pressure to move fast. We may not allow for the full discovery process to unfold. If I am on deadline or feeling as if I’m operating in a deficit, I don’t have the fullness of myself to bring to my colleagues, my partners, or my nascent, budding ideas. On the other hand, my greatest ideas are when my mind is clear, when I’m on a run, or taking a shower, or sweeping my toddler’s dinner off of the floor.
We have to create the space where creativity can blossom. The tension between free time, open space, structure, and even boredom, is real. How much structure should we place on our time or on our creative goals? Sometimes when time abounds and there are no expectations, we can feel unfocused or lazy. But when we’re overly structured and overly prescribed, it can be hard to find creative inspiration.
Here are ways we can unlock creativity in ourselves and our teams to achieve our full potential:
When we need a solution to a problem, we want it fast. Now. Yesterday. But the fastest solution isn’t usually the best one. Often times, we may have to revisit the issue because it wasn’t truly solved. Not only is that a waste of time, it’s a quick way to burn your team out. They won’t feel included, or like they are solving the big picture problem they signed up to fix.
Whether we like it or not, it takes time to put our best foot forward. We need to allow more time for the creative process to unfold. Your team, investors, and customers will all be grateful you did.
We are all artists. It’s how we choose to nurture and cultivate that identity and skillset that takes us further on our creative paths. It wasn’t until I was six years into building Move This World that I a friend and accountability partner called me out for neglecting myself as a dancer and had squashed that identity to focus on raising money, managing staff, and putting out fires.
This article was originally published by EdWeek Market Brief on May 2nd, 2019.