Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Questions with Few Answers

I have been having a debate with myself this week. Am I a creative thinker or am I indecisive? Am I indecisive because I am a creative thinker? Does being indecisive foster creativity? As you may recall from my last blog, we are in the process of evaluating performance. As people have shared their thoughts and perspectives on my contributions throughout the year I am fascinated with how the same behavior is categorized so differently. Some people admire my ability to be open to so many possibilities while others feel that if I came back down to earth a little more often, things we be done more quickly. Some people say that my creativity inspires others while others suggest I continue to derail the conversation by offering up impossible solutions. I am referred to as a role model for "forward thinking" and my development plan includes improving my ability to stay in the present. As I reflect on all of this feedback, the reality is, it is all true.

So what does this really mean about me? How do I take these insights and perspectives and turn them into something meaningful? Why are skills and competencies strengths when applied to one piece of work and opportunities when applied to another. Why am I such a creative thinker at work and a total dud in the playroom with my children? Why am I resistant to creating a project plans at work and a task master at home. Why do my colleagues find me insightful while members of my family tell me to "get off my soap box"?

Do I have multiple personality disorder? What do you think?

Love to all,



  1. LOL - I totally LOVE you.
    and my guess is that you are very creative when you do not TRY to be creative


  2. Hey Kathy,
    A couple thoughts. I think creativity and decisiveness run orthogonally. I know lots of creative people who can't make up their minds to save their lives and others who make decisions on a moment's notice.

    I've been often characterized as an out-of-the-box creative type and as someone who makes decisions quickly and easily. My guess is that, over a large sample set, you'd find no strong correlations.

    In business, although people talk about creativity positively, it's not the noun creativity to which they're referring, it's the adjective by itself "creative". So the question is, "creative what?" Creative solutions? Creative business opportunities? Creative marketing campaigns? Creative deals?

    Without the "what", creative can become a euphemism for flaky or nutty. I've known lots of folks who became kind of executive pets because they offered creative ideas that sparked discussion and proved a source of inspiration (and sometimes entertainment). However, they were never trusted with line or operational jobs because their creativity was considered to be impractical or they never seemed satisfied with the mundane aspects of day-to-day business.

    In those situations, the creative person needed either to round her or his skill-set with strong operational capabilities or to decide to pursue staff (e.g., ombuds-person) or creative jobs (marketing) that had no associated line responsibilities. In any case, the longevity of the position was dependent upon the creativity being translated into business benefit in a manner that was measurable and attributable.

    So in the end, the "what" has to benefit the business.

    I've always considered true creativity to start only when one bumps into the constraints of the medium. You can have lots of ideas when you have endless resources, but creativity starts when you don't have the resources to do what you want to do.

    I mentioned before that I thought decisiveness and creativity are independent. However, decisiveness or the lack thereof can have tremendous impact on the effect of creativity. Without decisiveness, creativity lacks direction. It wanders and floats and nothing gets done. So, decisiveness doesn't link to creativity, but it can make creativity significantly more powerful.

    In my experience, indecisiveness can be associated with three primary causal factors: 1) hanging on too tightly to outcomes, 2) having no clue as to what you're talking about, and 3) not being able to structure and maintain a mental model of priorities.

    The impact of the first is pretty obvious; if you're scared of getting it wrong, then you won't make decisions quickly. The impact of the second is also clear; if you don't know what you're talking about, you might want to abdicate the decision to others.

    However, it's the third that gets lost on people. The key to being decisive and effective is knowing what decisions count (are meaningful and important) and what decision factors count (are meaningful and important).

    If you don't have a good hierarchical model of decision factors and priorities, you end up going through all possible combinations to get to a decision. This can take forever.

    However, if you do have a good model, then 1) there aren't that many decisions that YOU have to make. You can delegate most of them because they're either not important or they are better made by others. The decisions that you retain for yourself can be made quickly, because you know what the most important criteria are.

    Wow, that went on longer than I anticipated. What do you think?



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