Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Die Creativity, die…

I like creativity primarily because I have none. IMHO, people are born with it, and I’m willing to accept that and move on. I have learnt to deal with it as a divine will, like His* decision to not endow me with awesome bass guitar playing ability or George Clooney like looks. I love to be around people who can think up and do wonderful stuff like the riff on Lynrd Skynrd’s ‘Freebird’ or the sketches and inking of Savio. Unfortunately for me, I haven’t been able to accept it as a management practice. ‘Innovative’ practices are more of common sense than creativity. Using data to arrive at decisions is common sense, so labeling SixSigma as a creative tool (I know organizations that teach SixSigma in their creativity workshops. So) is weird… And creativity, unless practiced with extreme caution, can be catastrophic. I’m sure most of you are not willing to accept this, so allow me to illustrate…

You are a vocal advocate of creativity and people are really motivated with your reasoning. You become famous and are invited to New York for a seminar with a Fortune 50 company. On the flight, people recognize you and you become the center of attraction and soon, it’s time to land. In your capacity, and in your current situation, would you want the pilot to be creative? Or the Air Traffic Controller?

Now that we have that aspect out of the way, I hope you agree with me that you are better off leaving some things working the way they are. Sometimes creativity is the problem not the solution.

Most companies around are looking at ‘creative’ ways to engage their employees. The key here is to identify areas that require intervention in the first place and then identify people to pull it off. And this is not an either-or scenario. Both conditions have to be met. Otherwise, it turns out to be a ‘kiss of death’ for common sense. Let us look at some fictitious situations where creativity overrides common sense…

Situation: Less number of restrooms in an office.

Common Sense: Construct rest-rooms. If that’s a no, live with it. Who gets there first, goes first. Simple.

Creative Solution: Create a restroom policy. Now, only the management gets to use the restrooms. Organize a few fire hydrants outside the office complex for the rank and file if the organization is ‘humane’.

Situation: Unhappy employees

Common Sense: Find and eliminate cause.

Creative Solution: Hire a consultant. Devise a happiness policy. Invent a mandate for employees to follow policy. Defaulters undergo ‘coaching’ to be happy.

I hope you get the drift. All I want to say is that creativity requires two ingredients:

The right situation

The right person

Anything else is misapplication of sense. My thumb-rule is to use creative abilities only when common sense does not solve the problem

*Please forgive my reference to the Divine Creator as a male. My intention is not to be gender insensitive or politically incorrect. My life will lose its meaning if I believe my Creator to be gender neutral!

Disclaimer: This post does not intend to have any resemblance to any organization, profitable or otherwise. If you identify your organization with this post, ignore it as a coincidence and locate the nearest exit.