Have You Nipped Your Team’s
Creative Spirit In The Bud?

You wouldn’t think a building with the world’s largest group of creative talent would need a Creative Paradox to shake things up, but we did. And, for a wonderful bit of time, we had Gordon MacKenzie. 

I was reminded of Gordon twice today. First when hearing of a friend’s frustration with ‘non-creative’ management and next while reading Gil Corkindale’s HBR post: Find the Creativity Hiding in Your Office.  

Gordon saw his duty at Hallmark to be loyally subversive.

He intuitively understood the conflict between a corporation’s need for control and the creative process. He worked to free us up and let the creativity flow – understanding that we could pick through the wreckage for the good ideas later in the day. (Here’s a 1997 Fast Company interview. and a link to his book Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace)

I’ve come to believe the biggest peril to creativity in any organization is how you react when it is truly in play. Allowing for creativity also allows disjointed, random thoughts that take meetings in unpredictable directions.  If your first reaction to a stray idea is to shut it down, get the meeting back on track, force ideas to be defended the minute they appear…. Then your team will get the message, get down to business and work through the day in steps 1, 2, 3, 4.  Good little soldiers. Sometimes appropriate, sometimes not.

Running into Gordon at Hallmark was always an uplifting experience.  He was interested in your ideas, challenged your preconceived notions and bridged a gap that exists in every organization between control and creativity.

Have you let your creative spirit go skipping down the halls lately?

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5 Responses to Have You Nipped Your Team’s
Creative Spirit In The Bud?

  1. Brad Shorr says:

    Hi Fred, You make a wonderful point here, and I hope people in positions of authority read it. When I was in the corporate world, my major role was to be “creatively subversive.” There is nothing more demotivating than the shutdown response. As a parent, would you shut down your child when he or she came to you with a fanciful idea? Gee, I would hope not. Regardless of our age, we all need encouragement. If the shutdown response becomes widespread in an organization or even a department, it winds up being a zombie company – lifeless, gray, and scary.

    Brad Shorr’s last blog post..If You Have Lots to Say, Say It on a Business Blog

  2. “creatively subversive” – I knew there was a reason I like reading your work 🙂 There are a lot of parallels between good managing and good parenting from the ‘creativity’ perspective. So much of this occurs on the subconscious level that folks don’t even know it is happening until just a bit past too late. I think companies are wise to encourage (or tolerate?) folks like you and Gordon who recognize this danger and help others overcome the stifling effects. I would be interested to know if your management at the time understood your roll and promoted it.

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