April 9, 2020

Digital Leadership Development

How to Harness this Amazing Explosion of Creativity

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Newsletter header for Your Digital Future with a picture of Charles Araujo

There is a lot to be anxious and concerned about when it comes to this crazy coronavirus pandemic. 

But amid all the social distancing and economic turmoil, there is at least one bright spot: the explosive display of creativity.

Apparently, there is no better way to spur on an exploration of our creative side than locking us up in our homes for weeks on end.

Apparently, there is no better way to spur on an exploration of our creative side than locking us up in our homes for weeks on end. Click To Tweet

The Big Idea: Your Organization is Bursting with Creativity

Across the internet, musicians, celebrities, and, well, everyone have taken to social media, YouTube, and about everywhere else to let their creativity flow. Some of my favorites:

The creativity, however, has extended far beyond just videos. 

On the absurd (and fear-driven) side of things, people have taken some extraordinary, but indisputably creative steps to protect themselves

And on the survival side of things, restaurants around the country have rapidly built new take-out and delivery business models or, like a restaurant down the street from my house, have converted themselves into specialty markets

Beyond the obvious entertainment value of some of these examples, however, there is an essential message for digital era leaders amid this abundant display of creativity: your organization is bursting with creativity.

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Simple extrapolation will tell you that hidden away on their Facebook feeds and personal blogs, countless members of your team are finding incredibly creative ways to entertain themselves, connect with friends, and teach their kids.

The question is, are you going to engage with this creativity or merely let it pass?

The Impact: You Can Squander or Leverage This Moment

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote in this Your Digital Future Journal that the Work From Home (WFH) choices you make now will determine your digital era future.

This moment is one of those choices.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you somehow try to co-opt or insert yourself into your team’s personal expressions of creativity. Let them do their thing.

What I’m suggesting, however, is that you encourage them to explore their creativity in their work as well.

As I mentioned in my previous article, now is the time to experiment. 

Perhaps you could encourage team members to make funny videos for your clients. After all, what better way is there to show empathy and develop relationships than letting your guard down and being human?

Or perhaps you can take advantage of the fact that everyone is exploring new ways of collaborating to launch some new, exploratory projects that bring together people and teams that might not have otherwise had the opportunity to work together.

You can take advantage of the fact that everyone is exploring new ways of collaborating to launch some new, exploratory projects that bring together people and teams that might not have otherwise had the opportunity to work together. Click To Tweet

The point is that this situation is opening a door that you would otherwise have to pry open with a crowbar. People are willing to let loose and lose some of the pretension of normal corporate life — and that will make them massively more open to exploring their creativity.

But as the leader, you will need to take the first step. 

So you need to choose if you will leverage this moment or squander it.

The Next Step: An Opportunity To Go Big

I guess, in this case, I’ve already covered the next step. Make your choice.

Assuming (hoping) that it’s to leverage this moment, the most important thing you can do is to go first. 

Explore your own creativity and be willing to put it out there on display in all its unprofessional glory.

Have your kids make a few hand-drawn slides for your company’s virtual all-hands (have you seen The Tonight Show’s At Home Edition?) or have your executive team do a music video for your employees (you might consider lip-syncing, though!). 

Whatever you choose, let go and give your team collective permission to take a breath and be human — and then help them explore their creativity in the context of their work. The MIT Media Lab recently published a guide on Cultivating Creativity During the Coronavirus Crisis, and it may be a great place to start. (Note: it’s written from the perspective of helping kids be creative, but it applies generally).

Let go and give your team collective permission to take a breath and be human — and then help them explore their creativity in the context of their work. Click To Tweet

Once you’ve taken that first step, you’ll have another opportunity, if you choose to go after it: to go big

As contrarian as this may sound, this may be the perfect time to pursue that elusive big project that’s been on the back burner for a while or to launch a freewheeling exploration of some new innovation. Creativity is both explosive and contagious (in a good way, for a change), so unleashing it may never have more impact than right now.

Laura and I are drinking our own Champagne (figuratively and literally!) on this front. We are trying to take advantage of this time to go big with the launch of The MAPS Institute

We’re busy building content and preparing to launch our first product — and, frankly, we’re shocked at just how creative and productive we’re able to be during this time.

So that’s it. Your next step is to make a choice. I hope that the creativity in your team will be running wild by the time the next issue of Your Digital Future gets to you!


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