Unpredictability = Creativity

When running a business, it’s important to apply the fundamentals like, hiring a great team, motivating them and leading them to success, investing in your own leadership and management training, keeping an eye (or two) on cash flow, managing inventory, and a whole host of other activities to ensure success and profitability.  This type of management leads to creating processes and following procedures documented in manuals.  There’s not necessarily a lot of creative thinking involved.  In fact, there is great focus on eliminating randomness and unforeseen events while activities are standardized.  Since humans crave predictability and stability, this is great.  But herein lies a problem.  Unpredictability = Creativity.  If you’re running a business that relies on creativity and innovation, how to you embrace this paradox and still find success?

At my Pure Barre studios, a lot of creative thinking takes place each day.  My teachers are planning their classes and constantly innovating their cues and presentation of the workout to clients.  My manager and I are thinking up our “next steps” and planning events and programming to keep clients engaged.  Front desk associates are merchandising and creating a pleasant environment for our clients.  But there is also a lot of work that is pretty standardized—like our sales process, creating the work schedule, and cleaning—all critical to our daily operations.  How can we keep everyone thinking creatively yet still take care of our less creative administrative work?

I recently finished a great book called Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming The Unseen Forces That Stand In The Way Of True Inspiration, written by Ed Catmull, President of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation.  Throughout the book, Catmull discusses the challenges that creative businesses face specifically, working with the paradox that humans crave stability and predictability, yet the creative process pretty much ensures instability and unpredictability.

Catmull says: “Here’s what we all know, deep down, even though we might wish it weren’t true: Change is going to happen, whether we like it or not.  Some people see random, unforeseen events as something to fear.  I am not one of those people.  To my mind, randomness is not just inevitable; it is part of the beauty of life.  Acknowledging it and appreciating it helps us respond constructively when we are surprised.  Fear makes people reach for certainty and stability, neither of which guarantee the safety they imply.  I take a different approach.  Rather than fear randomness, I believe we can make choices to see it for it is and to let it work for us.  The unpredictable is the ground on which creativity occurs.”

As the owner, it’s your job to be the inspirer-in-chief to your employees and create a working environment that encourages their creative thinking yet doesn’t ignore the basic human need for seeking comfort in the familiar and stable.  It’s a fine line.  And leads me into the topic for Thursday’s post, why I’m stepping back from my business and giving my employees more responsibility.  I’ll definitely get back to this idea of being the inspirer-in-chief to your employees especially now that I’m transitioning myself into a new role of supporting them while they support our clients.

Until then, stay on your toes!

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming The Unseen Forces That Stand In The Way Of True Inspiration, Ed Catmull

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