6 Myths of Creativity and The Hardball Mindset

No, it’s not the title of recording by an alternative rock group.  They’re two articles from past issues of FAST COMPANY Magazine. Even though they were first published over 10 years ago, their message is still fresh if you’re reading them for the first time.  These are just some things to think about when you’re trying to wind down from watching the Big Game yesterday, with its emotional commercials, enraging play calls and enigmatic half-time performance.

Speaking of creativity, For Catholic schools, you’re also winding down from all those Catholic Schools Week activities.  By the way, you’re still calling it Catholic Schools Week too, right?   This is the week that you should “Celebrate Catholic Schools!”  While the sentiment is the same, the different verbiage is extremely important.  Remember, we live in a sound-byte society, and the mind does not distinguish between words that sound the same (homonyms) when they’re taken out of context. That’s why double-entendres work so well in advertising. They hold the essence of creativity, since they concretize the process of connecting two unrelated thoughts. Knowing that, just relax for a bit, and imagine yourself sitting with someone who is reading a newspaper. Remember too that negativity sells newspapers. Then, your companion says to you, “Hey – listen to this headline – Catholic Schools Week,” giving emphasis to the last word, rather than to “Catholic,” or to “Schools.”

Our minds don’t distinguish between the sound of “Week” and “Weak,” and therefore, the meaning of the word is interchangeable when taken out of context. Even churches make the play on words come alive. You’ve probably seen a church that has a sign in front of it that has said at one time or another, “Seven days without prayer makes one weak.” Effective? Definitely. “Catholic Schools Week” detrimental to Catholic schools? Subliminally, in some respects, yes.

The Hardball Mind-Set

From the February 2005 issue article by George Stalk, Jr., Senior Advisor of Boston Consulting Group and a Director of Intuitive Surgical, Inc. Here he talks about some principles from his book, “Hardball: Are You Playing to Play or Playing to Win?”  He suggested to win at hardball, you need the guts and the passion to confront the fundamental issues that are harming your business.

Live at the Rock Face. You – not just your assistants, or vice-presidents or salespeople – have to truly understand your customers and your marketplace.

For school administrators, you may know who the parents of your school community are, but you may not understand them. For instance, how do you let them know what the tuition will be for next year and what type of financial aid they’ve been awarded? Do you simply send it home, or do you sit down with the parents and have a one-on-one personalized discussion?  It’s harder to say “no” in person; it’s harder to say “no” in a group; it’s very easy to say, “We’re not paying that!” when the form comes in an envelope to the house after a difficult day at work when budget cuts, unemployment, and the economy are being discussed. Remember – understand the marketplace.

Don’t Know. Having the courage to admit ignorance, or asking the simplest questions – “Why?” or “Who are our customers?” – can lead to winning insights.

“Why” is the best question to ask – because it gets to the heart of the matter. There is a story about a woman who made a delicious roast, and her daughter asked her to show her the secret. The next time the roast was being made, the mother invited the daughter to experience the recipe. The mother cut off the ends of the roast before cooking it, throwing away a good 1/4 of the meat. The daughter asked why, and the mother responded, “That’s how my mother did it.”   The daughter went to the grandmother, who said that was how her mother did it too. Luckily, the great-grandmother was still alive, so the young woman paid her a visit, and asked the why she cut the ends of roast off?   The great-grandmother responded that her roast pan was too small, and that’s the only way it would fit in the pan.  “That’s the way we’ve always done it” is one of the most dangerous phrases to adhere to in a rapidly changing world.  Tradition is important, but tracking tuition payments on index cards in pencil isn’t the safest thing to do today.

Build a Truth Telling Network. Hardball means building a team of people who aren’t afraid of the truth, even if the truth hurts.

That sounds very similar to “Confronting the Brutal Facts” (from Jim Collins’ Good to Great). However, not many remember the second part of the chapter’s title…”But Never Lose Faith.”

 

6 Myths of Creativity

From the December 2004 issue, Teresa Amabile, Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration and Director of Research at Harvard Business School, offers the following myths about creativity:

Creativity comes from creative types

Sometimes, the most creative ideas come to you in the shower, or right before you drift off to sleep, when your mind isn’t focused on work.

Money is a creative motivator

Need, however, is a creative motivator.

Time pressure fuels creativity

Set aside time to do something other than work.  It frees the mind to develop new neuropathways.

Fear forces breakthroughs

The ability to express and share ideas forces breakthroughs.

Competition beats collaboration

Competition simple beats – it saps energy, it can foment anger, and carries with it many types of temptations.

A streamlined organization is a creative organization

A streamlined organization can still be bureaucratic.

Amabile says if you want to quash creativity in your organization, continue to embrace these myths.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2005-2015 (Original Publication Date: 20050131)