How to stay creative in the corporate world

How to stay creative in the corporate world

letsblogoff_badgeI love this topic but thought I’d take a little twist on it today. After 16 years of a successful career in technology, I left corporate America in 2001 feeling stifled, sad and beaten down by the mini-recession that followed the tech bubble.  Although we were a young, vibrant company I realized that the larger we got, the less creative we became and the less willing we were (or our lawyers were) to think outside of the box.

Since then, I’ve begun to work in a much more creative industry and I love it. I’ve had a few larger corporate clients but usually if I suggest something creative, it gets shot done because it might interrupt the process – I get that and I respect that. However for most bigger companies to continue to succeed, they will need to inject tolerance if not encouragement for creativity on the job. And cherish that creativity when it happens.

I worked for a start-up in the early 1990’s and we had some really creative thinkers on our team. These were guys who were technologists, but were able to think with both sides of their brain. So for me, creativity in a corporate sense always makes me think of  Paul, Shankaren, Ken, Salli…and many others.  We got the job done, but got it done in a new and fresh way. I’ve realized over the years it’s easy to be creative in a creative profession, but to be creative in the corporate world takes real talent.

Here’s how we defined creativity back in the day:

  • We thought of new ways to solve old problems. We had to – we were a tiny little group trying to compete against the proverbial Goliath. Without the resources to buy our way into new clients and to get new employees, we had to develop creative ways to get things done and get noticed.
  • We had a great sense of humor. I think humor is so important to the creative mind. We worked really hard but we laughed a lot too. And if something was stupid, or an idea was dumb, we laughed about it. That tolerance made it easy to come up with better ideas.
  • We were really diverse. Our team consisted of people of different races, backgrounds, ages and work experience. Having different perspectives allowed us to look at things from all angles.
  • We didn’t know what we were doing half the time – therefore there was no WRONG way to do things. I think this let us try things that might otherwise have been poo-poohed.

I miss those early days and the freedom we had to try new things. I’ve never worked as hard in my life, but that appreciation for ingenuity made it easy to come early and stay late. So for me, creativity is the freedom to think new thoughts and to try new things despite your environment – or how many obstacles there are in the way.