Protecting Creativity When it is Not Valued

by Mike Brown

Protecting Creativity When it is Not ValuedWhen creativity isn’t appreciated in your organization culture, what can you do if changing jobs isn’t an option?

I told the recent CreativeBloc audience that if anyone worked in a place that didn’t value creativity and innovative ideas from its own people, it was best to get out; thus, this CreativeBloc question arose.

Honestly, unless you’re an indentured servant where you work now, changing jobs and finding an organization that places a value on creativity is always an option. It just may be that changing jobs RIGHT NOW isn’t an option.

If changing jobs in pursuit of a more creativity-friendly culture seems like a far-off possibility, you need to start preparing. The first steps are to make sure you’re building a financial cushion (which may involve altering today’s lifestyle), honing your online presence to showcase your expertise and talents, and aggressively putting yourself in situations to meet and help people who can be a part of your future plan.

From the standpoint of protecting your creativity while you get ready to change jobs in the future, two streams of activity are vital:

  • Developing and implementing a plan to cope with where you are (Plan A)
  • Concurrently working on what’s next (Plan B)

Plan A – Your Creativity Coping Plan at Your Current Job

If creativity isn’t valued at your current job, identify what IS valued there. Ask yourself and others, “What matters in our organization?” Beyond asking the question, enhance your understanding by observing where the company’s management devotes its attention.

Once you’ve figured out what’s valued, look for ways to introduce creativity (defined as “seeing things in new and different ways”) into areas the organization values. While you may be stretched to introduce creativity in what you think are non-traditional areas, it’s vital for your creative health.

Make sure management notices your innovative contributions to company priorities. Call attention to what you’re doing. Showcase the value you’re creating for the organization. Don’t do it in a cheesy, conceited way, but confidently make sure your contributions are recognized. Management visibility is important since you’re going to need to reduce your emotional investment in your job. If the job’s not going to enrich your creativity, you can’t afford to be too wrapped up in it. That doesn’t mean you won’t perform well, but don’t over-perform since you’ll need to divert mental energy to other activities.

Personally, in my corporate life, our company began appreciating creativity even less than it had following significant management changes. What was valued? Cost cutting, stopping programs, and doing what we were doing with dramatically reduced expenditures. As a result, I tried to find creative and innovative ways to carry out those tasks. It wasn’t nearly as rewarding as investing in new marketing programs, without a doubt. But taking initiative on these priorities demonstrated my active contribution to the organization even while shifting my mental focus to my Plan B.

Plan B – Working on What’s Next

If you haven’t already, start looking at your entire life as a creative outlet. Concurrently, compartmentalize your work – viewing it as one small part of your life – not your whole life. This move is vital since you’re going to need creative energy to work on Plan B. You can’t be successful in this dual track strategy if you’re allowing your current job to drain you creatively.

Identify your distinctive talents and identify ways to incorporate them into everything you do in both your work and personal lives. Since these distinctive talents should be areas that most excite you creatively, you’ll receive you a much needed creative boost by allowing them to occupy a bigger portion of your waking hours.

Begin creating a new, expanded creative team with which to surround yourself. Take advantage of both the people you know in person and those you meet through social media to share and fortify your creativity.

As your mind starts to clear creatively, begin identifying your strategic career options. As you do this, take deliberate steps to find and/or create your second, more creative “job.” The job may be a paying one, or it could be volunteer work. It may be expressively focused on cultivating your creative pursuits. No matter what it is, your pursuit should be providing disproportionate creative fulfillment and leading you toward what your future holds – moving your creative life and career pursuits in a way that today’s plan B becomes the plan A of some point in your very near future!

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Mike BrownMike Brown is an award-winning innovator in strategy, communications, and experience marketing. He authors the BrainzoomingTM blog, and serves as the company’s chief Catalyst. He wrote the ebook “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” and is a frequent keynote presenter.

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  1. Years back I was working for a multi service organization as a Community Developer. I brought several creative solutions to the table. As time went on and none of my ideas were supported I met with my boss.

    He said, “You are a very creative person.”

    I replied, “Yes, I suppose so.”

    He said, “We don’t want creative people working for us. I am going to put you in a box so you can’t create anymore, just do what you are told.”

    It was this moment that I quit. If you know you are a creative person you cannot escape that. Find a path for you that will engage your ideas and expand your talents!

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