Clumsy chase after success
Isn’t it remarkable how the best companies to work for are often the most successful companies at the same time?
Brand names like Boots, Virgin Media, Unilever, Deloitte and (obviously) Google have practically become synonymous with ‘success’ due to their undeniable accomplishments on the market. The desire to emulate their success often results in a never-ending chase after productivity. Most employees are familiar with their superiors prioritising the daily grind, and requesting constant completion of specific tasks, done in a specific way, within a specific period. The strict rules and a constant rush result in people operating on the ‘left side’, within limitations of their convergent thinking. The fact that in the western culture the rational world of words and numbers is glorified only strengthens this situation.
Although there is nothing wrong with this clearly logical approach, it does limit potential of your people and, in turn, your company.
The difference between productivity and creativity
Now, look at the widely talked about ‘20% time’ rule of working at Google. Employees of this monstrously massive brand are expected to spend 20% of their time devoting themselves to innovative ideas that interest them the most. Not accomplishing tasks, but thinking about creative solutions they’re passionate about.
Allowing for and encouraging the shift into the ‘right mode’, the divergent thinking, has a deciding impact on the success of Google.
Now, it’s true that while being creative, one might appear to not be productive. It’s crucial, however, to understand how the two types of thinking work to appreciate the importance of creativity in the workplace.
Think of the convergent mode as a ‘to do’ list. You go from task to task, you use verbal and visual symbols to improve efficiency, you see details and you accomplish tasks within a short time frame. You appear busy and productive, but you work with a narrow view, following established paths that tend to be inefficient.
The divergent mode, however, resembles the auto-pilot that turns on in your head when you’re driving down the same road for the 20th time this day. It’s the non-verbal thinking you were lost in when you were pouring your imagination onto paper (sometimes a wall) when you were a kid.
It’s the feeling of giving up the command of your body to the rhythm of your favourite song when nobody’s watching. This mode, when applied to a business setting, makes you pull ideas from many sources at once, spend time thinking up scenarios and establishing patterns and relationships between variables. You distil the BIG PICTURE. Creativity is slow and might appear lazy, but you work with a wide view, thinking up inventive methods and improving existing operations.
In our culture, creativity is ignored due to its apparent static nature. However, once you let it shine, it reflects itself in sudden jumps, inventions and out of the box solutions. It’s an interruptive burst followed by a revolutionary spark. It’s the patient secret behind almost all genius ideas and it’s simply irrational to ignore this illogical part of your brain (see what I did there?).