Tag Archives: creativity

Monday Morning Moment – Elevating Our Work – with John Burke and Benjamin Hardy

Photo Credit: Benjamin P. Hardy (l), John Burke (r)

On the weekend, I was catching up with a bunch of friends who gather occasionally to keep relationships up-to-date. The question around the table was “So what’s new and exciting?” That usually elicits baby news, job changes, latest relationship, and emotional or situational struggles. I was completely engaged in what they were all saying…and then it was my turn.

I had nothing.

After stammering over what I could add, I pretty much just confessed to the mundane nature of my life. Vanilla was the only flavor that came to mind.

On the drive home, clarity prevailed and the largeness of the past year’s events filled my mind’s eye like watching an action film on the big screen. More “new and exciting” than I imagined could happen in a year – a grandson’s birth, a cancer diagnosis, my father’s illness and death were just some of the scenes of the last several months.

Then, right there, in the dark car, I was filled with gratitude that a merciful God filled all of that with His presence. Sometimes I forget to say out loud how incredibly good God is to be in our lives…and to never leave us alone in the hard.

Today’s “new and exciting” is that I am cancer-free right now, that darling baby is the star of his own music video, and acute grief in losing our dad is shifting to savoring memories of all our years together.

There’s more though…
Later in the weekend, I read this enlightening piece written by Benjamin P. Hardy. He interviewed composer and pianist John Burke about how he pushes himself to create.
Burke listed out four strategies that he regularly uses to “elevate” his work.

1. Always Work on Something You’ve Never Done Before

2. Map It All Out From the Beginning

3. Apply More Layers of External Pressure Immediately

4. Put Creation Time On Your Daily Schedule

Read Hardy’s piece for the particulars of Burke’s creative habits.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Burke’s approach to work, in general, and creating music, in specific resonated with me for two big reasons. The first, is that I had seen his system for creating in the habits of our composer/guitarist son, Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar). The second reason is that I see what the “new and exciting” had done to my own creative habits.

I had settled into a sameness, a smallness, that had become a prolonged recovery time for me. Healing was imperative, but there comes a time when we gather ourselves up and get back into life. The Hebrew King David’s example came sharply to mind – after praying and fasting for his terribly ill son – 2 Samuel 12:18-20 – at the news the child died, David rose up, washed and dressed, worshiped God, and ate.

The “new and exciting” for this Monday is to take John Burke’s strategies to heart. When a person gets her life back after a cancer diagnosis, and recovery is behind her, the best medicine is to get on with life…with a renewed passion and intentionality.

Thank you, Mr. Burke, and Mr. Hardy.

My husband has described this “elevating our work” with the phrase “Shifting to the next gear”. That’s what I want for this next chapter of my work life. I’ve been driving the service roads, and now it’s time to get back out on the highway. To adjust my life to a greater difficulty and higher speed.

Elevating our work requires adjusting our thinking in that direction as well. [See links below.]

I’m ready to take the next gear.

How about you?

John Burke: 4 Strategies to Continually Elevate Your Work – Benjamin P. Hardy

Persevere – My Interview with Grammy-Nominated Pianist and Composer, John Burke – Podcast – Katy Galli

John Burke – YouTube Channel

10 Steps to Successful Thought Leadership to Elevate Your Career and Your Organization – Glenn Llopis

A Health Blog – 10 Proven Ways to Help Boost Creative Thinking

Elevate Your Leadership – Marlene Chism

To Expand Your Influence, Elevate Your Capacity to Think – John Maxwell

Critical Thinking Exercises: 9 Facts and How They Elevate Your Mind – Katrina Manning

Monday Morning Moment – Getting Outside and Taking a Real Breather From Work

blog-taking-a-break-from-work-youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

Some weekends are meant for lots of play mixed with Fall clean-ups…this was one of those. Then Monday comes around.  You pull your tired body out of bed, try to stretch those shoulders out and loosen up your knees again. In a matter of minutes, you settle that frame in your desk chair, and expect your brain to be on task with new work-week vigor. Right?

Maybe. Whether it’s Monday or any other day, our workspaces (especially if it’s cubicle life) can, over the course of the day, do a number on our creative thinking and problem-solving. Our minds and bodies cry out for stretch breaks…and not just to hit the restroom and pour the next cup of coffee. A change in location – i.e., to the next meeting – isn’t the recipe for clearing our heads either.

Getting outside…now that’s a grand solution.

My husband works on an incredibly beautiful street in our city. He is in meetings inside, of course, much of the day. When not in meetings, he’s at his desk. Eating his apple and bag of nuts, at lunchtime…right there. At his desk.

While this is going on outside…

blog-work-break-in-fall-monument-ave-flickriverPhoto Credit: FlickRiver

I don’t take advantage of being outside myself, so no shaming here. Still, the individual worker and the work itself would certainly profit from a breather…a step away from the desk or conference room table…a few minutes on the outside.blog-work-break-foster-school-of-businessPhoto Credit: University of Washington

“Brain breaks can make a big difference in your ability to be productive, creative, and innovative. The paradox is that doing less often allows you to do more.” – Jeff Stibel

In Courtney Seiter’s article The Science of Taking Breaks at Work: How to Be More Productive by Changing the Way You Think About Downtime, she gives support to the broad benefits of taking breaks. Taking your coffee, outside, for a walk around the block are some of my favorites tips of hers.blog-break-at-work-open-bufferPhoto Credit: Open.Buffer

Walking into an office building and around the folks smoking, I think, “Hey, nice they [have to] go outside…just that alone probably counters some of the impact of smoking on their health.”

Hopefully, you didn’t use up your break reading the blog today…unless you’re reading it while you’re sitting outside in the sun.

I love Philip Terman’s poem Some Days about the replenishing affect of the quietening out-of-doors. Here’s a portion:

Some days you have to turn off the news
and listen to the bird or truck…
You have to close all the books and open
all the windows so that whatever swirls
inside can leave and whatever flutters
against the glass can enter. Some days
you have to unplug the phone and step
out to the porch and…allow the sun to tell you what to do.
Philip Terman, Our Portion: New and Selected Poems

blog-work-break-daily-mailPhoto Credit: Daily Mail

Take that breather…clear your head…and stretch your legs. Either with someone or all alone. It’s worth the trouble…

The Science of Taking Breaks at Work: How to Be More Productive by Changing the Way You Think About Downtime – Courtney Seiter

The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor

5 Ways to Give your Brain a Break Right Now – Jeff Stibel

3 Easy Ways to Give Your Brain a Break During Your Workday– Jacquelyn Smith

Monday Morning Moment – Creativity in Community – the Skill of the Future

Blog - Creativity - creativeskillsforlifePhoto Credit: Creative Skills for Life

When you hear the word “creatives”, you might immediately think of 20- or 30-somethings. They are classed as young “color-outside-the-lines” right-brain “think-outside-the-box” sorts of folks…who sometimes make the rest of us nuts. You might think of the artists, writers, and musicians out there. However, in truth, creatives include all those people who solves problems, including the ones who set up problems and then solve them. They are the inventors, the entrepreneurs, the designers, the planners who have the capacity to make our lives better…to even make the world better.

Hanneke Siebelink (of LeadershipWatch) just wrote a piece on the top skills of the future. She pointed to a graphic from the World Economic Forum which showed, over the course of 5 years, how creativity will jump from #10 to #3 in a Top 10 Skills List.Blog - Creativity - weforumPhoto Credit: WEForum.org

What does that sort of creativity entail? Is creativity alone enough?

Richard Florida wrote extensively on this in his book The Rise of the Creative Class. He defines the Creative Class as “people in science and engineering, architecture and design, education, arts, music and entertainment whose economic function is to create new ideas, new technology, and new creative content.”Business Insider

Writer Jeff Goins also defines “creatives”:

A creative is an artist. Not just a painter or musician or writer. She is someone who sees the world a little differently than others.

A creative is an individual. He is unique, someone who doesn’t quite fit into any box. Some think of creatives as iconoclasts; others see them as rebels. Both are quite apt.

A creative is a thought leader. He influences people not necessarily through personality but through his innate gifts and talents.

As fascinating as Florida’s writing is, I disagree with his premise that creatives are their own class of people, because I believe it’s within any of us to develop our capacity for creativity. Those of us who might be suspect of Florida’s promotion of the Creative Class would do well to read the critiques of his thinking (this and also this are excellent).

When people in our communities or workplaces class themselves as distinctively creative, they tend to operate in a tribal fashion. These tribes may even be quite diverse, but too often, I believe, they operate to satisfy their own needs and desires rather than that of the larger workplace or community. Thus in the workplace, decision-making is made by the few like-minded thinkers, that tribe of influential creatives. And communities? Where such a population of creative, expansive thinkers could enhance the appeal and value of a neighborhood, too often, , and communities can steer in the direction of gentrification, becoming less inclusive, making housing less accessible even for those who were there before.

Blog - Creativity & Community Leadership - azquotesPhoto Credit: AZQuotes

My bias in how creatives work best is in community – not just a tribe of creatives, but in a community of folks with other giftings,  other strengths,and other history.

However, all that being said, I do love the increasing view that creatives add value to any enterprise. My husband, for many years, was a research chemist who developed new products and was awarded several patents for his company. Even today, outside the chemical industry, he continues to be creative in thinking through new pathways toward solving problems, getting to goal, and developing personnel.

Even Florida in his revised and updated book recommends a compact dealing with creatives. His first (of 6 principles) is: Invest in Developing the Full Human Potential and Creative Capabilities of Every Single Human Being. It’s somewhat grandiose but it’s a worthy goal. Having this principle in play would promote a workforce where employees are encouraged to always be thinking and engaged in both today’s work and what changes must be made for the future.

Along these same lines, I love Howard Gardner’s Five Minds for the Future:Blog - Creativity - slidesharePhoto Credit: Slideshare

As creatives are sought after more and more in our workplaces (om both private and public sectors), I hope we also encourage them to build strengths in other areas of their thinking (or mindfulness). For those colleagues of ours who might not consider themselves creative, we need to communicate across organizations as to their value as well. This would include our creatives to gain from what other bring to the table.

I would like to think that I’m a creative…in ways, maybe, born out of time. Early on in my career, I had the privilege of working as a team with other colleagues in developing and implementing cancer care in a small town in the Southeast. It was thrilling for me to be part of such an innovative and comprehensive system of care where we could actually plan and dream for the future.

Three of us, in particular, worked as creatives in community. I was a content specialist and idea person. Kay was the nurse manager who brought vision and authority to the task. Kathy was a clinician with steely resolve and the determination to take the ideas to completion. We were a force to be reckoned with…just saying.

We all have different giftings and strengths. My influence was helpful but Kay’s authority settled matters. My ideas were large and lofty (sometimes), and Kathy’s keenness for how to make those ideas work were what brought them into reality.

That’s how creatives work in community. I think of top skills for the future that “in community” piece would be essential for creatives who want to make a lasting difference…not just for their own purposes at work but for the benefit of the larger community.

A hugely successful example of this is the work culture and philosophy of Pixar & Disney Animation which I wrote about here.

Daan Roosegaarde in Siebelink’s article talks about creativity in community: There are two ways to turn an idea into reality. You can play bowling, or you can play ping pong. The old way, at least that is what I think, is bowling. You have that ball in your hand and it’s so big, it is so heavy, it shines so beautifully. Then you throw that bowling ball and pray it will hit target.

I no longer believe this is a good way to create and innovate. I believe in playing ping pong: you take a tiny little ball, not expensive, and there you go: poek poek poek poek … and you create something together. And THAT is nice, this is how I create, this is how I learn.”

Bring on these kinds of creatives any day!

Skills of the Future: The Best Expert Advice on Creativity

The Rise of the Creative Class — Revisited (Revised and Expanded) by Richard Florida

The Creative Compact – Richard Florida – Huffington Post

Creativity – the Unique Soft Skill – Slideshare

6 Ways to Make Your Leadership and Workplace Fun Again

Creativity, Inc. – Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull

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5 Friday Faves – New Boomer Website, Creativity Burnout, Blake Mycoski’s Why (TOMS Shoes), Epiphany, and Community

Blog - Friday Faves

It’s Friday again. How does that happen so rapidly every week? For those of you who can’t wait until Friday, I celebrate with you. For those of us who see life zooming by, taking account on Fridays of what we learned and what we savored seems to slow down time just a bit. Hope you enjoy my 5 favorites of this week. What were some of yours?

1) New Website for Us Boomers (well, everyone really)   Blog - Baby boomers (2)Photo Credit: LivingWellLivingStrong.com

Membree.com launched this week. Quoting the creators of the website, we older folks (i.e. “Baby-boomers“), as well as other generations, have 2 common desires: to serve and to share:

     1.    SERVE –a desire to live life to the full, by serving those around us;

     2.    SHARE –a desire to pass on our life experiences, wisdom and legacy to our loved ones.

“Membree answers those two major life pursuits by inspiring its members to perform random acts of kindness and by capturing life memories in both print and digital form, so these memories can be shared broadly.”Blog - MembreePhoto Credit: Membree.com

2) Creativity Burnout – In this week’s blog on BeyondtheGuitar.com, guitarist/arranger Nathan Mills tells a bit of his story about almost leaving music altogether after burning out on years of work. His re-entry seemed a bit unorthodox to me, but as I read the connection of emotion and creative work became clear. Glad that season of burnout is behind him.Nathan at guitar

3) Blake Mycoski’s Why (TOMS Shoes) – OK, so I’ve never bought a pair of TOMS shoes, and until this Harvard Business Review article I couldn’t have told you who in the world is Blake Mycoski. After reading his story and the history of his company, I’m inspired. His honesty and transparency are compelling. Take the time to read this article for the details of his journey and his rediscovering the “why” of his business. One book he mentioned was Simon Sinek’s Start With Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. That book is now on my 2016 “to-read” list. To give you a sweet teaser about Blake Mycoski’s return to his “why”, here’s a quote from the HBR article:

People follow you, buy from you, when they believe what you believe. The more I thought about this idea, the more I realized that TOMS had veered away from its “why.” In the early days we always led with our story: We weren’t selling shoes; we were selling the promise that each purchase would directly and tangibly benefit a child who needed shoes. But our desire to sustain the company’s hypergrowth had pushed us away from that mission and into competing on the “what” and “how,” just as every other shoe company does…Our marketing increasingly felt product-focused rather than purpose-focused. And as the leader of TOMS, I was ultimately accountable for those mistakes. That was a tough pill to swallow.” – Blake Mycoski, Founder of TOMS ShoesBlog - Blake Mycoski - TOMS Shoes - tinyspark.orgPhoto Credit: tinyspark.org

4) Epiphany – This week’s marks the formal end of the Christmas season. Epiphany – January 6 – the day of celebration of God’s revelation of Christ, especially to the Gentiles (or all who are not Jews). It is also known as Three Kings’ Day. I love how it gives us twelve more days to celebrate such a God. The David Crowder Band refers to these 12 Days of Christmas in the intro to their song Carol of the Bells/Christmas Eve from the album Oh For Joy. [Crowder’s lounge piano intro is hilarious. Don’t miss it either.] Because of Epiphany and our sweet memories of many Christmases in Egypt (celebrated on January 7), I will finally ring out (or rock out, rather) the season with this amazing song:

 

5) Community – When you Google search the definition of the word community, this is what pops up:

com·mu·ni·ty
kəˈmyo͞onədē/
noun
1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
2. a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
This week, I have been reminded all over again of the great value of community. Our neighbors are such a joy to us. So extraordinary in how they take time for each other and really seem to care for each other. We are blessed to live in this tiny part of Richmond, Virginia.

Blog - CommunityBlog - Community 3

Then there is this bunch of folks who make up our community group (so far). We are joined by living near to each other, our partnership in Movement Church, and our love for Jesus and each other. Just this week as an old friend became a new part of our group, we were reminded of the kindness of God in community. Encouraging each other, praying for each other, loving each other…right where we are in life. Works in progress. God’s magnificent works in progress. Seemingly ordinary, but oh, not so! Community.Blog - 2015 December - Community Group

Today Is The Day the Crayons Came Home and Two Other Worthy Reads

Blog - Great Books Cover

Book-lovers are divided into three kinds of people – those who borrow books from the library, those who buy electronic versions to read on tablets of some sort, and people like me. I buy books. Usually online. Two days later they arrive and I love tearing open the cardboard box, and turning the pages of those anticipated books.

I might read one book right away, or save it for a plane trip, or file it into the stack of “next reads”. Today my pre-ordered copy of the just out The Day the Crayons Came Home arrived in that cardboard box.

This children’s story, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, is that best sort of book both kids and adults enjoy together. Its best-selling predecessor, The Day the Crayons Quit, is my current favorite children’s story. It sits on the bookshelf to the right of my work desk as my inspiration for the day I write such a book.

Both books tell the woes of various crayons in the possession of young Duncan. So funny, and so human…for crayons. Jeffers’ illustrations are the perfect match for Daywalt’s writing. You want to buy these books for your children, or yourself. Of course, you can borrow them from the library. Not me, but you can.Blog - Great Books - Crayons

Two other great books came in today’s cardboard box…

Thanks for the Feedback is written by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. They also authored the book Difficult Conversations, with Bruce Patton. I heard Sheila Heen speak about feedback at the Global Leadership Summit recently. It seems feedback is something we all want at work…until we get it. Stone and Heen talk about learning how to receive feedback well. My husband will read this book before me, but I look forward to tackling this subject and growing through it.

The third book that arrived today was Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc. It is a manual for managers who want to merge creativity and excellence. Catmull, one of the founders of Pixar Animation, and the president of Disney Animation Studios, was also a speaker at this year’s Global Leadership Summit. I’m excited to read Creativity, Inc. to apply his principles in my work and life among creative. I am also intrigued by his many stories of how he keeps the culture and operations so user-friendly for the artists and designers. Looking forward to learning more from him in this book.

This day delivered on great books. I may review them later, but for now I’m just looking forward to reading them myself. For the joy and for the empowering that come with good books.

What books are you reading these days? Would love to hear about them. Maybe I’ll order them, too.

Coming Soon [Today]…The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

Global Leadership Summit – 7 Take-Aways from Day One of #GLS15

Creativity, Inc. Quotes at Good Reads

The Pixar Way: 37 Quotes on Developing and Maintaining a Creative Company

Global Leadership Summit – 6 Take-Aways from Day 2 of #GLS15

Thanks for the Feedback Quotes at Good Reads

Slideshare – How to Give and Receive Feedback – The Triad Consulting Group – Sheila Heen & Douglas Stone (authors of Thanks for the Feedback)

Life Skills – Stewardship of the Essential in the Workplace – 5 Helps

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A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.                      Proverbs 16:9

“He who believes in Me [Jesus], the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” John 14:12

5 Helps to Keep Essentials in Focus

1) Pray – do business with God on the issue of stewardship of work.

2) Re-visit your job description/annual goals. Do they match up?

3) Determine when you’re sharpest or freshest & guard that time.

4) Practice intentionality with meeting invites & other distractions.

5) Do what only you can do whenever possible.

Books, blogs, and experts abound in the field of leadership and workplace productivity. A challenge for me at work is the constant press of the urgent, and the seeming necessity of meetings upon meetings. I actually don’t really mind meetings; processing in group is my method of choice for information-sharing and developing strategies. Yet, there are those colleagues of ours whom we depend on for deep thinking and creative planning and who need time in quiet to accomplish that.  Too often their work-day is packed with people (either across a meeting table or through electronic communications). They’re then less able to be proactive in their thinking and more prone to reactive decision-making.

Shane Parrish (@farnamstreet) wrote about this phenomenon several months ago. The title of his article was intriguing: “Most of what you are going to do or say today is not essential”.

I don’t want to spend my life doing things that don’t matter, especially in the huge investment of life at work.

In the above article, Parrish continued: “If you’re a modern knowledge worker, odds are you’re going to go to work, read some emails, reply to some emails, attend some meetings, grab a coffee, have lunch, attend another meeting or two, catch up on emails, and finally head home. You’ll be busy from the moment you get to work until the moment you go home. When you do find a nook of time, you’ll likely be bombarded with beeping, dings, calls, and other people who only need a sliver of our time. After all, they too have something urgent to do. They too have a deadline.

After a long day, you’ll come home mentally and physically drained. Eventually you’ll reach a tipping point and say enough is enough. The very next day you’ll head into the office vowing to change things. You’ll start to think about how to work more productively when, ding, a meeting invite pops up for an urgent meeting to decide the fate of a product.”

Later in the article, he said, “Sure we do more busy work, but we’re doing less real work. To get any real work done we come in early, stay late, or both. That’s the only way we can get some peace and quiet.”

We must take a step back from our hectic workday and refocus our thinking on why exactly do we have our jobs anyway. Why were we given the responsibilities we have or how are we to use the authority/influence we have? Are we being good stewards of what is absolutely imperative or are we just ticking off what is necessary? We have to recapture the essential elements of our work before they’re lost in a muddle of ineffective organizational structure.

There has been lots written on effective leadership, workplace productivity, and time management. For me, these 5 helps encourage me in resetting my priorities when I lose balance or energy or joy in the work:

1) Pray – really do business with God on the issue of your stewardship of your work. Are you being faithful in the essentials?

2) Re-visit your job description and annual goals. Do they match up or have your time and mental energy been outsourced to other activities eroding your creativity and productivity?

3) Determine when you are the sharpest or freshest and guard that time of the day for the most essential thinking and decision-making you need to do. “Silence” the distractions for that block of time.

4) Practice intentionality in dealing with meeting invites, drop-ins, phone calls, or email. Urgent matters will come up and may need only your attention for some part of them. Just beware that you don’t fall into a habit of doing what may come easy – for example, filling up your day with meetings generated by others leaving you with little time for  your own responsibilities.

5) Do what only you can do whenever possible. You’re in the position you’re in, hopefully, because you are just the right person for that job. What is it that you need to be focused on? You don’t just ignore the other needs of the office or organization that vie for your attention, but you help work out how best (either through a process or another person) those needs are met.

What has helped you in stewarding the essentials in your work life? What are your particular challenges?

Shane Parrish – What You Do Today Is Not Essential

Biblical Time Management

Michael Hyatt on Cutting Your To-Do List in Half

Time Management Matrix

5 Tips for Increasing Workplace Productivity

5 Real Tips to Get More Done at Work