The productivity versus creativity vortex

July 10, 2018

Feeling under pressure? You’re not alone. I spend a lot of time talking to product managers and two common related themes that surface again and again are:
1. Managers’ desire for their team to think more creatively and;
2. They are all crazy busy.

This news is not that surprising. Most of us say we are under intense pressure to be productive rather than creative, despite the fact that we are also increasingly asked to think creatively on the job, according to an Adobe study. It’s a quandry.

On top of that, the vast majority of advice about thinking creatively places the effort and emphasis on the individual. The counsel is: get over your fears of the unknown, develop personal habits that support your creativity, get out of your comfort zone, etc., etc…

And while these are all good bits of advice, they don’t do much for the product manager or owner who needs more creativity from the team, all the while trapped in that productivity versus creativity vortex—never given time to focus, running from meeting to meeting… you know the drill. If you think about it, you might start to feel pretty discouraged. It feels like a lose-lose equation: Do more! Be creative! Work harder! Who can keep up?

The question remains, what can the product manager do to build up creativity on the team? To find time to focus? Fortunately, there is a proven method for building the creative muscle throughout the organization. It’s called Positive Turbulence.

“Positive Turbulence begins with the recognition that change is inevitable. It then provides ways to keep change manageable and apply it to an organization’s strategic advantage.”—Robert Brodnick

But where to begin? After you accept that change is inevitable, a great place to start is to begin a somewhat formalized practice of pulling ideas from the periphery—and not from your own industry. Look wider and deeper; beyond the vertical or technology you’re currently using.

Here's one idea on how to do that: One group I know started an “article club.” It works a little like a book club, but instead of reading a book and discussing it, they read a few loosely related articles and discuss them. You could do this with your team. So instead of just posting things you find interesting in Slack under the #General channel, create an article club with your team and start a once-a-month thing where you not only read a few articles, but discuss them. Be welcoming and invite others outside of your team in. You’ll be surprised at how quickly this starts generating positive turbulence and creativity on your team.

Want to start generating positive turbulence in your organization? Ping me through the Contact Us form. I'll be happy to have a conversation with you.