Your Job Is a Work of Art

Effective leaders challenge the status quo.

April 19, 2014

“The path that’s available to each of us is neither reckless stupidity nor mindless compliance,” observes Seth Godin in his book, The Icarus Deception.

Icarus, of legend, wore wings fashioned of wax and was advised to not fly too close to the sun. But temptation was great. The wax melted and Icarus met his demise in the sea.

Icarus was also advised to not fly too close to the water; it would affect the lift of his wings.

The lesson, according to Godin, is that in our careers we have settled for low expectations. We have avoided the discomforts of innovation for fear of questioning authority and leaving our comfort zone.

Rather, we need to explore another safety zone for success: “The place where art and innovation and destruction and rebirth happen. The new safety zone is the never-ending creation of ever-deeper personal connection.”

There we treat our work as art.

Godin’s book challenges readers to innovate and to tap into the inner artist—in pursuit of both career success and personal satisfaction.

Sources this week outline the advantages of innovation and creativity for not only employees, but managers and companies who challenge the status quo in ongoing quests to not only fly near the sun, but to shoot for the stars.

How high might you fly?

‘The chief enemy of creativity is 'good’ sense.’—Pablo Picasso

“The next domain of quality will be innovation because market dominance now requires fast and transformational change,” notes Gallup senior strategist John Timmerman, Ph.D. in “Innovation: The New Frontier for Quality.” 

This compelling Q&A with Timmerman reveals that quality remains relevant in today’s competitive landscape—Total Quality Management is not a thing of the past. Today’s leaders share that “innovation is one of their top issues” and personalization is a component of quality.

Timmerman predicts the personalization of products and that “advanced technology platforms and increased consumer awareness will cause the extinction of many mass production firms if they fail to adapt.

“Innovation is quality for tomorrow,” he concludes.

When we operate under the premise that innovation is critical, how can creativity be encouraged in staffers?

“Innovative thinking and insights are important tools,” reports Supply Management, which outlines “Five Ways to Boost Your Creativity”:

1. Avoid judgment of ideas—be open to failure and all possible solutions. “Quantity, not quality, will encourage the brain to roam more freely.”

2. Reverse situations with consideration of how to achieve the opposite of a desired effect, and work backwards around it.

3. Incorporate analogies—thinking of things without apparent connection spurs creativity.

4. Use your intuition.

5. Think in new ways. If you normally stick to the facts, try going with a hunch.

‘Creativity comes from a conflict of ideas.’ –Donatella Versace, fashion designer

Great people come up with great ideas. Start by building a talented staff, and know “5 Attributes to Look for in High-Performing Employees,” per Entrepreneur:

Consider yourself: “Are You Dutiful or a Disruptor?” Compelling survey results reported in this post indicate “The most entrepreneurial and innovative CEOs spend 50% more time on… discovery activities than leaders without a track record of innovation.”

Discovery skills that nurture innovation include “associating, questioning, observing, experimenting, and networking with one sub-trait underpinning all: disrupting.”

Effective leaders challenge the status quo. Disruption is painful and change can be difficult, but disruption will distinguish the extraordinary from the ordinary.

“The single most important thing you can do is to embrace disruption in yourself and in those you lead.”

‘Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.’ –Erich Fromm, social psychologist

Innovative managers encourage creative employees. Do you know “Why Great Managers are So Rare?” 

“Gallup finds that companies fail to choose the candidate [manager] with the right talent for the job 82% of the time.”

However, companies making right managerial choices will have large competitive advantage due to increased employee engagement. We might conclude this results in business success, but survey findings reveal that “only 30% of U.S. employees are engaged at work, and a staggeringly low 13% worldwide are engaged.”

These numbers remain unchanged over the previous 12 years, “meaning that the vast majority of employees worldwide are failing to develop and contribute at work.”

Traits to look for in great managers include ability to motivate, assertiveness to overcome adversity, creating a sense of employee accountability, relationship-building skills, and decision-making based not on politics but productivity.

Once that effective manager is on board, they need to know “How to Motivate Your Team to Start Thinking Creatively.”

“Functional creativity… is highly useful in business. It is a form of innovation that organizations use to come up with better solutions.”

Work teams can spark creativity with these four tenets:

1. Awareness of constraints such as time, cost, and quotas.

2. Knowledge of history—existing practices can be enhanced or eliminated.

3. Welcome “getting lost” in the creative process—don’t “retreat to the familiar.”

4. Blend unconnected ideas—consider practices of other industries, or retrofit history.

Simply remember to “Challenge Orthodoxy if You Want Innovation and Success,” says in an examination of the state of curiosity.

“Curiosity serves as a trigger for innovation and invention,” notes the article. In some professional settings, however, “some consider curiosity an annoying trait and label those who tend to question as being too intrusive, obstinate, and even naysayers.”

Rather, as Godin’s book and the reported benefits of innovation reveal this week, curiosity is instead a critical element to a prospering business, and should be nurtured in employees.

In turn, engaged employees will help their employers thrive.

Godin’s book encourages readers to care enough to fail, to consider “dancing on the edge of ridiculous,” and to “start your journey before you see the end.”

Make your work an art form. Express creativity. Innovate. Encourage others to take a risk.

Says Godin, “Art is a leap into the void, a chance to give birth to your genius and to make magic where there was no magic before.”






Lora Bray is a research librarian at CUNA.