It is my belief that everyone is born creative. At this point everything you are is uncensored, liberated and pioneering. As you grow up you are influenced by those around you, be it friends and family, those in positions of influence such as teachers, and those who inspire you such as athletes and explorers. Some of these influences are progressive for you but there are some, and in particular as a result of cultures stifled by Tall Poppy Syndrome, who encourage you to ‘self-edit’*. The result is an individual who is only a fraction of their true potential.
No two people are alike, but in the world of work it is all too easy to group them into batches and deliver a generic style of management or approach. As a result we often miss the opportunity to harness some of the creativity they are born with that is undetected or suppressed. Whilst some will achieve in this grouping, others will struggle leaving them three choices; to try and be more like the achievers, to try and avoid being noticed, or leave.
In certain circumstances achievers in a group can be healthy inspiration for those who are looking for motivation and a ‘kick up the backside’. However, it is more likely that they will struggle as they try and break who they are to be something they’re not. Thousands of adult dyslexics who suffered in school as a result of not being diagnosed will testify to this. The unfortunate result of this is a group of affected individuals who feel they are failures and will drift away and to the detriment of your organisation.
Then there is the group who will do everything possible to avoid being noticed, they tend to be the ones who arrive in the office at 09:00 to commence working at 09:20 and yet do the bare minimum without causing a fuss. They are some of the most expensive overheads you can own as a business as the months and years go by before HR addresses them. In that time they will have done little to nothing to help progress the organisation forward. If this ‘bleed’ is left unsutured you risk staff AND customers drifting away; again, to the detriment of your organisation.
Those who leave of their choice could be one of two camps; those who can and those who can’t – great if you lose the latter but it is wilful blindness on your part if it’s the former. Not only do you lose the very group of individuals who can make the difference to your business but you pass them over to your competitors on a velvet pillow – more fool you!
Ignoring what is happening to the people in your organisation and creating one or all of the three outcomes above stifles your business in the way a blood clot can affect a body. It will prevent the flow of information and ideas between individuals and encourage the very habits such as a self-editing in adults to reach their full potential. Even in places that promote drone-like behaviour i.e. call centres should not overlook the minestrone of creativity and talent waiting to be harnessed. Yet it is all too easy when you fail to make the most of your own role to turn everyone else’s working life ‘beige’.
It is critical to put the colour back into the working lives of your staff so that any investment in their training and development is not wasted. There are many organisations that already pay lip-service to this (inspirational posters in the boardroom or trendy statements on the cafeteria walls) but the number that actually live and die by it are few and far between. Taking this step forward can be an unknown risk to many but the dividends paid as a result could be bountiful. In 2011/12 British Airways benefited from their employee suggestion scheme when a creative idea from a cleaner saved the company over £20m – the equivalent of 550 flights from London to New York.
Change the People or Change the People
Go back to basics and re-assess your workforce, look at who needs redeploying into areas where they can play to their strengths and understand the individual as a person who may not be who you assume them to be. The Undercover Boss series has shown that this is a lesson all management should learn from whatever their line of business.
Make the time to re-invest in the lifeblood of your business before the clot reaches the very heart of it.
*where you suppress characteristics, talents, and skills in order to confirm with particular social groups – a trait typically started as a teenager.