Thursday, January 5, 2012

When creativity trumps capital

"Cans Festival" "London Street Art"  Waterloo by londonstreetart2
"Cans Festival" "London Street Art" Waterloo,
a photo by londonstreetart2 on Flickr.
Do any of these cries sound familiar?  "We need more staff!"  "We need this technology!"  Are you feeling like someone is always trying to reach into your pocket?

The fact is that sometimes we do need these things - but often we don't.  Forgive this post, you economists out there who want to see all boats rising on the tide of increased spending by companies and consumers.  This is about looking out for the interests of numero uno - me.  Or you, since you're the one reading this.

Creativity often is tapped first when there isn't extra cash to throw around.  You learn to make do.  You learn to repurpose, to reuse resources, and to hang on to ideas or things that you might want or need on another day.  It's often harder to be creative when you DO have the resources to buy something, to hire somebody to do it for you.  You become tempted to follow the path of least resistance, which is to reach into your wallet, pay for the thing, and carry the bag home.

What would you have done with those resources if you hadn't spent them on that last sexy thingamajig?  Could you have strengthened your reserves and built your financial security by putting it away in a rainy day fund?  Could you have used your money better by allocating it to another purpose that didn't present the opportunity for creative options?  Might that hole-burning cash have gone to the development of a new service line or venture that could open a whole new revenue stream instead of piling on top of your prior dollars as you continue to mine your current one?

Ok, so perhaps you're not buying the fiscal responsibility argument for creativity over capital.  How about the argument for building meaning and satisfaction into daily work?  The brains you have on board are like other muscles - they like to stretch, and they get stronger with exercise.  If you want to build mental capacity you test your brain, give it problems to solve, give it constraints within which to work.  Then when the mind comes up with that wild-haired but effective solution - bingo!  Intrinsic reward.  And that rush of satisfaction generates more searching for more cool and cheap ways to solve current problems.

Prioritizing creativity over capital gives you a competitive edge.  First, you have financial leverage from having kept your costs down.  Second, your solutions may be like nobody else's anywhere.  Because of this second advantage you can differentiate yourself.  Let somebody benchmark off of you for a change instead of you stalking them for your next good idea.


Mark Sturgell, CBC said...


I always appreciate your writing, let alone your ideas. Sometimes your best comes in the form of simple, straightforward messages - like this one!

Forced frugality does drive creativity and innovation - even genius. Creating one's own "crucible of restraints" can have similar benefits from time to time. "Doing more with less" is management, but leadership is often about doing something new and refreshing without the ease that comes from ample resources. In fact, the crucible of leadership is crisis. All else is management.

Your thoughts also remind me of a book I've just about finished, "Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance", by Jonathan Fields. I highly recommend it - for you, your clients and other members of your tribe.

I look forward to our phone call next week. In the meantime, thanks for another great blog.

Mark (@pdncoach)

Julie Poland, certified business coach said...

Thanks Mark!