I believe that our world is ready for a new paradigm on work and productivity—one that will nourish our most profound creative abilities. If we as business leaders accept that rigidity is the antithesis of creativity and innovation, then recognizing where rigidity exists in our current conceptualizations of work and productivity begins to set us free.
It helps to explore some of the social and organizational norms regarding work and productivity and further, to understand how these norms might be undermining and suppressing our creative genius.
Traditionally, most of us work from 9-5, which sets up the expectation that our creative impulses will manifest in that window. However, creativity doesn’t mind the clock; it prefers to show up when we are relaxed and open.
Given that many of us work in chaotic environments filled with constant chatter, meetings, and social distractions, our creative flow tends to kick in outside those hours once we have disconnected from the busyness.
In looking back on my office days, when I had supervisors as well as mandates to please lots of stakeholders both in and out of the organization, I adhered strictly to plans and deadlines that left little room to accommodate the shifting nature of my perspectives.
In my career as a researcher, I’ve written many proposals, of course well in advance of launching those projects, only to realize on the start date that my initial excitement has turned into hesitation. “I promised to do what?”
Raw creative energy carries uncertainty and unpredictability. What seems like a good idea one day evolves as our vision morphs into bigger and better versions of itself if we give it the time and space to do so.
While we might personally want our work to come to fruition in a certain timeframe, a firm attachment to deadlines leaves less room for our creative vision to blossom and unravel organically and at a pace that would allow it to be expressed in its most evolved state.
I worked in many atmospheres where the norm was to crank out as much as possible in the shortest time possible. There was a hyper-focus on efficiency and productivity.
We find great power in being able to sit with unfinished work and feel that it is perfectly incomplete, exactly how it needs to be today. When we relieve the constant urge to fix, mend, and complete, our work flourishes in the most unexpectedly beautiful ways and the experience is usually much more pleasant.
We have an innate intuitive ability to “feel into” the metaphorical current that runs through our lives. It’s the current that tells us when to stop, slow down, and push forward. It speaks to us all the time and tells us how to leverage the present moment to nourish our work, even if that means a hands-off approach.
Our ability to be more mindful of this current helps us to develop and manifest our creative work in a rhythm and timeframe that best supports it. It’s a current that we can either sync with or sink into.
We know of many innovators who seemed to perfectly nail the timing of their creations, snatching a substantial share of the market almost instantly. Experts in the startup world describe this phenomenon with a hockey stick graph. That’s where the base of the stick corresponds to a brief period of flat growth, followed quickly by the handle that marks a period of drastic and rapid growth.
This is of course every entrepreneur’s dream—and it’s a very rare event. I find it tremendously exciting to consider how this trend might accelerate if we trained ourselves to consciously lean into our intuitive inclinations to “flow.”
We’ve all been graced with the experience of working diligently toward a goal only to encounter a slew of unanticipated events. These moments are preciously informative and call on us to pause and reflect: Is it time to slow down and catch our breath? Are we paddling in the wrong direction? Have we been dragging our feet for too long?
Often, in ignoring the current, we overlook a bigger and better opportunity. Flowing with the current is about trusting that as we leverage both our active and passive energies, we will witness our best work emerge from the depths of us.
COVID-19 has given us an unprecedented opportunity to introduce fluidity to our relationship with time, work, and productivity. As business leaders, we can use this time to envision new cultural norms that will cultivate creativity in our workforce.
COVID-19 has shaken up nearly every industry, giving us all a chance to hit the reset button, override the inertia of stale traditions, and rewrite the big rules. Though this may not be our last chance to make the leap, the current seems to be whispering that now is a really good time.
Bianca Finkelstein originally published this article in Fast Company Magazine