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Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Ryan Lynch, Chief Strategy Officer at Beardwood&Co, about our theme of the month: creativity. In true remote-work fashion, there was a small scheduling mishap triggered by technology. The traditional binds of a Monday through Friday, 9-5 workday were broken, and we used Zoom to bridge the 7,000-mile gap between us.
As we’ve learned from 2020 and beyond, flexibility and adaptability are a must. After struggling to find a time when both of us were available, we settled on a Friday morning for him and Friday evening for me. Unfortunately, in an effort to remove themselves from the meeting, our mutual contact accidentally cancelled it on our calendars, too. Fortunately, we quickly rescheduled without harm or foul.
I grabbed a cup of tea the next morning and positioned my computer on a stack of books. I strategically maneuvered my camera so that my professional blouse would show and my Saturday morning sweatpants remained unseen. I thought…
“Maybe being creative isn’t about having grand moments of genius after exiting a meditative trance. Maybe it is the small moments of resourcefulness prompted by daily challenges.”
Lynch echoed this sentiment in his initial definition of creativity: “The human ability to problem solve.” Further intrigued by the question, he looked up the Oxford definition of creativity:
cre·a·tiv·i·ty /ˌkrēāˈtivədē/ noun the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.
“firms are keen to encourage creativity”
His filter on the definition was to take out the “artistic work” and “original ideas”, simplifying it to “the use of the imagination in the production of a human endeavor.”
In the editing of this definition, Lynch revealed something rather illuminating. Original ideas are overrated. The underrated skill of having the right idea at the right time is what breeds success. Like puzzle pieces, the two definitions of creativity complement each other and address the need for creativity within remote work.
Imagination is most beneficial when it is used to problem solve in a timely fashion. Lynch acknowledged time as a factor in creativity in his response to the question: What drives it? His answer caught me off guard: Deadlines.
When I chuckled, he explained further. He likened the process of being forced to produce to that of coal being put under pressure, resulting in a diamond. In a time crunch, we have no choice but to think outside of the box and make it work by any means necessary. After being put on the spot, he created a signature quote:
“Creativity is best under pressure.”
Deadlines aren’t the only thing that promote imaginative solutions. Lynch’s mantra for fostering creativity is, “Failure is cool!” He stimulates creativity by encouraging others in the workplace to take risks and, as a leader, saying, “Oh, look, I failed, and here’s what I learned from it.”
As we know, perfection is the antithesis of production. Therefore, it makes sense that only in an environment where daring greatly is encouraged, and error is allowed, that creativity can flourish.
Ditching traditions that no longer serve us
Equally as important as embracing failure as a necessary part of creativity is knowing when existing processes are failing. We discussed how Lynch had been creative recently, and we inevitably turned towards the pandemic as an example. Lynch characterized the pandemic as a “massive ball of accelerating change” that has inspired new neural pathways in our brain in an effort to solve new problems, ultimately requiring creativity.
One creative moment came out of realizing that Beardwood&Co long-standing, Thursday night happy hour was no longer working in a virtual environment—even after 6 months of trying. Wanting to maintain a time and place where staff could be human and not talk about business, his team came up with an “inspiration hour” on Fridays where they eat lunch. Team members learn about life through guest speakers, clients, and friends.
Different humans need different stimulants
For Lynch, a walk in a green space gets the creative juices flowing. For some of his clients, it is the ability to share ideas visually or discuss projects with other brilliant minds in real time.
The point is, assuming a one-size-fits-all strategy isn’t so successful. Lynch argues “different humans respond to different things and need different stimulants” to help them enter their most creative headspace. As an overarching principle, Lynch advocates putting yourself in the shoes of the person you are talking to:
“What are they all about?
Where did they come from?
How do they think?
How do they solve problems?”
By doing so, you are able to tap into what inspires them and what creative inspiration they are able to offer back.
Dreaming of the future
While Lynch likes to remain platform agnostic, he does dream of using V/R to push the boundaries of creativity through collaboration.
“Take me to a William Gibson future, and I’m all in” he said candidly.
Earlier in the interview, we agreed one area in dire need of innovation was recreating the feeling of human connection in virtual spaces. Fortunately, VR has this capability. Currently, Lynch uses noisy hand clappers and stuffed animals to demonstrate emotion and heighten connection. However, a tool that could provide a metaverse where interaction is seamless would take co-creation to the next level.
Lastly, Lynch mentions “play” as a salient ingredient in cooking-up a cauldron of creativity. With all of the deadlines and productivity propaganda, us adults sometimes forget that silliness and lighthearted energy are needed for the secret sauce.
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