Create Your Way Into a New Type of Creativity
As I interact with ministries and faith leaders, I often hear the word “stuck” or a synonym. As these leaders tease out their discontent for the status quo and dream aloud a bit about their hopes for the future, they inevitably express a desire for something “new” or “fresh.” In his leadership reflections, Simon Walker attempts a brief FAQ as an appendix at the end of his second work, Leading with Nothing to Lose, about troubleshooting leadership problems. My eyes were drawn to the word “stuck” in one of the questions. I’d like to evaluate his response as he attempts to usher in something new and fresh. The question posed to Walker reads as follows:
I’d like help with general troubleshooting. Often, I’m faced with teams that seem a bit stuck: they’re demotivated, apathetic, just kind of run out of gas. Mostly they become cynical, and then bitchy at the same time. As a result, they’re not only unproductive but also a negative influence on others in the organization. What should I do about such teams? (316-317)
Walker suggests the most important work will be to analyze the foundation. He writes, “Teams become apathetic when they have no clear sense of where they’re going, why they’re doing what they’re doing and whether it can be achieved” (316). In helping the team explore their understanding of the foundation, Walker suggests convening the team and see if they acknowledge the problem, and to get them to reflect on their foundation. He also acknowledges the way forward will be helping some find new roles. He then invites the leader to assess their own role as supervisor, and finally, to review the new agreements together periodically.
I agree with Walker’s prescription to analyze the foundation. I find that teams become apathetic and bored when they lose a sense of the goal and their self-efficacy of achieving that goal. Victim mentality persists, as does a spirit of paralysis. Walker summarizes it by saying, “They may be worn out, they may not think their work is worthwhile, they may not think it is doable.”
Where I find Walker’s answer insufficient is the exploration done only in conversation. This cognitive exercise alone isn’t enough to help this team get unstuck. Walker is helping teams believe their way into action, but as ritualistic and holistic beings, we need to also act our way into new types of believing. It’s engaging with fresh ideas and fresh processes that we further explore the foundational aspects of our mission, purpose, and values. I would include a new project, goal, or aim for this team to live out its expressed, new intent, lest they stay simply as that – good intents. New ways of problem-solving, new problems to solve, and new beliefs and attitudes can all work together to invigorate that which was stagnant. It’s possible to create our way into new types of creativity. It’s who we are as followers of Jesus, bringing springs to the desert, movement to the lame, and life to the dead.
Simon P. Walker, The Undefended Leader (Carlise, UK: Piquant, 2010).
6 responses to “Create Your Way Into a New Type of Creativity”
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I wonder if another practice could be to actually backtrack a short distance to analyze where the going got rough. Maybe the “road most traveled” is actually the one with the deepest rivets that causes the wagon to get stuck. Maybe there’s another path along the way that could be taken, but we only know if we look back to reflect on where we came from.
I was chatting with my roommate the other night about his coding and programming job. He’s started taking classes to resharpen his skills. One of the activities he has to do is that he’s given a problem and has to find out where the bug in the coding is. He said his answer, while simplest in fashion, was actually the least efficient. When he looked at the answer the book provided, he found that it was definitely more complicated, but at the same time it was much more efficient. He said that sometimes the complications actually make things better in the long run.
I say this in that while we may be stuck in the present, if we look back and take a different path altogether that leads toward the same place, that path may prove more fruitful than the easy way.
What would you think about also introducing a new challenge or a new perspective into the mix in order to reinvigorate the team. It’s been my experience that inspiration by the visionary innovator has a short shelf-life. If we are going to invite them to live their way out of the bitchy and toward the beautiful, I wonder what other variables (curveballs) we could throw at them.
In my coaching world I find people struggle because they don’t have a clear mission and vision for their lives. A clear mission around what their sense is their purpose is the key. Whether an individual or a company if their is a lack of understanding of what their purpose is things will bog down. A vision is an imaginary outcome that needs to be held open handed and adjusted along the way. I find it odd that many put the emphasis on the vision instead of the purpose. Without a clear purpose the vision is often a pipe dream. A good example would be Starbucks They know their purpose. Contrary to some beliefs it is not to provide the best coffee. It is to use coffee to create an experience. They design their coffee shops to encourage interactions and social activity. Starbucks purpose is all about creating a social experience and that experience sells coffee.
I agree that talk isn’t enough. I’ve found that it’s often very helpful to literally change physical locations when my team is stuck. We might go out to eat, or on a nature walk, or a ball game- something to get the mind in a different place. Then we’ll use the experience as a way of drawing parallels. I also once worked in a church where the senior pastor insisted that the staff collectively generate 100 new ideas each year. While only a few would stick, it forced us to stay in the mindset of experimentation and exploration all of the time.
“It’s possible to create our way into new types of creativity.” I see my daughter do this all the time in art school. She has been especially innovative this past school year, taking familiar images, transforming them in new ways, and producing them utilizing mixed media. It’s been amazing to witness. For so long she was stuck, hated her work, tired, and uninspired. It is like a switch flipped. Her instructors keep telling her to trust her instincts, and be ready to fail. She has really leaned into that council and it has been wind under her wings.
I wonder how you can take the familiar and make it new? How do you integrate and synthesize materials and ideas in a new way to move toward renewed purpose? Do you all take a class together, go on an adventure? How can you create an environment where uncomfortable is embraced and creativity fostered?
I look forward to hearing what makes your team soar into new places to serve in innovative ways to bring “springs to the desert, movement to the lame, and life to the dead.”
Great observations. Organisation, its structure itself can be a weight. Without a practice and ethos of sweet communication and connection, depleting.
Regarding foundations, my heart/mind tends to ‘first love’.
Leaders (‘administrators’) with skin in the game have increased credibility bringing messages of hope to teams with skin, some with soul, in the game.
There are moments when we can feel drawn out and in need of remembering the ‘reason’, the ‘inspiration’, even his resolve, his love…Jesus.
Thanks bro! Sweet reminders.