5 Steps Towards Crafting Creativity in Your Career

Updated: Nov 27, 2020

Written by: Kamil Shah, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

When it comes to our careers, we all have different reasons for being in one. It could either be something of an aspiration to get into, seeing it as a stepping stone to other opportunities, wanting to create a meaningful contribution to society, getting yourself to financial freedom, or it may even be to fulfill someone else’s dream! Whatever our reasons, the staggering statistics show that more than 80% of employees globally are not engaged in their jobs, with only 15% of the global workforce are actually engaged at work (Gallup World Poll).

‘According to Gallup's World Poll, many people in the world hate their job and especially their boss… Only 15% of the world's one billion full-time workers are engaged at work.’

Jim Clifton (Chairman, Gallup)

Although the numbers may have changed slightly due to the recent events, the overarching conclusion is still the same. Globally, there are more employees disengaged than engaged at the workplace.

With this in mind, how can we turn the tide from being disillusioned, disheartened, or unmotivated at work to become more engaged, energized, and even, dare I say, passionate again? How can we alter our engagement with our job (the one we are currently devoting more than half of our waking hours to!) in becoming something more meaningful and into our ‘mission’?

Crafting our creativity at work may be one of the answers. Read on to find out why creativity at work is important and how you can begin to develop it and what you might expect as a result from employing creativity in your job.

Now, first things first. You might say, ‘Sorry, I’m not the creative type!’, or ‘My job doesn’t involve creativity. I’m just a ‘number cruncher,’ or even ‘I just need to go to work, do my job, and get paid. I don’t need to be creative’. The truth of the matter is, unless you’re a computer (we’ll leave artificial intelligence for another article!), you are already using some form of creativity in your day. And yes, even at your workplace!

Now think about the last time when a meeting or deadline was re-scheduled (rather conveniently!) at the last minute. What was your reaction? I’m guessing a lot of anxiety or panic at the beginning, filled with possible anger and frustration. Let’s fast forward to this scenario. What happened at the end? Again, I’m guessing that things, although challenging for a while, were eventually resolved. The question is, ‘How did it get resolved?’. How did you manage to overcome the re-scheduled meeting or deadline? Chances are, you would have probably deployed some form of ‘Merlin-like’ magical creativity to resolve the situation.

The good news is that we are all born creative geniuses. That’s right! As humans, we have the capacity to grow to our fullest potential through our ability to make choices, problem-solve and form conclusions. All of these cognitive skills have creativity at its heart. Through certain principles, we can craft and sharpen our creativity.

So, why is creativity so important, especially in the workplace?

Here are some key reasons to help explain:

1. The more you learn to improve yourself personally, the more likely that improvement is to permeate your professional life.

2. Finding creative solutions to problems show initiative at the workplace and highlights your enthusiasm and added value to the team.

3. Creativity not only improves your work performance, but it can also improve the company’s as well.

4. It has the potential to create a ripple effect. How you are in the workplace can influence the way your co-workers work.

5. Creativity can develop engagement and trust between co-workers

Needless to say, there are many more reasons why creativity is important in the workplace. Now that we’ve gone through some of them, how do we start to craft our creativity?

Throughout my professional experience, I can distill the process into 5 key steps:

Step #1: A.S.Q. Ask. Simple. Questions.

That’s it! The process of creative thinking starts with asking questions. The better the question, the better the answer. By that, I mean the growth that we get from the process of assessing problems, asking the right questions, making the decisions, acting, and eventually learning from that process.

Here is a list of simple questions that can help spark your curiosity and imagination:

‘What can I learn here?’

‘What is this situation teaching me?’

‘How can I improve this scenario instead of making it worse?’

‘Am I exaggerating the situation?’

‘How am I communicating my thoughts to others?’

..and my ‘go-to question’ when faced with fear or anxiety in making a decision.

‘What’s the worst that can happen?’

Step #2: Curate Your Work Day Through Visualization

You can choreograph and curate your workday to unfurl the way you want it to. Really! Of course, leave some room for improvisation for the things which you have no control over. But for the most part, you actually have a certain degree of control and influence on how your working day gets played out. With this superpower, you can be more proactive rather than reactive to your workdays!

A great way of doing this (one which I practice before going to bed at night) is to visualize how my next day will happen. The more detailed I can visualize it, the better the day happens for me. I schedule all the tasks that need to materialize in the order they should happen in my mind’s eye. In the morning, I play this scene again on my commute so that by the time I arrive at my office, I would be up and running on my first task almost automatically. This is because I have ‘rehearsed’ it a few times before in my mind, and now it’s ‘showtime’! Yes, there will be days when the unexpected email, urgent call, or even meeting needs my attention. That’s life. It throws curveballs at you to see if you’re actually paying attention! However, visualization allows me to quickly get back on track to where I left off.

Visualization is a powerful tool. To understand this, let’s first have a look at the power of our brain. Here’s where we can learn to leverage the power of both the conscious and subconscious minds. Our conscious brain is good at critical and logical thinking, planning, and being rational. The subconscious brain, on the other hand, has a significant untapped advantage as it is good at, to put it in simple terms, doing the things which are running on ‘autopilot.’ These are things like breathing or getting to work in the morning, every morning, without having to think about how to get there (we’ve all had those days when we magically appear at work and say ‘Oh, I’m already here!’). The subconscious mind also has another powerful asset. Research shows that the subconscious brain cannot distinguish between an ‘imagined’ or a ‘real’ event as it happens. A study carried out at the Cleveland Clinic showed that focused visualization of an exercise actually creates improved muscle performance, as if the exercise was actually performed physically! That’s to say, training your mind to perform a task as if you’re actually performing it in real life can actually create real outcomes. The bathtub scene from the movie ‘Cool Runnings’ is another great example of visualization at its best. (Go check out the movie again!)

‘We conclude that the mental training employed by this study enhances the cortical output signal, which drives the muscles to a higher activation level and increases strength.

(The Cleveland Clinic Foundation Study)

Step #3: Leave room for Improvisation

Let’s face it. The typical workday is never linear. You’ll get periods of relative calm and quiet, interrupted with sudden bursts of intense work and energy. And at times, things just don’t go the way we want them to! As much as we try to plan the day, there will always be that change in the submission deadline, the canceled meeting, or even those meetings requested at the 11th hour by the client, which you had not prepared for! They are those external forces that tend to ‘wreak havoc’ in the office, the ones which we have no control over and have the potential to destroy our well-curated day.

As I mentioned in Step #2, "always leave room for improvisation." Don’t beat yourself up for it. For example, be glad for the last-minute change in the deadline. A closer submission date means that you train yourself to be more effective with your time and energy and focus on the more important things that need to get done. Also, a canceled meeting can give you more time to do other things, like re-connect with your team and re-allocate your time to catch up on the tasks that were previously pending on your extensive ‘to-do-list’! Additionally, a last-minute call for a meeting gives you an opportunity to show preparedness and initiative with the client, which can go a long way in building your rapport with them.

Having improvisation in your workday can actually help ‘wake-and-shake’ you up by keeping you on your toes. An energy shift occurs when an anomaly appears in the otherwise linear workday. Of course, there will be hiccups, but all of it can help you grow mentally and emotionally as you will be put in a position to dig deep and come up with solutions at the spur of the moment.

Step #4: Connect the Dots

Look at ways to transfer the knowledge you have from your personal life into the workplace, and vice versa. Don’t underestimate the significance of personal interests or hobbies like painting, reading, fishing, cycling, cars or motorbikes, walks, travel, charity work..and the list goes on! All the things that you engage in outside of work can improve your performance at work. Try to see how they are relatable, applicable, and transferable. The key is to connect the dots.

In his Stanford Commencement speech, Steve Jobs famously mentioned that “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.” That is to say that things will only make sense over time upon reflection of why they happened the way they happened. But what if you actually can connect the dots moving forwards? What if you can really influence your work life by bringing in skills from those you enjoy doing outside of work? For example, can you adopt observation skills from your hobby in creating artwork for your office work? That is to say, to scrutinize the details and turn work-related challenges ‘upside-down’, ‘inside-out’ and to assess them from different perspectives? What about that chapter you read on ‘Carving out more time to exercise after work.’ Can you adopt similar strategies into your career in optimizing your work and creating a more efficient workday? And that desire to serve others through the charity work that you do. Can you bring the same level of empathy into the workplace in dealing with your co-workers and clients?

In a sense, these are all ‘dots’ running in parallel within our lives, which actually have exponential potential in elevating our game in the workplace. They just need to be tapped into. We are already doing them! We just need to link those practices and skills more creatively into our careers. In the same way that a carabiner or ‘spring hook’ is used to create a secure hold when mountain climbing, our current skills have the opportunity to give us the strong ‘handles’ required to move us up towards the summit of our careers.

So, reflect on this. What are the skills that are already in your possession outside of work, those that you can use to begin to connect the dots moving forward in your work?

Step #5: Get Fresh Pairs of Eyes

Finally, one of the most overlooked yet important ways to develop your creativity is to get feedback on your work and how you are doing at work. That’s right. Getting others involved in the mix allows you to get a different angle on things; it can also help build trust and support amongst team members.

It’s not easy for some people, I know. We may be over-protective of the work we do and may not ‘trust’ other people’s responses. In fact, we may feel judged when someone else offers their opinion about our work. We may even feel that we are placed under the spotlight and ‘exposed’ to the management for fear of our work being deemed ‘sub-standard.’ Whatever the feedback, they can all be extremely valuable. It just depends on how we want to perceive and receive those feedbacks.

The fact that others may not always see our work the way we do is actually a good thing! It just means that we’re employing other co-worker’s views to help solve the problem to hand by ‘bouncing ideas’ off them. This has got to be the most underused steps. Think about it. Because we spend most of our days focused on our task, we sometimes forget that the co-worker sitting next to you is an extremely valuable asset. They have the potential to offer us free consultations and reviews of our work, which would otherwise require the involvement of a third-party consultant.

All we have to do is to turn to our neighbor and A.S.Q.!

In conclusion, crafting our creativity in the workplace has the potential to elevate our game to unimaginable heights. The steps are simple but can have a profound impact on how we develop ourselves professionally in our careers. To recap, the 5 Steps Towards Crafting Creativity in Your Career are:

Step #1: A.S.Q.

Step #2: Curate Your Work Day Through Visualization

Step #3: Leave room for Improvisation

Step #4: Connect the Dots

Step #5: Get Fresh Pairs of Eyes

Have a go and let me know your thoughts! Follow me on Facebook or Instagram and visit my website! Read more from Kamil!

Kamil Shah, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine Coming from a professional background in design, Kamil previously practiced in both the Education & Corporate Sectors. One life-changing event in his 20s saw Kamil's life plummet from having a progressing career in design to living on $2 a day virtually overnight. This painful experience has taught him valuable lessons in Life, which he has used advantageously in regaining his feet and ultimately achieving Personal and Professional Success. He now shares his experience and knowledge to help others achieve their own success by bringing on their own Personal Genius.



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