In my mind, this was going to be creative. About creativity. I’d dedicated hours to writing, crafting in my head a reflective post of great wit and insight. But then I hit London and it all went wrong. As I sit on this train, wedged between two commuters who may well be reading over my shoulder, being rocked from side to side and cradling my coffee between my knees, I’m feeling flat, exhausted. Amongst a hundred people in black suits all clutching their kindles and iPads I’m just one more face in an endless community of weary travellers whose eyes never meet and who dream of home.
Take these eight people: browsing online, daydreaming, Facebook, staring out the window, sleeping, reading on kindle, the crossword, emails on a serious laptop. And all the while the rain beats on the windows and the city gives way to the fields.
This is my office: there are no four walls, instead my iPad and phone. No deadlines except the ones i impose and my team dispersed, connected in collaborative spaces. We use email for work, but WhatsApp for our open backchannel, the place for photos and jokes throughout the day.
Whether I’m here, in a cafe or at home, I’m identically connected. Creative thoughts aren’t anchored in creative places but instead the creative space within my head. No process will make me creative and no environment can restrain it.
In the Social Age, unlocking creativity develops agility: the ability to create a space to think, to frame and reframe problems, surrounded by and nurtured from our communities.
This doesn’t come through process, systems or edict, but rather through trust, authenticity and integrity. People need to understand what permissions the organisation has granted to think, to act, to make mistakes.
Unlocking creativity isn’t about buying new chairs. Or painting one wall orange. It’s not about being a startup or a major player. Its about clarity of engagement between organisation and individual, about recognising the transience of the relationship but welcoming and rewarding the effort.
We can foster creativity and agility by developing a healthy mindset: by working with leaders, facilitators and participants to create safe spaces to play. By creating permissive environments to challenge convention. By supporting uninhibited curiosity and developing narrative approaches to sharing what we learn. Social leadership and social learning: within communities that we grow and support. This is what unlocks creativity, what makes us agile.