Tag Archives: void for creativity

Productivity vs Creativity

          In this world of cut-throat competition (does such a competition really exist in the first place; that’s still a question), every organization is obsessed with several initiatives aimed at improving all sorts of parameters one can think of, whether tangible or intangible. The intangible part is gaining importance now, as companies wants to project themselves not just as mere money making machines, but also as bodies who care for people, surroundings and the environment.

        No one is really sure of what “that magic thing” is, that can take us to the next level or put us ahead of the competition. So they end up trying to improve everything; hoping at least one of them will do the job. One thing that happens in the process is that organizations end up creating contradictions. That is to say they try to improve two (or more sometimes) parameters that in reality cannot really coexist. Any organization that lacks a high level view of things is often left to wonder why things don’t improve.

            One good example I see these days is productivity and creativity. On one side, everyone agrees that people need to do more and more in the given time, do not idle away their time, need to be organized, manage their time effectively and be deadline oriented. This is what we have been advocating and practicing for decades now. We have developed a whole lot of processes, methodologies, trainings etc around this and people have changed their habits, thinking and approach to adapt to this model. But then came the surprise. There was definitely stagnation. Though the efficiency and productivity improved, the organizations did not really get the breakthrough they wanted to. Then came the concept of creativity – people said the stagnation is caused by lack of creativity and that’s what is needed to be successful in today’s world.

            Now the organizations that were so far obsessed with improving the productivity, took up creativity too and said – here is another new parameter we need to show improvement on. C’mon guys, how can we survive without being creative and continuously innovating? Look at Google, Ideo….

            In reality, how well these two can co-exist? I am a firm believer that creativity needs those ‘gaps’ or ‘spaces’ for it to express. The more you pack your schedules, the more you chase deadlines; you are actually doing the reverse – getting rid of those gaps. When organizations push two such contradicting initiatives simultaneously, they neither end up in a creative organizations nor a productive organization. All that will result is individuals (or even groups) that will start exhibiting one of these traits predominantly. And organizations  become an assorted bunch of people who predominantly lean towards one or few of the concepts / parameters.

            Is that bad? May be not really, in the sense that something is better than nothing. But this is no way near to making an organizational identity or culture. The solution sometimes is to drop one of those parameters. For e.g a company in the creative space like advertising, might actually not much focus on productivity, but just on creativity. But this is not the only solution. It could be possible to correlate them. For e.g an IT company for whom productivity is of prime concern, can look at creative ways to improve it. But in that case, this is quiet different from having them as two separate parameters for improvement.

            Why does it happen ? I think primarily because we understand both as ‘concepts’. We know ‘productivity’ as a concept and also know all that’s needed to improve it. Now we know “creativity” also as a concept and there are all these tools and workshops which teach you how to become creative. When we understand anything at the concept level (mind level), we cannot see the underlying inter connection. So it doesn’t occur to the organizations that they need to drop something to embrace something new.

            I think at the root of this is the basic human problem of wanting more and more (of anything) to make the life more meaningful.

            This is actually an extension of our personal life; where in also we create such contradictions. Take for example: We want to be paid well as well as we want to do a job that we love. This creates a contradiction. And mostly we make a compromise. But the compromise comes from the logical mind and soon it stops making sense. Say you decide that money is important for you right now and you don’t really care what trash you do.Fine. For few months, you are happy. But then the deep dissatisfaction starts emerging and you feel miserable. In rare cases (if it is strong enough), miracles can happen. People can drop everything and start some thing they love and still be successful. But normally such contradictions makes life miserable and you start feeling that there is no progress.

            The same contradiction of productivity vs creativity exists in our personal lives too. When you are too busy chasing deadlines one after another with packed schedules and always a short term goal to achieve, there is hardly any creative space. The conditioning in the mind is so strong that if you don’t do anything in office on a particular day, you feel guilty. You have wasted time; that’s a crime.

Because of all that noise that gets created in the mind, you never get to experience those moments of stillness where creativity blossoms.

Also read The ‘void’ for creativity in Organizations

The ‘void’ for creativity in Organizations

Creativity is a buzzword these days and there are all these tools, frame works and thinking techniques to make people and organizations more and more creative (and innovative of course..). But how successful are they? How many organizations really are creative? How many dumb people have been transformed in to creative geniuses by these techniques?

Every organization is doing some thing or the other, which they believe will make them creative. You know what I really think ? Like most of such hypes, the organizations will pursue this for some time and at when they see that it doesn’t deliver what it promised, they will change the definition of ‘creativity’ to suit the concept in their mind (we have done that to Quality already..)

I think the fundamental problem is that most of the creativity advocates are not really sure how exactly this creativity works. When someone sees it happening in a particular setting / situation a few times, they think that’s what will make people creative. Brainstorming may be what an organization finds working for them. But do we go beyond to see how that technique makes people creative?

I think here is the secret. Creativity manifests in a state of void (no thoughts or in the present moment) spontaneously, even without the help of the logical mind. (Here is a typical example people tell you: Think of the time, you were trying to solve a problem and you eventually give up (or drop). And some time later the solution comes totally unexpected. May be after a sleep) How does it happen? When there is the void in you, this is the space or gap where you get to access the infinite creativity of the universe. And in that void the feverishness for the results also disappears.

If you take any techniques for creativity, they lead to this void. Take brainstorming as an example. What happens when you brainstorm? When you continuously flush your mind out, the mind comes to a state of void. This is typically where people become silent and then comes the real ‘out of the box’ ideas. 

There are some other techniques, which don’t take you to this space, because they deal with your logical mind. (Sometimes it is funny, you use your logical mind to overcome the logical barrier in the mind and it all looks perfectly logical) As a matter of fact, they do give results, but not really what’s called the ‘creative ones’. But many times organizations are happy with them, because they are safe.

So in essence to make someone creative, we need to create that void. But it is impossible to stop the mind to created that space. But the sages of India solved this problem rather easily. How? They discovered that mind, breath and body are closely interrelated and each could influence the other. They went on to create techniques (for e.g the breathing technique like Pranayama) which could create the void in the mind, without confronting it directly.

All this is to set the context for a concept of “Void for Creativity in Organizations” that I want to present to you. Extending the same concept to Organizations, I think the simple reason why Organizations are not really creative is because they don’t experience the ‘void’. The noise (or thinking) in organizations create so much of clutter that prevents them from getting to the void or the silence, which is the abode of creativity.

I think organizations, like individuals have a mind, and along with that comes other faculties that contribute to the constant chattering. Here are few important ones that occurs to me:

  1. Every organization develops a strong logical mind, which is based on data, past incidents, inputs from market, strategies. The logical mind is so adamant about being right every time.
  2. The organization’s mind is always in the past or the future (tracking and planning) and the space for creativity happens neither in the past or the future. The void is always in the present or the time stops in that void.
  3. Ego – Every organization works hard to build identities (internally and externally) and after sometime, this feeds in to the organization’s ego. Preserving this ego becomes a strong need and this needs effort. 
  4. Lack of a collective mind, which is caused by people conflicts, competing divisions etc.
  5. Too much of feverishness about the results or the outcomes.
  6. Attributes like Fear, Responding to triggers, Uncertainty (doubt) etc which become dominant at times.

As the organizations grow (old as well as in size) the noise increases, forms rigid patterns and becomes the way of functioning (It is not a wonder that smaller organizations and start ups are more creative many times). Even if organizations become aware of this issue (lack of creativity), typically we blame it on things like processes, bad management, bad marketing, lack of technical competence, market, competition etc. But I think the fundamental problem is that Organizations do not understand the need for the ‘Void’ for creativity.

Let me give you an example. The void comes sometimes when there is a real danger, say to the existence of the organization itself. That’s when people come together, let go of the past and don’t’ have big things to hope for the future – and this brings all the attention to what best can be done right now, which is the void for creativity. It is here where the organizations change its course drastically, attempts things it had always hesitated to do, decides to explore things that never made sense etc.

The moment when this void is there, creativity occurs spontaneously.

It might seem impossible to stop the clutter in the organizations and create a void. It will not come through structural changes or putting more processes, or introducing more techniques. But like the mind-breath relation, there are subtle indirect ways to create this void in the organizations. I will reserve the thoughts on that for another post. Right now, I want to leave this concept for you to think and comment on.