“It’s great, I love it, I made it up and it’s mine….this is so fantastic, I know you’ll love it too”
This quote describes the feelings we have when we come up with an idea. And that’s how it should be; there’s nothing like the feeling of actually coming up with something! But in order for an idea to go from drawing board to implementation, it has to become viable and accepted. Whether it’s a song, a painting, or a new way of setting up a meeting room for an event, your idea is going to invite feedback, critique, and will most likely change and evolve if you want it to live. Understanding intellectually how to do this, and then accepting this emotionally is what I call ‘objective creativity’.
During my first trip to Nashville I had an opportunity to play my songs for well-known music publishers. I was met with moderate support, reserved enthusiasm and lots of critique. I returned to New York humbled. And with critique in mind, I began to edit and rewrite the songs I had previously thought were perfect smash hits. I had thought them to be mature, complete, ready to hit the air-waves masterpieces but they weren’t. When I returned to Nashville a second time I played my edited songs for the same publishers I had visited on my first trip. I was met with much stronger enthusiasm and unbridled encouragement, but not because the songs were now ready to be published. Everyone I re-visited expressed delight in the fact that I had taken their criticism to heart, spent time re-working and had actually come back for more. To me this was an instinctive process, but I later found out, that for many people this is really hard. And that is why I often say, “Date your ideas, but don’t marry them.” Don’t become so attached to your initial creative thought that you’re unwilling to share it with colleagues or partners, letting your idea go and grow into a viable living thing.
Last spring, I facilitated a half-day musical team building program with a very dynamic group of marketing executives. The group had a clever song title we all liked. About twenty minutes into the process of trying to create a song around the title, I became aware that it wasn’t going to work. However, I let the group continue, curious to see when they’d realize they might have to switch direction. About ten minutes later, some of the participants voiced doubts and here’s what happened next: Some people wanted to change direction, to find a new title that they could complete a song around. Others were too vested in the title they’d been working on. They said it was too late to change, that “we can make this work, and it’s just a really cool idea”.
At that point I jumped in. I told them that it was a cool idea and I liked it emotionally, but I could see it wouldn’t create a viable song. I challenged them to take the raw material they’d already created and find a viable song title. I helped them see that they didn’t have to start over and that they could utilize the great ideas they’d already come up with. They just needed to be willing to re-arrange and continue to let it all evolve. I encouraged them; telling them the new song title they’d create would make the first idea seem mundane. This story ends happily, and it’s true. The final song was great, it represented who this group was, and managed to still be ‘really cool’.
The experience set up a perfect debrief opportunity. We talked about how it feels to be vested in an idea, and how we have to struggle to overcome inertia to change. But we were also able to share the remarkable satisfaction that comes from overcoming that inertia, and remaining objective while being creative. The result was something we could actually use, something better than we had before – and that’s a good thing. Be it a song, or a solution to a logistical problem, creativity works. Objective creativity will help your ideas live.