Paradigm Shifter #19: Creativity and implementation are NOT mutually exclusive – success requires both

Paradigm Shift

Employers place a high premium on creativity in their workers.  Learning to “think outside the box” is a critical skill to successfully compete in today’s constantly changing market and workplace.  But it takes more than great ideas to be successful.

Success – today and in the past – requires not only creativity, but also follow-up and implementation to convert an intangible idea into a tangible innovation.

Having owned my own businesses for over 25 years, I’ve found that coming up with new products and services is relatively easy – in fact, it’s downright fun.

However, my experiences have also taught me that it takes analysis, critical thinking, perseverance, determination, risk management, and simple hard work to manifest those ideas into something tangible.

The combined ability to not only create but also to implement requires a new approach to prioritizing, problem solving, and decision-making.  Success in today’s age of unrelenting change requires both.  For example:

  • You’re a key player in major brainstorming sessions regarding new product development – your ideas are great and everyone is inspired. But, when it comes time to do the hard, often monotonous work of actually manufacturing these products, you tend to walk away and delegate that “operational stuff” to the “non-creative types.”  If the products don’t go to market, it’s their fault for not being able to realize your ideas.
  • You’ve earned the reputation of being methodical, diligent, organized, and efficient – but you’re also known to be somewhat change resistant. Trying to incorporate new ideas into your established routines and processes tends to have a ripple effect that (in your mind) creates chaos.  Why try to fix something that isn’t broken (at least not yet)?
  • You’ve decided to really expand your business with several new product lines – all of which are so important that they need to be developed at once. You’re excited and energized, but after several months of trying to juggle wide-scale product development along with your routine tasks, you’re frustrated because you haven’t made significant progress on any of these products.  A year later, none of them is ready to go to market.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

Depending on the culture, some companies bestow kudos on the creative types for their vision and rule-breaking.  The “operational types” and analysts are considered to be less important to the company’s future than the visionaries.  Conversely, other companies rely so heavily on effective operations that they silence the “crazy” ideas from those “creative types.”  Being able to do what we say we can do is more important than “wasting” time trying to innovate within our companies, fields, or industries.

What I have learned is that, while status quo operations can leave us vulnerable and ill-prepared for a constantly changing environment, creativity without disciplined implementation is just a dream that never takes form.

Making the shift from an operational/managerial mindset to one that embraces creativity/leadership –and vice versa – can be a challenge.

The difficulty might be from the necessity of using both sides of our brains in interacting with our environments.  Another cause could be expectations of the organizations in which we have worked.  Yet another cause could be our own histories relating to the types of recognition that we have received.  Finally, society is somewhat intent upon “pigeon-holing” us:  you’re either a creator or a doer.

In today’s era of constant, unrelenting change, learning to feel comfortable with both creativity and implementation is a critical competency to finding a new way to work.  This powerful synergy of creating and doing is hard to duplicate.

Here are just a few tips to help you embrace the synergy of being able to create and implement:

  1. Identify your preferred style: First determine whether you tend to approach problem solving and decision making from a creative, “outside the box” perspective OR a linear, analytical approach.  This is both your starting point and your default style.
  2. If you tend to be more creative: Try to visualize the steps between where you are now and the culmination or realization of this new idea – not just a paper trail, but a colorful movie depicting the journey.  Be curious and use your creativity to peer into all the different routes that you could use to go from “here to there.”
  3. If you tend to be more analytical: Challenge yourself by asking, “what if?”  What would happen if you changed any of the assumptions or individual elements needed to achieve a goal?  Be fearless and use your linear thinking to mitigate risks by preparing for obstacles that are unforeseen on the surface.  Take pride in your ability to uncover those “hidden” obstacles and develop appropriate responses.
  4. Befriend someone who is your opposite: If you are a creative, make an effort to truly understand the thought processes of an analytic – and vice versa.  Remember that one approach is not superior to the other:  in fact, both are necessary to successfully compete in the modern workplace.
  5. Good news: the tools of creativity and implementation can be learned:  Regardless of your preferred style, each perspective can be understood as a set of tools used to prioritize activities, solve problems, and make decisions.  Balancing creativity with implementation results in visualization plus action – perhaps one of the most overlooked secrets to success.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to

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