52: Creative Practices that Lead to Everyday Brilliance

Primary tabs

Todd Henry is the founder of Accidental Creative, a company that helps creative people and teams become prolific, brilliant, and healthy. He regularly speaks and consults with companies and teaches leaders and organizations how to establish practices that lead to everyday brilliance. In this episode, Todd explains how organizations can create an environment in which creativity can flourish. He describes the two critical factors that live in tension with each other; who creatives are and what they want and need to be successful; and how leaders can support “fast-twitch” and ‘slow-twitch’ thinkers. Finally, he addresses the role that HR can play and the influence that its leaders can have in shaping the creative culture.
Todd has written four books and speaks internationally on productivity, creativity, leadership, and passion for work. His latest book, Herding Tigers: Be the Leader That Creative People Need, talks about a different skill set than what most management books offer. Todd provides some blueprints to help managers become the better leaders that their teams need.
Listen (above) or watch the video (below) to catch Fred's interview with Todd.


Key Learnings From This Episode

  • Managing Creatives. Who are the creatives referenced in Herding Tigers? Creativity is solving problems and creatives are people who connect the dots to solve problems. If we are solving issues, we can tag ourselves as creatives, even if it is not art. The ‘accidental creative’ is someone who does not intend to be creative, but as a function of his/her role, has to figure it out and create value out of nothing. They have to make it up as they go. They are often inventing the mechanism by which they will deliver value. This is a part of being the create-on-demand professional. 
  • What was the need that inspired Herding Tigers? There were no resources to help managers with the creative process, to help them understand what highly talented, creative people will need from them in order to provide value for their clients or their organizations. Creative professionals are highly focused. They need to be strategically led and provided with what they need to do their best work for the organization and their client. 
  • Two critical factors for a thriving environment – stability and challenge. Stability is about providing a playing field on which creative people know there are clear boundaries, there is a clear philosophy guiding the process, and the process is transparent. The foundation of stability is trust. 
  • What Creative People Want: Stability. There is a myth that creative people want total freedom. This perception exists because creative people tend to push back against boundaries, usually controlling behavior from their manager. What they really want: 
    • Clear but expansive boundaries in which to do their work. 
    • To know that their manager is going to protect them from the organization, the chaos.  
    • Clarity of objectives, of the process. 
  • What Creative People Want: Challenge. Creative people also need a challenge. They want: 
    • To be pushed - engaged in work that matters to them and that challenges them personally and professionally. 
    • To be attached to ideas that they love even if they feel uncomfortable and dangerous.  
    • To be pushed beyond what they think they are capable of accomplishing. 
    • Permission to take risk with the organization’s stamp of approval. 
    • To be seen and known and coached to help them be better than they thought they could be.
  • Stability and challenge exist in tension with one another. As you increase stability, you decrease the perceived amount of challenge that creative people feel. As you ramp up the challenge, you tend to destabilize things.

    ‘Shooting star’ organizations produce a tremendous amount of work in a short amount of time, but they burn out. They cannot sustain the work because the processes don’t exist to support the ambitious, creative work that they are trying to do. 

  • Multi-Stage Ideation for Fast-Twitch and Slow Twitch Thinkers. In leading the idea generation process, managers have reported that they do not engage in typical brainstorming sessions when they lead a creative process. Instead, they break up their team and work a multi-stage idea process which allows fast-twitch people (wired to generate ideas on the spot) and slow-twitch people (quieter who come with ideas two days later) to process information. Managers have learned to assign work in advance of meetings, asking their teams to bring a few of their best ideas for discussion. 
  • HR's Role. HR can help better balance the tension between stability and challenge and push organizations in either direction based on what they see is needed. HR needs to stay in touch with the front line leaders about what is being reported back from the people who are doing the work. Managers are interacting with the work but not about how the work is being done. HR can put their ears to the ground and listen to the patterns in the culture. You want to be tweaking the dials of stability and challenge constantly if you want to make sure you are keeping people engaged.
  • HR's Influence. HR has so much influence over the culture and how the culture is defined. Years from now, most people are not going to remember your company, but what will continue to resonate will be your personal impact on the people you influence and lead. Your legacy is being built in every interaction, every conversation, and that legacy will continue to echo through generations of people who follow. Be a leader who makes echoes.
Todd Henry HR Studio Podcast Show Notes - Episode 50
Todd Henry HR Studio Podcast Show Notes - Episode 50
Tuesday, April 17, 2018 - 8:00am
Fred Bunsa
Todd Henry
HR Studio Podcast