In all the years since I’ve joined the working class and become part of the corporate environment, I’ve taken part in my fair share of trainings. One particularly stands out these days.
I remember the trainer asked us a question: “Do you think you’re a creative person?” Simple, right? I naturally answered with a very decisive yes (I run a blog, after all! I also happen to delve into painting from time to time). He asked me to explain why I thought that and gave him the blog argument. At which point I got something in the lines of “yeah…but no” (maybe not quite the same wording, but you catch my drift). My first reaction was to feel offended. Actually, I lie, my very first reaction was to feel embarrassed and probably turn bright red all the way up to my ears (something that doesn’t usually happen to me). “That’s not what I mean”, he told the group, “that’s not creativity really”. And I was stunned; and offended still.
A few years having passed, I can look at that moment in a different light. The person who was delivering the training was an entrepreneur, a businessman if you will. So he thought of creativity in terms of how things can be done in a unique, innovative manner, so that ultimately you can bring in more money for the company. Anything else lacked significance. Sadly for him, I would say.
A few years having passed, I do understand what he meant when he referred to creativity in a business environment. If you’d asked me back then how am I being creative in my work, I’d have been completely stumped for an answer. Right now, I can list so many things: pouring myself into smaller or larger impact decisions, coming up with the right investigation route for a certain technical issue raised, applying solutions used for one client to another one I’d not had contact with up until that point, dreaming up ways to fix a problem that everybody has so far said cannot be fixed.
But the best playing ground for creativity is in the communication piece – being able to reply to an email or in a call in a manner that puts across the message you want to put across, while all along remaining polite, professional and getting what you need from the person on the other side of the table. Positioning a message in just the right way. They call this assertiveness, don’t they? Ah, this elusive and mysterious state of being. So un-straightforward, so difficult to pinpoint. It sometimes feels like walking a tightrope high up above a huge canyon – if you fall to the right, you’ll be seen as passive and people will think they can just steamroll you; if you fall to the left, you’ll be perceived as coming across aggressive and unyielding, uncaring even. It’s a very fine line you have to walk and it requires impressive amounts of creativity and going through constant decision making processes (some will be microdecisions, granted, but they still eat up mental energy even if you don’t realise it).
It was an unexpected conclusion I reached after pondering on the subject for the past couple of weeks or so. I realised I’ve been coming home pretty much exhausted after some very full days at work which involved lots of what I’ve already listed above. Guilt ensued, along with a slew of existential questions as I just couldn’t bring myself to do any of the things which in my mind so far were the only outlets for creativity. So I began delving into what creativity actually means. Lo and behold, I managed to surprise myself and at the same time give me peace of mind – I’m not stuck in a rut, it’s just a different way of being creative.