Bringing Imagination Back into the Workplace

By Linda Owens, CAE, owner, president

How often do you think about the role of creativity in your workplace? The book Creativity, Inc. written by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace, dives into the creative depths of Pixar Studios and examines the business practices that have led them down the current path of success. As Catmull provides a behind the scenes look at the company during his 30 years as president, his writing takes the form of an instruction manual for cultivating inspired employees. While reading this book, I couldn’t help but become inspired myself. Below, I take a look at a few quotes from Creativity, Inc. that resonated with me and how they translate into running an Association Management team.

  1. “Create a fertile environment”

Whether or not you identify as a creative mind, it is important to remember that everyone has the potential to be creative. This creativity can take shape in a variety of different forms. Thus, to cultivate an environment rich with innovation and development it is important to first lay the groundwork with an atmosphere that encourages individuals to think outside of the box and take risks when necessary. This is where innovation is born and how non-profits continue to stay relevant in the ever-changing business climate.

  1. “Any successful feedback system is built on empathy”

We all know that constructive criticism is a good thing. However, feedback should always be intertwined with the idea that as a manager, I too have walked in my employee’s shoes and I understand their frustration. In other words, “The Braintrust is fueled by the idea that every note we give is in the service of a common goal: supporting and helping each other.” At the end of the day, we are all in this together and are much stronger as a team than when we are working individually.

  1. “I make a point of being open about our meltdowns”

A paralyzing fear of failure is something that is far too common in the workplace. Yet, failure is the catalyst for the learning process and should be treated as such. Of course, we want to be proactive and avoid common pitfalls, but as a leader it is important for me to set an example and face my shortcomings head on and encourage my team to do the same. Such actions will disarm the stagnating fear of failure that if gone unchecked can ultimately render your team uninspired and your business no longer competitive. Thus, when problems are faced head on, solutions are discovered and better practices are established for the future.

  1. “There are two parts to any failure”

However, what happens when we hide our failure? Let’s review, the authors highlight that failure is comprised of one part making a mistake and one part reacting to this mistake. When we become introspective and push part one under the rug in order to avoid part two, we unintentionally hold ourselves back from reaching our full potential. For instance, “When a director stands up in a meeting and says, ‘I realize this scene isn’t working, I don’t yet know how to fix it, but I’m figuring it out. Keep going!’—a crew will follow him or her to the ends of the earth.” However, if the director continually ignores the situation the crew will begin to question the director’s ability to do their job and ultimately become uninspired. The same can be said for the office, when a manager is transparent and keeps their employees in the loop, the team stays motivated towards reaching a common goal.

  1. “Directors have the responsibility to be teachers”

I may not be a film director like the authors, but I recognize that as the president of an Association Management Company (AMC), I am also a teacher. This is an integral part of my job as I am constantly setting an example and preparing the next generation of AMC professionals. If I can generate future leaders that can continue to progress the company and inspire their employees then I have done my job.

Ultimately, Ed Catmull is over 70 years old and is still creating and imagining for Pixar. That’s probably the biggest sign that he loves his work, his employees are inspired by him and the creative space he has cultivated is continuing to grow and prosper. As a result, I am inspired to continually welcome creativity into my life and encourage my employees to do the same.

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