Donna Rae Smith: By faithfully chipping away, barriers to creativity and innovation can fade

Donna Rae Smith, CEO, The Bright Side

Donna Rae Smith, CEO,
The Bright Side of Change

By Donna Rae Smith

Michelangelo once said he could see a statue imprisoned inside each block of marble. If only we all had Michelangelo’s vision! We would see the possibilities that lie within ourselves, others and our ideas. Instead, many of us look around and see only unfinished products. Our fears, habits, thoughts, and behaviors imprison us, just like blocks of marble. When we begin to chip away at those barriers, we find the freedom to become truly creative and innovative.

Chipping away

How can we as leaders work to remove the barriers that keep us from realizing future possibilities?

First, be willing to take risks. If we aren’t willing, then chances are others won’t be either. We can strive to create workplace cultures that recognize people and ideas for what they are: works in progress and foster environments where people feel safe and encouraged to discover, create and innovate.

To get out of your comfort zone, start by asking tough questions. Rather than accept your critical voice, challenge it. What if you try the suggestions anyway? What do you have to lose? Challenge yourself by examining your self-judgment and judgment of others.

Find the inspiration

Actively seek inspiration. You have to go out looking for it. The first thing I do in the morning is pray and then I read something inspirational, often Proverbs.

As I go through the day, I am constantly alert to inspiration — from others, what I choose to read, nature and art. It takes concerted effort at first. The world is full of naysayers and bad news. Give yourself the simple tasks of adding two or five minutes of inspiration to your day.

It’s easy to find excuses not to be creative. It almost always comes back to judgment and fear. Recognize those thoughts for what they are, and then give yourself permission to initiate creativity.

An executive once asked everyone to draw a symbol to represent the type of leader they would like to be. While some rolled their eyes, resistance usually fades as people start enjoying what they’re doing and see the value in it to trigger new thoughts and ideas. The executive then asked each person to identify an immediate action they could take to get closer to realizing their vision of ideal leadership.

Act like a kid. Our goal should be more creativity rather than less. It’s not simply about having fun; it’s about having fun with a purpose. When we allow ourselves the freedom to be imaginative and playful, we find more joy, less stress and more creativity. You’re only limited by your imagination.

The exercise

In your next meeting, pose these questions: If creativity were alive in you, what would that look like?

If you could fully express your creativity, how would you contribute to your team and organization, and how would you impact innovation?

End by giving everyone ample time to consider their answers, which they can convey in words or images.

Donna Rae Smith
Founder and CEO

The Bright Side Inc.® is a transformational change catalyst company that has partnered with more than 250 of the world’s most influential companies.

Donna Rae is a guest blogger and columnist for Smart Business.