Do you wish that you had the freedom to be more creative in your position, organization or ministry?
Maybe you feel that your current reality doesn't permit the kind of creativity that God has called you to, and you may be getting frustrated by the constraints that you are working under. I believe that every creative person feels the same way about his or her situation most of the time. Such is the nature of the highly creative spirit. We always imagine more than we can actually create. Most people say "If I had more money to buy the technology, the tools or had the time I would be able to create more." In a ministry or an organization, we complain that we don't have the freedom or control of adequate resources in our position to be the most creative. Creativity is not something that is solely in the domain of the arts, but is what drives businesses to expand, organizations to discover solutions to social problems and ministries to bring the message of Christ to those who need to hear it.
The creative tension between Your Vision and your Current Reality.
Everyone has constraints in their current situation. Maybe their boss doesn't allow them to deviate from the standard ways of doing things, or maybe they don't have the time be creative due to their administrative duties. Being creative doesn't equal working without constraint. Most of the time, those who are most creative are those who have learned to excel even within their limiting situation. Peter Senge, in his book "The Fifth Discipline" uses the illustration of a rubber band pulling you towards your vision and another one holding you back that represents your current reality.
Take the people of Nigeria, where I currently am, for example. The biggest complaint of the young people here is the lack of opportunity to use their skills and talents in the job market. They undergo a lot of training, but rarely have the chance to put it to use. Even so, Nigerians are a people bursting with creativity. They have had to create ways to get things done within their limiting constraints that you or I might not even think of. Granted, some of the creative ways are illegal, but that's not the norm for those leading ministries that I have known. Because their reality is so constraining, their creative energy has become heightened and laser focused on solutions.
The people of Mexico are also some of the most creative people I have known. Again, put in their circumstances of poverty and limited opportunity, many of us in North America wouldn't be able to accomplish as much as they do. For those with severe limitations of opportunity and resources, a hyper creativity is required just to put food on the table. People learn to make the most of their current situation. Again, creativity is often fueled best by necessity.
How do you begin to be more creative in your current situation? Here are some ideas:
1. Spend time defining what your desired future is (vision).
Most people are not focusing their creative energy because they don't know what they are creating for. If you've ever known someone who is ADHD, you know what I am talking about. They have so much energy and imagination that they are bouncing off the walls without accomplishing much of anything. Creative people without a defined vision are much like this. You must spend time defining and refining your vision so that all your energy can go to creating bridges to that reality. This takes time and focus, but is time well spent. If I am not personally defining and refining my vision for the future, then my energy gets easily dissipated and I become frustrated. As a leader of an organization, if I don't have a clear picture of the future we are trying to create, those that I lead will also become frustrated and our energy and resources won't produce as much as they could.
2. Define your current reality.
It is important that you spend time defining your current reality. Start with the assets at your disposal. These may be the relationships you have, the authority you are given, the resources you have access to, the talents you have and the tools you have to work with. Most people have more resources at their disposal than they actually need to achieve their vision. They only imagine that they are limited by what they don't have and their potential is never fully realized.
For example, you may believe that you personally need a new computer or new software to be able to be more creative. Ask yourself if you are currently maximizing what you already have. Most people have more power in their computers than they will ever use. I have seen some of the most creative work done by individuals who are using technology that is almost laughable. In defining your current reality, you must ask the question if you have maximized your current resources. If not, use what you have at your disposal and create new ways to accomplish the same goal as or more efficiently than someone who doesn't have the same resource limitations. Begin to see every resource that you have as potential piece to the equation to solve the problem you are trying to overcome. Write each resource down that can be used to accomplish your vision.
3. Create solutions
Here is where you put all your creativity to work. Based on your current reality and your desired future, you will spend time brainstorming creative solutions to get you from point A to point B to point C, etc. Begin a time of free-thinking where you and those working with you can imagine solutions to whatever you want to accomplish. Allow any idea to flow without first questioning the "how." The problem with most people is that they don't allow enough time to imagine new solutions before shooting them down with the "why not." Many of the proposed solutions may be small steps required to move you to bigger goals, and still others may be too lofty and unreasonable to every be practicle. Begin to sort through your ideas to select the ones that best achieve your goals in the most efficient manner possible.
Being creative doesn't always mean that every solution has to originate with you. Research solutions that others have developed that may fit your situation, or be tweaked to accomplish your goals. This normally means modifying a current solution to fit your unique problem. Apple Computers, for example, didn't first create most of the technology that it sells. It is, however, an extremely creative company that uses its capacity to merge multiple technologies in a way that maximizes the end-user experience. The inventor of a particular solution may only see one application for what he/she has created while someone else may create even more applications to solve different problems or to be marketed to a different consumer base. The bigger the problem that you are trying to solve, or the bigger the risk that's involved should determine the amount of time spent in creating the best solution possible. Spend some time analyzing the pros and cons of your preferred solution for all areas that will be affected in your organization or your overall plan. Again, be creative, but don't use creativity as a license to do something stupid and cause problems in other areas that could and should be avoided.
4. Fill in the gaps
When you have created plausible solutions and maximized your current assets, you can now begin to define where you still have gaps. In doing so, you should also set goals for attaining them. It may be connections to certain individuals, time, skills, money, tools and equipment that you need, etc. Think of creative ways to fill in those gaps. If you can't afford what you need, consider borrowing or trading services. Again, the gaps you are trying to fill are primarily for the purpose of fulfilling your current vision. There are many low-cost ways to access resources that you need. Collaboration is a way to think creatively and leverage the things that you have for the things that you need. In seeking to fill gaps, collaboration is one of the highest forms of creativity. Two organizations or individuals attempting to accomplish the same or different goals and may each have resources that the other needs. Those resources can and should be leveraged for the sake of fulfilling your vision. You don't always have to purchase or own something in order to use it to fill in the gaps.
5. Execute the Plan
Without creating a plan and actually executing it, your best solution won't be fully utilized. Enough said?
To summarize, being creative doesn't always require more resources. Maximize your creative potential with what you currently have at your disposal. If you always wait until you have something that you "need" to proceed, then you may never move forward towards your vision. Creativity is at its best when there is a proper tension between vision and reality. Learn to embrace this tension and use it as a tool to catapult your creativity to new heights.