Main story: How Is Your Company Like a Giant Hairball?
Gordon Mackenzie has been cooking up a creative revolution for more than three decades. While he admits there is no sure recipe for creative success, he has several potent ingredients up his sleeve for brewing your own.
Just get cooking!
The corporate world is full of pressure: "Create! We're anticipating the results." The instinctive response is to stall, to overprepare. Instead, you need to give yourself permission to create while understanding that you may fail. The results may not be in the form that you think you wanted, but they will always bring value.
Stir the pot.
Creativity's greatest enemy is stagnation. Even the smallest effort can set you on the path to renewal. Understand what you can do in your workplace - and still get away with. What can you move or shift that will be an expression of freedom and self-will? This doesn't guarantee a "Eureka!" But it will move you into a zone where creativity is more likely to happen.
To incite a creative revolution that advances the corporate cause, you need a good team behind you. Find a group that is open to possibilities but filled with a healthy amount of skepticism. Avoid people who are strangled by concepts of perfection, because they'll lose sight of the process. And remember that teams rarely work if even one member has a conflicting agenda.
Season to your own taste.
With institutions come hairballs. It's a fact. The trick is to learn all the rules of the corporate hairball and then move beyond them. The opening poem of my book is "Wean Yourself" by Rumi. You've got to wean yourself from the rules to become genuinely yourself. You're free to do as you like - you just have to live with the consequences. That's scary. And it's the ultimate source of creativity.
Throw out all the recipes.
Ultimately, you have to follow your heart, not a recipe. Everything you need to live creatively lies inside you. As soon as you know and embrace yourself fully, you have no choice but to orbit. In the end, the most important creative skill is the ability to listen to yourself - and to trust what you're hearing.
A version of this article appeared in the December 1997/January 1998 issue of Fast Company magazine.