Stay Connected

One of the best ways to stay creative is to stay connected. You may be thinking, “Connected? Are you kidding? I’m connected all the time. What with cell phones, emails and IMs, I’m too connected! That’s my problem.”
Well, it may seem as though we’re all connected, but according to Gary Hamel, our modern lives actually tend to disconnect us from the very things that stimulate our creativity.

I was recently invited to attend the launch of Gary’s new book, The Future of Management, at the London School of Business. He talked about what he calls the history of employment. As he sees it, it’s a history of increasing isolation.

When companies were small – mom-and-pop shops – you couldn’t help but be connected with your customers. As companies grew, so did back offices. Soon larger companies had more people without customer contact than with.

The next step was disconnecting employees from products. More and more people worked on small pieces of finished products rather on the products as a whole.

As companies became larger still, the next inevitable disconnect was from policy. According to Hamel, a person can work for an entire career and never meet someone who actually makes — or even influences — organizational policy.

Eventually, as work grew more and more specialized — and work stations more and more isolated — we became disconnected from other people, contacting them only through the filters of cell phones, email, or IM screens. We regard almost everyone on the other end of these electronic connections with little more warmth than we do telemarketers. And, of course, we ourselves are the “other end” to most of our contacts.

Finally, says Hamel, many of us have now become disconnected from our own creativity — working in a world that actively rejects any input that’s out of synch with organizational orthodoxies. Ask almost anyone working in a large organization whether they truly contribute creatively, and the answer will be a thudding “no”.

So how do we reconnect with our creativity? The first step is to reconnect with people. That means starting to pay attention — real attention, not just filling the gaps while multitasking — to your interactions with others. As you genuinely open yourself to human input, you’ll discover that the simple acts of talking with, listing to, empathizing with, and helping others are the most powerful things you can do to stimulate your creative juices. Re-igniting your creativity may simply be a question of re-connecting with others.

You’ll also find that reconnecting with people soon leads to reconnecting with the ideas that influence your life, whether at home, at work, or in your community. And once you reconnect with those, the sky’s the limit.

“The unexpected connection is more powerful than one that is obvious.” – HERACLITUS (6c BCE)

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