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Embrace Creative Failure to Realize Your Best

(updated 2021) 

We’ve been “institutionalized”: creativity is seen as not required, the rare versus the norm, and a luxury that few can afford.

Since industrialism we were taught to suppress our creative selves to become learned worker bees, pooling resources to accomplish a shared goal. We learn a trade, skill, or concept and are siloed off to hone, explore, perfect, and conquer our craft. Exploit it for monetary gain, no extra thought, consideration, or care required. Without concern for our creative selves we have an existence that’s one sided and lacking.

Embracing our creative selves is often the first thing to dissipate when times are hard. I came face-to-face with this cold hard fact when I learned that the PA Governor’s School for the Arts no longer exists – no longer funded as of 2009. I competed for and won a place in this program. It was an amazing time of exploration of fine arts and the intersection of writing, music, acting, dance, and society as a whole. Then suddenly, after 30 years of exploration, amplification, and support the arts were no longer appreciated. How does this happen when creativity is such an important part of who we are?

“There’s certainly room for us to expand our strategic considerations and to think more dynamically. If we’re not periodically stretching ourselves to peer outside of our box, to assess the current environment, to consider a wide range of possibilities, and to prepare for the worst-case scenario, we risk being yanked outside of the box, against our will, unprepared, and clueless.”

- Strategic Disruption

The Boomerang Effect
Conversely, when times are hard it is also the most creative period as we venture to re-invent ourselves and to discover new ways of doing business. What we did before is evidently not enough; thinking outside of the box becomes more readily accepted.

Creative Failure
Embracing the spirit of creativity does not guarantee a win. In fact, it could open a door to failure. But as the saying goes, “You never know unless you try.” We don’t have to wait for an incubator or an economic crisis to capitalize on creativity. Any organization can create a sustainable environment that allows for exploration and norm divergence without judgment or punishment for perceived “failures.” In fact, it’s beneficial to engage creatively to stay in-touch with the competitive environment.

‘AHA!’ moments are often in a place you weren’t expecting  – like a mistake.  It does not happen on demand, it's a process. It begins with an idea –  a spark; and the best creative moments occur at the most unexpected intersections –  where we did not look – “outside-of-the-box.” However, creativity has a fragile ego. It must be rewarded for existing and not penalized, as punishment leads to quick dissipation. Success finds those who are accepting, nimble, flexible, adaptable, and resilient. Rigidity closes off the the creative spark and lanes of communication; you may miss that 'AHA!' moment as others become less willing to be vulnerable.

We can't color inside of the lines all of the time. We’re all human and we all fail.  Embrace the humanness of our humanity and find the silver lining, because it is at this intersection of leadership, understanding, compassion, and creativity that we find the best in ourselves and others.

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