I Got Creative – Why Aren’t I Engaging People?

by | Leading | 5 comments

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.  —Scott Adams

I wrote in my last post that I would expand on this tip: Focus not on the creativity itself but on how it will engage others. It’s when we get wrapped up in our creative juices that we risk producing functional bombs.

Here are three invitations to disasters.

1. In trying to add interest to the activity, we make it too complicated.  Either the cool picture of the spiced up activity in our imaginations is unrealistic or we haven’t thought out how to make the idea work.

Example. In my first year as a Bible Study Fellowship children’s leader, I had fun making foam animal masks with colored tongue-depressor handles – sets of tigers, monkeys, lions, and elephants. I couldn’t wait to use them for the large-muscle activity in the gym.

To marching music, I pictured the preschoolers in a circle marching in place holding their masks as I called out, “Tigers to the center!” All the tigers would march in unison from the circle to the center, growling. Then I’d call, “Tigers back to the circle and Monkeys to the center!” The tigers would step to the music back to their places and the monkeys would march to the center ee-eeing.

But preschoolers don’t always picture what we’ve instructed, don’t always march in unison, don’t remember where their places are on the circle. They are easily confused. In a word, pandemonium. My activity was too complicated for preschoolers.

The children would have enjoyed exercising if I’d instructed them to move around with their masks growling, ee-eeing, etc.

2. In having so much fun being creative, we forget to consider the participants’ needs in our activity. See the example with 3.

3. Our creative activity idea has little to do with the point we want to make.

Example. As an actuarial manager in an insurance company, my area set reserves for small business groups. It wasn’t the most exciting work and the monthly meetings to report reserves were monotonous.

My team latched onto the idea of making a 2-minute video of an analyst pulling out her hair over computer glitches, another analyst snatching reserve numbers from the air, and our boss juggling balls in his office. We stayed after work and filmed a wig flying from a cubicle, an analyst deep in thought suddenly saying some ridiculous number and writing it down, and the chief actuary humoring us and juggling. What fun.

During our opening video, the accounting VP’s normal expression didn’t change and the Small Business VP, although smiling slightly, said she hoped we didn’t bill her for the time it took to film the video. The VPs just wanted the numbers and analysis, and the film added nothing to enhance that activity.

Remember, our failures help make future successes.

Your turn. What other oversights invite disasters when adding glitz to your activities?

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5 Comments

  1. Stacy Monson

    Great examples, Zoe. Love the preschool issue – I can totally picture the chaos since they can’t even remember what animal they are sometimes!
    This post makes me think of times I’ve tried to teach someone something and not understood why they weren’t getting it. Looking back, I realized I was teaching them from where I was at that point (having already learned that particular lesson) instead of where they were, which was not knowing any of it.
    Good points to keep in mind.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Stacy, so true about us sometimes thinking people are advanced to the point we are on some subjects.

  2. JIB

    Nice points, cleanly and clearly presented. So often we focus on what WE are getting out of it, not what we are giving. And your gentle reminder, that learning from failure is a great (albeit, at times, rocky road) to success, is way too neglected these days. Thanks for posting!

  3. JIB

    oops, “great (albeit, at times, rocky) road” — those pesky parentheses seem to have a mind of their own!

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      I knew what you meant. And it’s not only parentheses that jump in and muddle our otherwise meaningful offerings. How about those auto spell corrects that come in and change a word when you’re not looking. Thanks for joining in the conversation, cousin of mine.

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