Creativity should be embraced not squashed

Published: Apr 18 , 2013
Author: Claudio Cubito

When the painter James McNeill Whistler was a cadet at West Point, he was assigned to draw a bridge in an engineering class. Whistler drew a spectacular bridge and included two boys fishing from it. His deliberate inclusion displeased the instructor, who ordered him to draw it again without the young fishermen on the bridge.

Whistler did as he was instructed, but unwilling to completely stifle his vision; he drew the bridge again with the boys fishing from the riverbank.

Told he would still not receive a passing grade if the two boys were included anywhere, Whistler handed in the drawing one more time, without the boys in the picture. But on the riverbank, as monuments to the death of creativity, stood two little headstones with the two boys' names.

We understand that companies need procedures, rules and guidelines but your leadership approach must allow and develop your people's creativity. Is there a command and control culture in your company that expects people to follow rigid instructions or are they allowed to be flexible, as long as the correct - or even better - an improved outcome is achieved?

And what defines a "great" negotiation outcome? This might sound simple, but often organizations create narrow definitions (e.g., save money) without specifying their importance relative to other goals like preserving reputations, long terms value creation, relationship building or not taking on added risk.

Goals, budgets, commission, bonus schemes, knowledge and information sharing are often based on 'numbers' and data that rarely meet the criteria of "great negotiating outcomes" and discourage creativity.

Good negotiators think creatively.

Organizations need to empower their people to develop their creative thinking skills, enabling them to think outside the usual boxes, avoid blockages in strategy and give the other party a choice.

As James McNeill Whistler drew in his picture, after you pass away, there will be so much time to stay inside a box. So why climb in when you are still alive?

Claudio Cubito


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Claudio Cubito
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