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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Maslow and the Creative Employee

As managers we benefit when we surround ourselves with brilliant, creative people. That's not to say that management isn't creative, but frequently those who rise to management level do so because they are good at implementation and strategy. If you're looking to be more creative, or foster creativity within your group, there are plenty of brilliant blogs out there to help (like this one, this one or this one.)

Prior to following any of their advice (with the exception of implementing chocolate chip cookies at 3 pm every day. Feel free to implement that one - okay, that was my advice), review your
organizational structure. One cannot be creative underwater. If we take a cue from Maslow's hierarchy of needs, you'll recognize that creativity is at the very top of the pyramid, far above the need for water and breathing. One can only reach maximum creativity when one's basic needs are met.

Take a look at your team. Are they so busy putting out fires or keeping their head above water that breathing is difficult? Tapping into your team's creative side means allowing them the time to think; the time to brainstorm; the time to absorb and process things they're reading and talks they're watching. If the energy around the office is one of constant do, do, do there is no time to imagine.

Creativity's best friend is thought. If you want more creative employees, you must first ensure that they have time for it.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Personal Case Studies and Millennials: are we there yet?

As a marketer, I spend a decent amount of my time securing, writing and distributing case studies. I try to think of new ways to be heard above the noise; to make the case studies not just beneficial to my company but to the people who are in the decision-making/purchasing process as well. I'll be honest, I don't love case studies. I love the benefit of them being done well but the formulaic approach to writing them -- challenge, solution, plan -- does not lend itself to the fluid creativity I prefer. Recently, I've been thinking about ways to blow them up; to spin them on their access so they aren't even recognizable. While I was working on these ideas I started thinking about how the best case studies show how a great product or service helped someone achieve their goals or solve a problem. Case studies do for a company what references are supposed to do for the job seeker.

Why couldn't you apply the idea of case studies to personal branding or the job hunt? Why can't HR departments or managers ask employees to write case studies about their own performance? So often self-reviews are done at the last minute with little thought to rating. I've seen first year employees straight out of school rank themselves a 10 out of 10. That implies there's no room for growth and I don't care how fantastical an employee you are, there's always room for growth. What if, in addition to examples of their hard work they also had to show in more than one-sentence detail just how they solved a problem? This type of proof takes a lot more work and thought behind it. Plus it helps to reframe the way they think about their jobs. The type of critical thinking required for a case study creates and encourages a problem-solver mentality and awareness.

Do I think businesses will turn to personal case studies in the near future as part of the review process? Probably not, but the idea of selling oneself through personal branding is already here and entrepreneurism is important to millennials.  Encouraging them to sell themselves through poignant example will help them achieve their goals sooner, something that benefits both you and your younger employees.