Creativity When We Need It Most

Captain Obvious walked into a bar and said the understatement of our short decade:

“Thanks to COVID-19, the world as we knew it has forever changed.”

Usually, when I’m soap-boxing about change, I’m on the record stating you don’t get a vote: change happens whether you like it or not. Either you’re driving that change forward or change is driving you. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you rather be in the front seat steering your Tesla Cybertruck than stuck clueless in the darkness of the trunk?

While, in most cases, it takes courage to drive that change forward, here, we’ve stumbled into the one scenario where we’ve all been hit & run by a cliff called change we never saw coming.

Hello invisible COVID-19.
So not nice to meet you.

So now what?

How do we take this newfound reality—even when we weren’t ready for it—and push forward?

Because, whether we like or not, this change has happened to us.
Author’s Note: Take a deep breath and read this last statement again.

Before we address the actual question put forth, perhaps there’s a few short quips we all need to consider during this current, conflicting conun-drum:

Disruption is nothing new.
Challenges are nothing new.
Fears are nothing new.

Since I can remember, almost every single time we’ve faced disruption, challenges and fear, the bold have stepped up in historic proportions and delivered with creative breakthroughs.

As paralyzing as this pandemic might seem right now (which it is), I truly believe it is creativity and the ability to take action on that magic that will power us through to our next new normal.

Regarding our last version of normal, let’s take a quick second to tip our caps and give credit where credit is due. That last normal brought us some pretty impressive stuff that included transactional dating apps, plant-based burgers, one click shipping and Dollar Shave Club. We ate up binge worthy content, craft beer, 23 and Me, give-one-get-one and digital voice assistants (Code: Siri and Alexa).

We probably could have done without Google Circles, celebrity sex tapes and the ShamWow Guy (Don’t know him? Really?) but our world improved with Nest, Ring, loyalty programs, white elephant gift parties and Peloton.

So what new normals might we be forced to adopt under this current new constraint? And in the history of business, how bad have constraints truly been in forcing us to think critically about how our existing products and services might play in the future?

As a guy that has now run creative businesses for a decade and a half, I have seen enough to know two things for certain:

1) Most business leaders don’t grasp how transformational creativity can be to their bottom line. While most creatives don’t have a clue about how their special sauce can drastically impact business.

2) When it comes to creativity itself, I am less impressed when creative projects are showered with endless resources. You want to see true creativity in action? Make it a Houdini act. Cut my budget. Limit my time. Blindfold me.

Often the best creative ideas come when there’s constraint.
Enter the reality of COVID-19. Enter creativity. Enter you.

Layer on my 1000 day listening tour observing some of the most courageous leaders at Amazon, Apple, Dominos, Google, Harvard, Method and Virgin Galactic, I can honestly attest that it will also take courage.

One of the observations I try to bring forward in my book Return On Courage: A Business Playbook For Courageous Change is that courage is undoubtedly a journey word. We need to stay disciplined, focused and courageous as we tinker with our creativity in the messy middle of an initiative. All this to land on something ultimately purposeful and meaningful as our hopeful destinations.

This next new normal is here. Already we’ve seen the masses get creative with how they’ve chosen to connect (Zoom), create (TikTok) and care ( Constraint in the form of social distancing is front and center, yet it will be unable to stop us from moving forward.

Leaders, now is your time to inspire your team to creatively lean into this newfound challenge. With the world on a partial timeout, really think through what this next new world needs—and consider how you can courageously contribute in a meaningful, lasting way that could change the game (and your business) forever.

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