Creative Team

How To Unlock Your Creative Side

IBM recently performed a study that concluded 60% of CEO’s (based on an extensive poll) think creativity is the most important quality for someone in a leadership position; for comparison 52% voted for integrity and 35% voted for global thinking, but creativity took the majority. 

Creativity isn’t a quality that’s reserved for those in more artistic fields of work, in fact, any job out there will require some level of creativity from its workers, it just normally takes the form of problem solving. More times than not, it can become easy to get run down by the many trials and tribulations the modern world throws at us, and regardless of what you do, we all can relate to the feeling of being creatively blocked. This internal struggle can make even the simplest of tasks seem like the most daunting, however, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to kick start the innovative parts of our brain that feel like they aren’t working. 

One of the most common reasons that one would find themselves in a creative rut is because they feel trapped in a cycle of waking up and performing their everyday duties to live, instead of getting up and simply living. In a traditional work environment, it can become easy to feel stuck in a redundant cycle of routines, so the best way to combat that is by breaking said routine and trying something completely different. 

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When we try new things, we’re expanding our own versions of reality and our previous perceptions of life by adding new experiences to it. For example, if you’ve never liked Chinese food to the point that you haven’t had it in years, change your own personal narrative and go try it again. Maybe you’ll have the same results, but maybe you won’t, and you’ll find that kung pao chicken is actually amazing and therefore, a new reality is born, one in which you actually kind of like Chinese food. 

While that example is more so entertaining than it is relatable in relation to career creativity, the concepts are exactly the same. First, ask yourself if your creative rut has more to do with a desire for more, or a discontent with certain aspects of your life in its current reality. If your version of kung pao chicken is a new job working at a fancy magazine that you previously could have never seen yourself at, maybe it’s time to get back into the playing field and try again. 

However, it’s important to note that more entertaining changes in life, such as trying new foods, is just as important in terms of overall creativity because it shows you that trying new things, and branching out your experiences, isn’t as scary as you might think. 

Not sure where to start still? Look no further than where your mind wanders when you daydream. Throughout life, we’re often taught that daydreaming is the exact opposite of productivity, however, why can’t one help benefit the other? In a study performed by the Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers found that when subjects were given a specific task to work out, and a solid break just to daydream about possible solutions, the daydreaming period allowed for them to figure out the task at hand much more creatively and easily. 

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If you’re daydreaming though, you need to learn how to take your innovative ideas from the inside, to the outside. The easiest way to do this is to start simply, and write it all down. No matter how simple, fantastical, ridiculous, or “stupid” you may think an idea is, write it down; at first they may not help with your current situation, and maybe they won’t ever, but you never know when that idea will come in handy. 

Being able to visualize your ideas written out in front of you will boost your creative thinking skills and ability to perform stream-of-conscious thinking. This type of thinking trains your brain to keep coming up with new ideas, but also helps you figure out what methods of problem solving work best for you. 

“When you give yourself frequent permission to explore the ‘adjacent possible’ with no restrictions on where it leads, you increase the likelihood of a creative breakthrough in all areas of your life and work. So, what are you waiting for? Get out that notepad and start training your brain to be more creative,” says  Todd Henry, who helped write the book, Manage Your Day-to-Day.

Finally, surround yourself with other creative individuals to help pull you out of these ruts. Having open-minds and new ideas – that come from outside parties who you trust – around you allows for the more inventive parts of your brain to be working more frequently. 

Remember, you are in control of your own life, and your own creativity. Whatever ideas you have, are worth something, so never let them disappear because someone else told you they aren’t good enough or because you’re standing in the way of your own potential. Embrace it, and make a change, you never know what could come of it. 

School of Business

CEOs’ Promise to Create a More Inclusive Economy Met with Skepticism

On Monday, many of the world’s CEOs got together to make an announcement that was immediately met with skepticism from critics: they pledged to support “an economy that serves all Americans.” The public statement was signed by 181 CEOs, including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Robert Dudley of BP, and James Hackett of Ford. The statement was made in recognition of the observation that “too often hard work is not rewarded, and not enough is being done for workers to adjust to the rapid pace of change in the economy,” and was founded on the belief that CEOs have a significant moral role to play in ensuring the economy works for more Americans. In doing so, the CEOs promised to move away from prioritizing the interests of shareholders towards favoring all stakeholders, including customers and employees.

The argument for moving in this direction is not only based in morality, but in business strategy as well: the long-term success of any business, Business Roundtable now claims, depends upon a consumer base that is financially empowered to spend freely and employees that are healthy and happy enough to provide real value to their employers. The implicit message of the Business Roundtable statement is a prioritization of long-term goals over short-term ones and a broader appreciation of the large-scale consequences of business conduct.

While it’s hard to find fault in the spirit of this message, the overall reaction to the statement online has been one of skepticism and derision. Bloomberg, for instance, responded with the headline Stakeholder Capitalism Will Fail if it’s Just Talk, and while they commend Business Roundtable’s decision to reverse its view of corporations as existing solely to benefit shareholders, they point out that as the organization has a long history of advocating for shareholders against the interests of others, it seems unlikely that this new change in direction will bear fruit. Historically, Bloomberg observes, Business Roundtable has fought labor unions, opposed increases in the minimum wage, and prevented the formation of a Consumer Protection Agency, among other anti-consumer stances. 

It’s worth noting that the Business Roundtable announcement doesn’t set any strict goals or requirements for its signatories – rather, it is vague enough to allow participating CEOs to reap the PR benefits of claiming to help their communities without actually doing so.

Given the past and ongoing behavior of many of the statement’s signatories, it’s difficult to imagine CEOs fundamentally changing their policy to line up with the pledge. Famously, Amazon and Apple, among other large businesses, are able to virtually completely avoid paying any money at all in taxes by taking advantage of loopholes in increasingly lax legislation, which they help to create by funneling money towards law-makers. And Coca-Cola and Pepsi, two of the largest and most successful beverage manufacturers in the world, owe their success to harming their customers’ health with addictive and sugary drinks. It’s worth noting that the Business Roundtable announcement doesn’t set any strict goals or requirements for its signatories – rather, it is vague enough to allow participating CEOs to reap the PR benefits of claiming to help their communities without actually doing so. Real progress would involve CEOs holding themselves legally accountable to their commitments, as proposed by B Corp.

An empty promise, of course, would be nothing new for the businesses in question. Major oil companies such as BP, for instance, are trying to rebrand themselves as tackling the climate crisis while continuing to profit off of carbon emissions, while Purdue Pharma claimed for decades that OxyContin was safe and non-addictive, which they knew to be false. As always, there’s a lot of money to be made in making consumers sicker, less happy, and addicted to products that are bad for them, and the Business Roundtable statement doesn’t change this economic fact.

Historical and political context provides an explanation for Business Roundtable’s major shift in its perhaps nominal guiding philosophy. The statement serves both as a recognition of the ever-increasing power large corporations hold over everyday Americans and a strategy for dealing with the fundamental economic and political changes the country faces. Jacobin Magazine observes that Business Roundtable’s statement reveals a sense of worry among business elites for the health of capitalism as a basis for American life. Over the past 40 years, as has been widely observed, income inequality has exploded – the compensation of CEOs has risen by 940%, whereas the compensation of workers has risen only 12%. And the accelerating threat of climate change, caused primarily by the reckless exploitation of natural resources by major corporations, concerns not only global citizens, but business leaders who recognize the economic challenges of environmental collapse.

The pressure that big corporations face from an increasingly disaffected and iconoclastic consumer base is real.

The pessimistic view is that the Business Roundtable report is yet another example of the culture of contradiction and lies inherent to the new American life. In our current society, Americans are subjected to a constant barrage of blatant lies from our government, inconsistent and contradictory messaging from news outlets, and false promises of the benefits of consumerism from advertisements. Propaganda expert Kenneth Osgood notes that the most effective propaganda focuses on messaging the opposite of the truth that threatens the ruling class – in this case, corporations, fearful of the consequences of a populist political uprising, send the message that their intentions are in fact aligned with those of the people.

But the pressure that big corporations face from an increasingly disaffected and iconoclastic consumer base is real. The CEOs in question are likely sincere in their understanding that the health of the country impacts their long-term success, but it remains to be seen whether they will act upon this belief. As such, the onus remains on all of us, as consumers, to think critically about the messaging we consume and make smart decisions about how to maintain the welfare of ourselves and our communities.