Even though it's not cool to complain about your job in a recession, people do. And one of the most common complaints I hear is that the job “isn't creative enough.” But most of the lack of creativity people pin on their jobs really comes from inside themselves.
Creative thinkers approach whatever they do – painting, sculpture or business — with innovative ideas. Are you really as creative as you say you are? Here's a quick checklist: creative people have high standards, inherent intensity, and an obsession with coming up with something new. If you are a creative person who complains about being stifled in the business world, unleash your creativity on business problems, and you are likely to be happier in your job and promoted more often.
Business building is inherently creative, and people who get to the top are people who consistently think of creative solutions for business problems. Think of your favorite strategy games — they all involve creative thinking. Business is just like those games; if you approach a problem in a different way from your competitors, you are more likely to pull ahead. Think about Bill Gates — he realized that he could take other peoples' products and market the products more creatively than the original producer. Or how about David Neeleman at Jet Blue? He approached customer satisfaction differently than all the other airlines, and surprise: People want leather seats more than they want bad airline food.
But don't forget to be practical in your creative thinking. If you don't want to be practical, you should be a visual artist. But let me tell you something — you get paid a hell of a lot more for creativity in the business world than you do in the art world. The good thing is that the two are very closely linked.
The current exhibit at the Plus Ultra gallery in New York is a great example of this link. The economy is bad, and the art world is hit hard because when there's recession you focus on your mortgage not your art dealer. So this gallery is showing works by the Jani Leinonen. He has developed his own business model for the art world: Pay per view. Each painting is covered with a specially treated frosted glass. You put your money in the vending machine slot next to the painting and then the frost dissipates and you see the art.
If Leinonen were in corporate America, his boss would praise him for using technology to develop a new business model for a stale market. Think of yourself as an artist at the office; notice that each business problem begs for creativity. And be happy that you have health benefits and vacation days, which you wouldn't if you showed your solutions in galleries instead of conference rooms.
Some people will say, “My boss doesn't want any creativity.” Before you say that, consider that maybe what your boss doesn't like is outlandish, shoot-from-the-hip suggestions for difficult problems — or worse yet, risky solutions to unimportant problems. But maybe it is true, that your boss does not appreciate creativity. It's probably because he is scared of risk and change. And that fear is the first problem you must solve with your new, creative approach to your job.