Play it safe or innovate?

The problem with the creative process that I’m seeing really has nothing to do with the creative process itself. At the nonprofit where I work, I’ve been a part of teams that come up with really great stuff – from clever contests to innovative campaigns that would definitely generate buzz. We all leave those meetings sorta buzzed ourselves about the ideas and their potential.

But then comes the approval process. Up the chain of command, sideways to another department and various other people throwing in their opinions even though they shouldn’t be involved in the process at all. By the time everything comes back to the people who had the ideas in the first place, the work is barely recognizable. It gets watered down. It gets turned into something safe and bland (i.e. bureaucra-tized). Or it gets shut down altogether. Well, that doesn’t happen all the time. I’d say a good 2% of the time, a phenomenal idea gets through and shines in its true, original glory.

And I think the issue boils down to one thing: some people want to play it safe and only do what they’ve done before while some of us want to innovate and push the envelope. And there’s the perennial dilemma: the play-it-safers want the creative people to come up with something new, edgy, innovative – but not really. Because new, edgy and innovative are rarely safe.

These conflicting perspectives are interesting to me because, though I’m definitely a creative type, I think I’m also a bit more analytical and formal in some ways than some other creative folks I know. So even though I can see both sides, I still would always rather take a risk than play it safe.

Good or Great?

One of my favorite co-workers, Andrea, came into the break room while I was getting some coffee a few minutes ago, and we exchanged the normal pleasantries. But when my response to “How is your day?” was “It’s good,” she asked why it’s not great – then inquired further, asking “What one thing could make your day great?”

The thing about Andrea is I know she actually cares about the question she asked in the first place (How’s your day?). She really wants to know. And that inspires me to care more when I ask others that question too. Her sincere questioning also made me stop and think, why isn’t my day great? – which made me realize, it is. I’m having a great day. I told her my day is probably great, not just good, and that there isn’t really anything that could make my day better, partly because I got a new lead for some freelance social media/web work and partly because I met a girl recently who I’m calling tonight to set up our first date. I got a big smile on my face when I said the second part of that, and Andrea said, “Now that’s a good smile.” It’s as if her plan all along was just to get past superficial pleasantries and get to something real, something meaningful to me.

I feel very blessed to work with someone like her who not only really cares about how my day is but will take a few extra minutes to make it even better. And that inspires me to look for opportunities where I can be that person to someone else.

How is your day? Is it just good, or is it great?

Panic in the Board Room

I decided to do Flashback Friday today with something  from almost a year ago. I wrote this shortly after I’d started my current job. Oh, the difference a year makes.

I’m in the third week at my new job, and this morning I found myself sitting in a meeting I didn’t know what was about and, even more so, had no clue why I needed to be there. It was like one of those dreams where all of a sudden you’re standing in front of an audience expected to give a speech, and you have no idea where you are or what you’re supposed to say. I can’t say I’ve ever had that feeling before in real life (well, except for a few times in grad school seminars). After a few minutes of silent panic, I realized I could probably just keep my mouth shut and ride it out, which I did. By the end of the meeting, it all made sense why I was there, and, luckily, I had refrained from getting a wide-eyed look of terror on my face or from getting up and running out of the room  posthaste.

One too many social networks

I only get around to checking my Google+ account about once a day, and I feel like I’m neglecting it. I’m already probably spending too much time trying to stay relevant and engaged on Facebook (personal, business and band page), Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress and Tumblr.

I’ll be honest here. I’m a person who reads voraciously and likes to share what I find. I’m a person who loves to write (even if limited to 140 characters). And I’m a person who usually has plenty of things to say on lots of topics, from social media to Mediterranean food. Despite all those characteristics plus my extreme extrovertism, I don’t have enough to say or share to fill up all my media streams. Well, I should say I choose not to fill them all up. Sure I could share every technology or current events article I read, but I doubt that everyone always wants to be hearing from me. (Even I don’t want to always be hearing from me.)

So it may actually be somewhat ironic that I’m writing a blog post about how I don’t have anything to say, but at least I can go post a link to this post on all aforementioned social networks.

But what I’m really getting at here is this: Where do we draw the line? When should we stop promoting the work that we’re doing and actually go do more of that work? It seems to be getting to the point where everyone is spending more time promoting their stuff than they are creating the stuff they are promoting. I can’t tell you how many articles I run across via Twitter where the tweet promoting it is more interesting and contains more information than the article itself. Remember people, horse first, then the cart.

Where do you post the most? And how do you decide what to put where?

All in

I told Ousmane from the beginning that I was all in on this project…from writing the book to launching our business that offers training, consulting and motivational speaking. And now I’m starting to see what that means. As I’m rewriting the book proposal and manuscript, I’m not holding back. I’m putting all my analytical skills into structuring the proposal in a way that will help it be most successful, and I’m pouring my heart into the writing so this will be a book that really resonates with people and offers them some practical skills as well as encouragement to live better lives.

This is a big challenge. But every time I think about it, I get a nervous excitement in my chest and I feel my spirit rising up, ready to face the odds—and overcome them.

For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m in it for the joy of the work, not for the prize.

Personal/Professional

As the tide of social media sweeps fully into the business sector, the lines between personal and professional are getting blurred, especially in a position like mine as an online media coordinator. I’ve always kept my online identity in the semi-public (yet mostly private) sphere. I mean, total strangers have been reading my various blogs for years—but a stranger reading my blog is quite different than my boss and co-workers reading it. Which I kind of feel weird typing because they may read this.

And that’s just the catch. I’ve had personal blogs for years, but now I need to be able to share my blogging in the professional realm to prove that I know a thing or two about it. And I can’t very well share the blog where I make all kinds of candid confessions. Now it’s extending to Facebook too. I manage two Facebook pages for my organization. To get administrative access to them, my boss had to add me as a friend first. That wasn’t actually much of a big deal because my current boss is young and cool and would not judge me professionally because I might have a couple photos of me acting silly on my Facebook page. But if she wasn’t … that’d be a different story.

As I get more and more business-minded, I want to use my Facebook page as a promotional tool of my “brand” where I can follow other social media professionals and writers and comment on their updates and links and whatnot and not worry about them viewing my profile and finding an off-color joke from one of my friends posted right at the top. (Not that such a thing happens frequently, but it’s a possibility.) Or even worse—if I made a status update that seems politically or religiously inflammatory for anyone who doesn’t fully know my stance on the issue.

Hence: dilemma. If I make my Facebook page professional, then my friends will have little or no interest in it and will not get to know about any of the quotidian details of my life that Facebook is so great for announcing. If I keep it personal, my colleagues will likely learn more about me than I want them to.