Ever said to yourself, “Man, I’m putting in the hours. I’m working hard. But so is everyone else. How am I ever going to stand out?” I have.
In the old days, you stood out by being productive. Getting stuff done. Nowadays, being productive will get you your annual 3%, but it won’t help you stand out. To stand out, instead of focusing on being more productive, be more creative.
Want to know what creativity at work looks like?
Creativity = Problem Solving
We don’t have to be painters, musicians, or bloggers to express creativity at work.
Expressing creativity at work doesn’t mean drawing the Mona Lisa of whiteboard diagrams or designing an elegant PowerPoint deck. In business, true creativity is expressed through problem-solving.
At work, problem-solving is the ultimate form of creative expression. This isn’t to say that productivity doesn’t have its place. You still have to productively solve the problem.
It’s just that many of us are productive, but we’re not all standing out.
“Productivity is for robots.”– Kevin Kelly.
When you solve a problem for your boss, your team, or your company, you will stand out.
What Kind Of Problem Should I Solve?
There is an infinite number of problems that can be solved in your company. Some big, some small, some hairy, some tall. However, if you aren’t sure where to begin, start with your manager.
What’s one thing they are struggling with? What if you thought of a solution and offered to help?
Take this recent interaction, for example:
I was coaching a high-potential sales rep. He recently got a new manager from outside the company that didn’t know his sales success track record.
“What should I do to stand out from the pack?” he asked. “Solve a problem,” I said. “What’s the biggest struggle your new manager is having?”
He responded immediately. He already knew the answer. He just needed someone to ask him the right question.
“KPI reporting, he said. Our team isn’t consistent with logging data, and the tracking isn’t accurate.”
“Why is that?” I asked. “Our training documentation is outdated, and we have a lot of new reps that haven’t even been trained on what the new process is.”
“How could you help solve that problem?”
“I could offer to write up new process documentation and train our team on the better method.”
Bingo. Problem Solved.
Believe it or not, that’s what creativity in business looks like. That’s how you stand out.
When You Create, You Don’t Have to Compete.
I learned early in my career that creativity opens new doors. There were several of us in a management trainee program, and only one manager position open on the other end.
During one of my last assignments in the program, I observed that our truck loading procedure was highly inefficient. Too much walking back and forth. So I set out to solve that problem.
A few months and several attempts later, we reduced our average truck loading time from 55 minutes to 25.
The project was noticed by our Six Sigma Black Belt team and received company-wide recognition.
Do you know what happened?
I didn’t get that one manager position. I got asked to move into sales.
Productivity is linear. Creativity is non-linear.
When you embrace your creative side and look for problems to solve, you will stand out.
New doors will open that you didn’t know existed. Sometimes just attempting to tackle the problem is enough. Maybe you don’t solve it, but you took a great swing. People will notice.
Want to stand out at work?
Maybe someone just needs to ask you the right question…
What’s a problem at your company that needs to be solved? What could you do about it?