We’ve been contrasting the innovative and visionary minds with respect to creativity. This post however focuses on only the innovative mind. Being a creative innovator presents several specific challenges and as we look closely at some major ones it should prove both instructive and liberating for creative innovators who think something strange has been happening to them. I’d be so bold as to say MASTERING THESE CHALLENGES could turn a moderate innovator into a creative innovator par excellence. There are other challenges of the innovative approach to creativity and leadership which we shall not examine; hopefully the ones we do will form a good beginning to the subject and create a ground of sure footing for those developing their innovative talents.
The man or woman who will be an innovator in this modern-postmodern context will find herself facing challenges from which his fellows are exempt. This is not a kind of curse; no, this is the sign of uncommon honour locked up in having an innovative mind. Of course when the innovator has transformed things, the glory is obvious. The challenges the innovator faces are this same glory in a kind of embryonic existence. We used to call it “paying dues”. Let it be so.
The Challenge of Power and Control
The global tire manufacturer Pirelli had a marketing campaign that stated “Power is nothing without control”.
Power can be a very ambiguous word. Let’s look at power as ability. The challenge of ability in whatever form it appears is responsibility. The ability can be used constructively or destructively. It can be applied in anti-social causes such as the abuse of technology in creating paedophiliac pornography. It can also be used in the pursuit of social improvement as social activists making documentaries of hidden tyrannies demonstrate. Power or ability must be controlled and directed, and the person directing the power must, at least, use that power without self-destructing.
We have much anecdotal evidence of the destructive-creative cycles of intensely creative people. The evidence suggests that creative ability has a dark side, a kind of balancing force or “other side of the coin”. This balancing force tends to destruction. Assuming creativity carries that tendency to be destructive along with it, it becomes important for anyone being creative to find ways to channel or control that destructive pull. I would like to suggest that this is the challenge of ‘power and control’. Put simply, creative ability can only be contained by individuals who can control their urges to self- or general destruction.
Innovators tend to experience phases of concentrated creative energy as they pursue their aims. This means they experience this challenge: they must apply their energies without consuming themselves or unwitting targets. They must ensure their goals aren’t jeopardized by the very zeal and powerful activity they’re using to accomplish them. As innovators gain experience they discover that in very practical ways they need to ‘control’ their abilities. The powerful forces they feel at play within their persons or organisations must be contained without consuming them; these same energies need to be directed to their intended ends. Lastly, after the creative work is done, the innovators must ensure they don’t turn to self-destructive avenues for their needed catharsis and rest.
How real and how common is this challenge? The life of the innovative individually or organisation faces this concern. In the process of creating, especially the specific brand of creating that the innovator does, powerful destructive urges must be controlled. These appear in different ways, such as for example, recklessness, intense frustration, impatience, the allure of abandoning the work at hand for alternative pursuits. These challenges face many people not innovators alone. However in the field of innovation, they are neither random nor sporadic; they tend to press in on the innovation team when it is most intensely pursuing its creative work. Controlling these negative pressures becomes then the price of being a successful innovator. In fact the extent an individual or organisation can manage these side-effects of creativity determines the magnitude of creative innovation she/he/it can accomplish.
Suffering and Power
There’s another challenge connected to ability in general but especially the unique innovative ability to create new ways and approaches. This is the challenge of difficulty adversity and suffering. And it is connected to creative ability. A metaphor that aids in understanding this aspect of the innovator’s life is that of travail and childbirth. Before the birth as we all know very well, there’s a period of intensifying pain popularly called “labour”. “She’s going into labour” we say. This “labour” is the specific kind of work that produces the new, which births the future. What kind of work is it? It is pushing while under intense pain or suffering.
In the process of innovating, there may be troubles with the potential to distract. Psychological pressures, personal issues, real external pressures: these may crop up viciously even while you are focussing on the creative work or project before you. Ability is never hindered by attendant suffering. The determination to do the work called “labour” – that is, to continue to push through creative innovative projects under conditions of discomfort, pain, or suffering – allows creative ability to be effective regardless of the prevailing conditions. This is important. One of the great innovative challenges is that of performing under the various pressures, psychological and otherwise, that attend “birthing”. Get ready for a special kind of focus or determination if you’re interested in being innovative. This is the focus that pushes even while under intense pain and suffering.
What fuels “pushing” on even when conditions are contrary? It is the zeal or passion for the finished project or product. This kind of passion energizes individuals and groups to push through to the birth regardless of the pain or discomfort on the way. Every innovator handles and experiences this passion, but it is still subject to choice; innovators choose to keep going. They choose to complete the project even though the pressures are immense. They choose to finish the course even though sometimes sick or going through domestic turmoil.
This is one of the great challenges of innovators: applying power in the midst of suffering.
Challenges of the Innovative Mind, Part 2
Last modified: February 6, 2018