On Creativity and Management

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Creativity is vaguely defined on purpose. Too rigid of a definition would deflate the meaning entirely. Similarly, management is a loosely defined title (or set of responsibilities) within most companies. It follows, then, that the creative manager, one who can accomplish intended goals in non-obvious ways, is not going to have a single playbook that will work repeatedly in multiple organizations. That said, there are two common frameworks that can cross company borders to keep in mind. Data driven decision making and people driven decision making.

Numbers driven managers, those that can really make great use of data, KPIs, OKRs, or other measured goals can get creative at work by focusing on what to measure, how to measure it, and how to operate so that the numbers are gettable. Management consultant Peter Drucker famously quipped, “only what gets measured, gets managed.” In other words, if a manager is going to use data to drive decisions, there is an opportunity to get creative in what is actually being collected and measured. The KPIs that were used in the past may not be the KPIs that matter in the future.

People focused managers, those who can really get to know people, hone in on their strengths and identify what lights an individual up can get creative in problem solving (and making stuff better at work) by putting the right people in the right seats or on the right teams, etc. Culture fit & personality alignment can make all the difference between productive teams and non productive teams.

There might not be a single way to get creative as a manager, but choosing a path, data focused or people focused, is a simple framework to keep handy.

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