Cameron Morrissey is the author of The Manager’s Diary: Thinking Outside the Cubicle. Cameron has a business career that spans over 20 years and includes management positions in broad range of organisations from Fortune 500 companies and government entities to small companies. This wide range of experience provides inspiration for his blog, Facebook, and Twitter content, with over 400,000 subscribers. Find out more at www.themanagersdiary.com.
Do you follow a creative process?
I’d say it’s a very flexible process, but yes I do. First of all, I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping track of ideas as they pop in your head. My work with The Manager’s Diary was started out of those “ah-ha” moments I would have when a random thought came into my head or a scenario presented itself. Ideas are the foundation of creativity. Personally, I just e-mail myself ideas and thoughts all of the time from my smartphone when they pop in my head, others may use any of the multitude of tools that are available out there. I then develop them based on deadlines, priorities, and what I feel inspired to work on (I’m lucky in that my content allows me the flexibility to be selective). Some ideas have been sitting there for over 6 months waiting to be developed. For those not lucky enough to have complete creative license over what they produce, I think it’s key to build in time to be able to “go down the rabbit hole” on a project and not compromise your deadlines. You need to be able to take advantage when the Muse strikes you to maximize your productivity.
Do you use any tricks or techniques to come up with ideas?
Since I’m an author, I do use the classic writer’s trick of reading a lot, not just in my area of expertise, but in other areas as well. I think one of the worst things to do when you are looking for ideas is to isolate yourself. I think the greatest inspiration is when you are engaging the world itself, its people, its places, and its experiences. I’m lucky in that my inspiration travels alongside me in my work, but I find keeping up on current events is the greatest thing I can do for my personal work. There are so many parallels between what I do and what goes on in any business whether it be service or manufacturing, finance or construction, that the ideas are endless.
What was the hardest part of developing your idea?
Seeing it through to completion. Coming up with ideas and starting to work on them is fun. Doing some outlining or planning is fun. But eventually you need to get to work on it and inevitably you start running into challenges and disappointments. How we handle those challenges and disappointments will determine how successful we are. Just like many of us, I have several projects/ideas in miscellaneous stages of completion. The key for me is to constantly be getting some of them across the finish line by pushing through those aspects I don’t necessarily enjoy working on.
I wish I had a magic formula for this, but I don’t. Sometimes you just need to sit down, stare at a blank sheet of paper, and get going. It’s not pretty, but it is often necessary. Forward progress is great, but you need to reach your goal at some point. Being creative is hard work (as any creative person will tell you), and I believe you get better at it with practice, but for even the most creative of us, it isn’t always easy.
Tell us about an idea of yours that didn’t work. What happened?
In my current work at The Manager’s Diary I don’t have any that jump out or are particularly applicable, though I have had several articles that I thought were brilliant that never really resonated with the audience. And I guess what I’d like to say is that failures are just learning opportunities, albeit not very enjoyable opportunities. Luckily the feedback loop is so quick when engaging technology that you can see what direction things are going right away. My failures haven’t hurt so bad simply because I was able to recognize them early on. With social media and other tools, any creative person can get feedback in hours or days on what is working, instead of waiting weeks, months or years as they may have in the past. That eases the pain of failure, at least for me, tremendously.
Where / when do you feel most creative?
Without a doubt, when I’m on vacation. There is something about getting into a new environment and completely away from my routine that unleashes creativity in me. My best ideas, breakthroughs, and plans typically occur easiest when I’m on vacation. Wait a second?!?! What am I doing talking to you? There must be a beach somewhere I should be visiting right now. J
Does technology help or hinder creativity?
Both. I think that it can be a distraction when you are trying to focus on the task at hand, and I also think that people let themselves get in a rut and dependent on tools instead of discovering new ways to create their vision. But I think there are an enormous amount of advantages and opportunities for technology to help you unleash your vision. The key is to manage your usage, find what works for you, and limit those things that keep you from moving forward. Every person will be different, but I’m positive there is equilibrium for everyone. I definitely wouldn’t want to give up the technology I have available to me to be creative for what was in place in decades past.
Do you use group brainstorms? If so, how do you run them?
I really haven’t as of yet. I am considering crowdsourcing content ideas through my social media channels in the second quarter of this year, and that may take the direction of content mash-ups where we explore solutions to different managerial problems.
What’s the biggest challenge facing creative people?
I find that creative people are no different than most in that their greatest challenge is overcoming failure. For the creative people, it may be even more pronounced as the nature of the work becomes so personal that a failure takes on bigger ramifications (failing themselves, their clients, their dreams, etc). The overnight successes are almost NEVER overnight, and have almost ALWAYS dealt with multiple failures.
Can creativity be taught?
Great question. I’m one of those who believe that almost anything can be taught, the question is perseverance. As with anything, to be really creative takes practice. Those innately creative will see quicker results and more positive reinforcement, which makes speeding along the learning curve easier. Those who are not innately creative can move along the learning curve, they just may do it slower and may have to expend more effort to get there. How far either of them gets towards mastery, if that’s even possible with creativity, depends on their perseverance in practicing their craft.