Being Creative in the Face of Crisis
Critical situations are difficult to navigate, but they urge us to find new ways.
One thing that we know for sure is that change is inevitable. And it often comes when we least expect it.
In today’s fast-changing world, you are constantly facing a constant stream of unexpected, unknown and unpredictable challenges. You can’t be prepared for everything that life will throw at you.
Creativity is born from anguish, just like the day is born from the dark night. It’s in crisis that inventiveness is born, as well as discoveries made and big strategies.
Being creative isn’t a natural human response to stress. But fight-or-flight response isn’t the only option. You can also focus, think and solve. Creative thinking is crucial for problem-solving in uncertain situations when time is of the utmost importance.
Panic, blame, and fear doesn’t help you solve anything. What does is collaboration, focus, choosing thinking over reckless reacting and working toward changing things for the better.
How creativity thrives in limitations
There is plenty of evidence that constraints make us more creative. By creating the box we are forced to actually think outside of it. The absence of limits, on the contrary, means that everything is possible.
When everything is possible it is much easier to settle for something familiar and obvious. Limits, on the other hand, eliminate the possibility of regular options. The more constraint there are — the more creative we need to be to overcome them.
There is a silver lining to it. Challenging events create a susceptible environment for innovations. While in the regular times innovating is optional, during a crisis the necessity of evolving is crucial, urgent and vital.
Even though everyone would prefer to avoid crisis situations, the new limited conditions force us to think in new ways and search for solutions where we haven’t looked for them before.
Think of Uber, Airbnb, Spotify. These and many other companies were founded and thrived through the financial crisis of 2007–08. A different approach and understanding of the new conditions helped them set them apart from competitors and made a good fit for the market.
Just like a jigsaw puzzle, every solution fits a certain challenge. When requirements of the situation change, the same piece might become useless and unfitting. You can’t fight crises with the same instruments that you use during regular time.
Every crisis raises the question “Why?”. Why did it happen, why weren’t we able to foresee it, why did we make a mistake. But these questions don’t answer the more urgent concerns. The right question to ask in these situations is “How?”. How can we fix it, how can we prevent it, how can we make the best out of it.
Leading through unknown
In her talk “How to Lead When You Don’t Know What You’re Doing” Tea Uglow makes a good point. When she was asked how does she to be a leader, she honestly says “I don’t know”. And to be honest, no one does.
And then she tells how to do it anyway:
It’s really simple. It’s really straightforward. You just do it. Right, you have values, you have beliefs, you have ideas, you share those ideas, you drink lots of coffee, you talk to people. You just do it. And then you do it again, and again, and again…
So here it is. You just do it. You adapt, you change, you try, you fail. With a lot of pressure from the situation, the failure might not seem like an option but you have to try. And it is not guaranteed that each of your efforts will be successful, quite the opposite.
When you are leading others through uncertain situations, unexpected challenges and unpredictable changes, you are in the same situation as everyone else. You are learning, adapting, searching. And the best thing at that moment that you can do is to take responsibility and do your best.
Originally published at https://medium.com on March 25, 2020.