Idea Incubator 12: Flexible Fuel


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glass collection of Liane Sebastian
Creativity fizzles in indecision—dissipates with lack of focus. It also gets squeezed out by lack of opportunity. For the most valuable business asset, creativity is the least understood, most interruptable, and under developed. Few business schools have courses in directing it. Such skills are learned on the job. (Perhaps this is because creative pursuits are the most rewarding and the most dangerous.) Ideas grow from nutrients—one of the most powerful is freedom to find variety.

Women in business are good at asking for and discovering opportunities for flexibility; this is an ingredient for building the creative environment. Work can be measured more by results and less by hours spent in an office—provided management adjusts.

Growing a flexible atmosphere that will spawn new ideas is needed in every profession—certainly not just the perview of artists. One of the most creative business thinkers that I know is an attorney: Linda Listrom. Rising to a senior partner position in one of the country’s top law firms, she finds ways to integrate flexibility into her staff management, thus retaining top talent and achieving a synergistic team momentum. She advises:

“Today’s lifestyle choices are advanced through creativity and often reveal unexpected solutions. Allowing flexibility and choice frees constraints, allowing workers to contribute at their best times.”
—Linda Listrom, contributor to Women who Win at Work

Understand your needs and rhythm and those for each co-worker:

• Evaluate work requirement:
a. Which tasks are the most time-sensitive?
b. Which tasks are the most portable?
c. Which tasks are the most profitable?
d. Switch ongoing meetings to the least number needed.
What flexibility does your business or work offer?

• Evaluate the energies of each worker:
a. What time of day is their most creative?
b. How can you vary meeting and work spaces?
c. Schedule using communication agreements.
d. Weave these energies into a work plan.

Ten years ago, I was working at Smith Bucklin on a flexible schedule. I was in my office every morning and out the rest of the time. With my cell phone, I stayed in touch with staff and progress but I wasn’t very visible as an Art Director. Often to the complaint of employees who like to have a manager nearby for question-answering, the culture was used to portions of staff being out on location. Yet coordinating the schedules of the workers with the demands of the client was probably one of the hardest parts of the managerial job. Yet the designers I managed usually came up with their best ideas when not in the office, coming in to present at a scheduled meeting.

Adapting to flexibile schedules when managing is important to creatively that thrives on variety. It isn’t possible to do efficiently without a change of management approaches and use of communication technology. Face-time is needed at the beginning and at critical project points. Work may become less casual than the regular office environment. But the quality of the work will probably improve.

See the developing series of Idea Incubators.

Liane Sebastian, illustrator, designer, writer, and publishing pioneer


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One Response to “Idea Incubator 12: Flexible Fuel”

  1. Idea Incubator 24: Emotions as Creative Guideposts « Wisdomofwork's Blog Says:

    […] need limits so that it does not become counterproductive. #12: “Flexible Fuel ” Managing flexibility requires new and evolving skills, necessary to encourage creativity. […]

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