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You're a Creative Genius (Yes, You)

Hey there, you brilliant, creative genius! That’s right, I’m talking to you.

In this blog post, I hope to convince you that you, and the folks around you, each possess boundless creativity and can tap into it at any time. Why? Because it’s true and you’ll be more successful and happy once you acknowledge it.

Image of lightbulbs

My name is Bridget Quigg and I’ve been with Wheels Up Collective since the pre-beginning. Amy Winner and I used to have “you can do it!”- style chats about her idea to get the best marketers she’s ever worked with together to form a team. It was her dream that her crew and clients feel respected, useful, engaged, productive, appreciated, inspired, and happy. Amy is a creative genius, like all of us, and she’s doing amazing things.

Amy’s inspiring efforts affirm that when put in the right situation, with the right encouragement, strong desire, and the freedom to take charge in an area of interest, people come up with a lot of great ideas. And, when they feel invested in those ideas, they work very hard on them.

Here’s my pitch: I believe every person is a creative genius.

You bet I do! “Genius” is an innate quality, something you were born with. And, you and every darn person on your team - even “that guy” - were born with tremendous creative capacity.

I came to this conclusion after years of studying improvisational theater and working in the tech industry on many, many teams. Here are my thoughts about your creativity:

It’s endless.

It’s unique to you.

It’s appropriate in the moment.

The world needs to hear it.

You use it all the time already. Driving around a traffic jam, creating your stylish outfit, making silly words to a song, or altering a scary story to fit your 3-year old’s delicate ears.

Really successful companies are good at appreciating, nurturing, and encouraging idea exchange. It’s free speech with a dose of optimism. I like to say that someone’s 17th idea might be the winner. Let them build up their confidence sharing the other 16.

How do you go after this beautiful dream? One way I suggest is studying improvisational theater. It may seem unruly, random, and out of reach. It’s not. Improv actors are actually following dozens of guidelines. They even rehearse! You can learn their tricks and apply them to the workplace. Here are some for you to consider.

Yes, and…

You may have heard of this phrase already. It’s the basis of all improv and it’s also the answer to world peace. “Yes” means acknowledgement, such as, “I hear you. I am making full eye contact and nodding my head to indicate deep listening.”

“And” is now here’s me, namely, “I am going to integrate what I just heard from you and offer my thoughts in return. I’m going to demonstrate that I heard you. I may not agree with your idea, but I’m not going to ignore what you said.”

“Yes, and…” can help in the dozens of moments a day when you must solve or create something with colleagues.

Here is an example of a “yes, and…” conversation:

“I’m afraid we’re going to be late delivering the product.”

“I hear you. I’m wondering if we could push the date, or if we want to simplify somehow.”

“Got it. What if we present those two options to the customer? We can deliver most of what they want on time, or everything they asked for with a one-week delay.”

“That works.”

No one said “Yes, and…” but it was implied. All the inputs were accounted for and respected. What would a different experience look like?

Yes, but…

I like to say that “yes, and…” has an evil cousin, “yes, but…” With this approach the most recent input is acknowledged, then torn to shreds, essentially. It sounds something like this:

“Hey, what if we made our colors more pastel-toned for spring and targeted the female teen market?”

“Yeah, we tried that once - it didn’t work. Get back to work, Plebe!”

The person with the fresh idea didn’t get any information to guide them along. They were nearly “blocked,” which is a move in improv where an actor’s “offer” or behavior is entirely ignored by their fellow improviser. It often gets a laugh but the scene is over. In this instance, the idea was acknowledged but the “build” energy totally stopped.

Let’s try that same interaction in a “yes, and…” way:

“Hey, what if we made our colors more pastel-toned for spring and targeted the female teen market?”

“Yeah, we tried that once. We didn’t put enough design resources towards it or research the market well enough so we delivered late and it fell flat. Listen, take 10 minutes to write out your ideas and we’ll talk about them in your next one-on-one.”

Aaaah, that’s better. There’s plenty of acknowledgement without the shut down energy. And, it’s efficient! That person will come back with more ideas. They feel heard and appreciated for contributing. They want to sing “I Feel Pretty” from Westside Story and dance around the office.

There are many more great teachings from improv, like “everything is an offer,” “accept all offers,” “make your partner look good,” and also the concept of “over acceptance,” where the quietest voice in the room is acknowledged and amplified.

Consider the concept of “yes, and…” for now. See where it’s already happening in your community. Consider where it may be needed more. You’ll find your team feels happier and lighter in a “yes, and…” environment. All that natural creativity gets to shine and people tend to stick around and invest more of their energy.

Create on, you genius!


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