Skillsoft Blog

Working in the Creativity Age

We are pleased to bring you a guest blog post today from Dan Coughlin, president of The Coughlin Company, Inc., and a leading authority on managing for long-term business success. He is a business keynote speaker, seminar leader, and executive coach on leadership, innovation, and branding. He is also the author of four books on generating sustainable, profitable growth. His clients include McDonald’s, GE, Toyota, Coca-Cola, Marriott, Prudential, RE/MAX, Jack in the Box, Boeing, Abbott, Denny’s, Subway, Holder Construction, Kiewit, Ace Hardware, St. Louis Cardinals, and more than 150 other organizations.    

by Dan Coughlin, President, The Coughlin Company, Inc.

When I was a kid, there was a very popular song on the radio called, The Age of Aquarius. It was written in 1969. Some of the lyrics include:

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius …
Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions

That age never quite happened, but right now we are living in an age that really is happening. It’s called the Creativity Age. The world has evolved from the Stone Age to the Agricultural Age to the Industrial Age to the Information Age to the Creativity Age. This era is relatively new. It began with the proliferation of the internet and email and has gained speed ever since with technologies that have connected people all over the world and given people the opportunities to do things they could never have done before. 

Where Paid-Work Happens

If you’re going to earn a paycheck, it’s going to happen in one of a few ways. You will either work for a for-profit or a not-for-profit organization. You will either own a business or work for someone else. You will either manage the efforts of other people or you will not. You will either work with other people in an organization or you will work completely by yourself. Your work today and in the future is going to fall into one or more of those categories. We can break it down even further. Toss out your title and your industry and the size of your organization and your bonus and where you went to school. None of that stuff really matters. Regardless of the way in which you work, there are certain key elements that absolutely matter in the Creativity Age. Here are five of the most important.

Add Value

Value is anything that increases the chances that the other person will achieve what he or she wants to achieve. Regardless of your title or your income or the size of your organization or your industry, you have one critically important job to do today. That job is to add value. Every day you have to ask yourself, “Today how am I going to create value for other people and deliver it as well as I can?” This is not a fun little saying to post on your wall and smile about. You have to have a ferocious and committed drive to creating and delivering value every day! This is the one and only way to survive and thrive in the Creativity Age.

Observe, Listen, Read, and Combine

The old saying, “There is nothing new under the sun” is true, but only tells part of the story. The creative person looks to create new value by observing other people in action, listening to their thoughts, reading their stories, and combining the ideas into new products and services. The great advantage of today is you can “observe” what is happening anywhere in the world via the internet, you can listen to what people have to say from anywhere in the world via Google and Bing, you can read any book or magazine in an instant on an iPad or Kindle or Nook, and you can combine an incredible array of products and services and ideas that already exist into something that is new and is of great value for other people. These four skills (observing, listening, reading, and combining) make up the generator of creativity. And they’re free! Use them every day.

Care Immensely about What You Do

Go to a place you admire: a restaurant, a store, a barbershop or beauty salon, or a favorite vacation destination. Study how the people who work there care about their customers. Write down what you see. Fix in your mind how you will apply some of those approaches in your work.

Tomorrow at work care more than you have ever cared before. Take caring about the details of your work to the highest level that you have ever done. Then when you go in to work the day after tomorrow care more than you did the day before. Don’t obsess over your bonus or your title. Just care about everything you do and you will find yourself doing it as well as you possibly can.

Connect to a Purpose

The people that I know who are riveted with a purpose in their professional lives are the ones who care the most about every detail. They see their work as merely the mechanism for fulfilling a greatly engrained purpose. You have to know why you do what you do. There are only three great sources of passion that I know of. You either have to love what you do, love who you do it for, or both.

Fit Within a Larger Picture

In the Creativity Age no one works in a silo. We are all connected to other people in our work. Even if you run a one-person business, your efforts are still interlinked with the work of other people. How does the value you create and deliver today fit within the larger picture of your organization, your community, or the world’s market place? Working hard on the details of a project is only of real value if it helps other people to achieve what they want to achieve.

Those are five of the critical keys for working successfully in the Creativity Age. In many ways, these are the same keys to a successful career that were true in earlier ages. However, back in those days you could count on getting a “job” in an organization and keeping it for the rest of your career. You could count on competition being limited to your geographical area. Those parameters no longer exist. Now more than ever before you have to constantly be creative in finding ways to add more value to other people.

To download an expanded MP3 version of this blog post, click here.

If you have a subscription to SkillSoft’s Leadership Development Channel, check out Dan’s QuickTalks: Passion Comes from Purpose, Take Responsibility for What You Put on Your Plate and Vacate to Accelerate.

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