How to Implement Your Creative Vision
By Jeffrey Baumgartner
Having ideas is easy. Having creative visions is harder. Turning them into innovations is most challenging of all. But never fear, I have a method for you!
The Very First Thing You Must Do
If you want to turn your creative vision into reality, you need to make a decision to implement it. That may seem like a small thing, but for many people it is a huge step. Creative visions are jolly good fun when you build them, but can be intimidating when it comes time to implement them. However, if you do not make a decision, you will not implement your vision. How would you feel about that? How would you feel a year from now if you did nothing about your vision?
Very likely, if you fail to act, another individual or group will build a similar vision and implement it.
How would you feel about that?
If you would prefer to be the hero who implements your creative vision, make a decision now and commit yourself to it!
Congratulations! You have completed the first step in implementing your vision!
Now, let's move on.
Once you have made the decision to move forward and do something about your creative vision, you need to start thinking of your creative vision as a goal rather than a vision. This may mean reformulating the way you think about your vision. That's okay. Creative visions should be flexible.
Once you have your goal in mind, you need to draw up an action plan. If the goal is simple to implement, your action plan can also be simple:
However this is seldom the case! Assuming your goal is more complex, you need to deconstruct it into much smaller steps, or sub-goals, each of which is as simple (or nearly as simple) as the one above, and which together plot a path from where you are now to the achievement of your goal.
The best way to do this is to commandeer a big table. Take a couple of sheets of paper. On one, write “you are here” in a circle – like you see on those maps on signboards on city streets and nature trails. On another sheet of paper, write down your goal in a few words. Put one sheet at either end of the table.
Now, get a stack of small sheets of paper: index cards, notepad sheets or –
if you want to be environmentally friendly – used printer paper cut into
quarters. Look at “you are here” and look at your goal and think
about what you need to do to get from one to the other. Write down each envisioned
action on one of the small papers and put it in the middle of the table. Do
not worry about orientation or placement now. Do not worry about overlapping
actions or possibly unnecessary actions. Just toss each sheet into the middle
of the table.
Once you have exhausted your mind of necessary steps, start organising all the pieces of paper. Make a trail of steps from “you are here” to your goal. Try to lay out the steps in a structured way. For example, papers with overlapping actions can overlap physically as well. If there seems to be a distance between to sequential actions, put a distance between the papers.
When you are finished, look at your path and each action. Are there redundant actions? If so, remove them? Are there gaps in the path? If so, look at the actions on either side of the gap, think about what action needs to be taken in order to bridge the gap. Write the action down and add it to the path.
Once you have done this, envision performing each action. How do you feel about it? Is it an easy action to implement? If so, that's great! If it is complicated or overwhelming, you probably need to deconstruct that action into smaller actions.
If an action feels intimidating, ask yourself why. Perhaps it obliges you to make a presentation to a large group of people which frightens you. Perhaps it asks you to ask a favour of someone you do not like. Perhaps it asks you to do something ethically questionable. If so, rethink the action. Can you REALLY do it? If not, find an alternative method of performing this action. Because if you leave this action in the sequence of steps, from “you are here” to your goal, and you are unable to perform the action, you will endanger the implementation of your vision. Better to deal with difficult steps now, when you are feeling optimistic (you are feeling optimistic, aren't you?) rather than leave them for later.
On the other hand, if an action merely puts you outside of your comfort zone,
then keep it in the sequence, but think about whether additional action is necessary.
For instance, if you have to give a public presentation, but that makes you
uncomfortable, then you might add an additional step, such as signing up for
a public speaking training course or joining toastmasters (a club for practising
Find Something Fun in Each Action
Once you have finalised the actions, go through them again, one by one. For
each action, find something fun or positive about performing the action. Sometimes
this will be easy. Sometimes it will not. But, if you can find something to
look forward to in each action, it will increase the likelihood that you do
the action and that, in turn, increases the likelihood that your creative vision
If the goal is elaborate, will require a significant investment or will have bad consequences if it fails, you should include milestones in your action plan. A milestone is some kind of reference point against which you can measure progress.
As you come to each milestone, stop, review progress and determine whether or not you have met the the terms of the milestone. If not, you must review the project, determine what went wrong and determine whether you can fix the situation or whether you should kill the implementation and work on a new, creative project.
This is important. Once you get going on a creative project, it is easy to become emotionally attached to it. That can make you reluctant to kill the project even if it is failing. However, some creative goals do fail. They are by nature original, untried and untested. You are trying and testing the goal. Maybe it will not work. If not, don’t worry and, more importantly, do not waste additional resources. Kill the project and work on something else.
Of course this does not mean that whenever things go wrong, you should kill the project! Sometimes problems can be fixed. Sometimes you need to adjust your expectations. If this is the case, make the necessary changes in your action plan and get back to work!
Collaborative Action Planning
If you are collaborating on this creative goal, you need to assign responsibilities for each step in the sequence. If you do not, everyone in the group will expect someone else to take action and nothing will happen!
First, decide who is in charge of the overall goal. Very likely it will be you. So, I am going to assume it is you!
Put your name on the sheet of paper with the goal written on it and acknowledge to the group that you will oversee and coordinate the implementation of the goal.
Then go to the first step and decide who is responsible for the step. Ask her if she has any concerns about her ability to perform the step. If so, address those concerns as described above. If not, or once the concerns are satisfactorily addressed, ask her “will you take responsibility for [step 1]?” Ensure she replies in the positive. Then ask her to write her name on the step.
It may seem a bit silly asking someone if she will perform a step and asking her to sign the step. But this ensures each member of the group acknowledges his or her responsibility towards the project and the group which, in turn, increases the likelihood that she performs her part in the project's implementation.
This is important. If one person fails to perform her step, it undermines the implementation of the goal and could kill the project! This happens far more often than it should!
In addition to measuring progress against milestones, review overall progress on a regular basis and be prepared to modify steps as necessary. As noted, your goal is untested. As a result, some steps are almost certain not to go exactly as expected. A step may not be achievable. Something may go wrong. A particular step may prove impossible
Mind you, the unexpected is not always negative. You may find that a particular step works out better than expected. Perhaps it costs far less than expected to implement or brings even better results than anticipated.
In addition, you make discoveries as you progress towards implementing the goal. You may have ideas about how to make the goal better, how to get there faster or how to get even better results. Others may want to help you in implementing your goal. Do not refuse these opportunities simply because you have a plan. Change the plan accordingly. Creativity requires flexibility.
When things do not work out as expected, whether in a positive or a negative way, you will probably need to rethink and very likely modify subsequent steps. Do not be afraid to do this. In extreme cases, you may even need to go back to the table and the pieces of paper in order to rethink the action plan. There's nothing wrong with that. Do it.
You may even need to kill the project. As noted above, if this is necessary, do it.
Visualising Your Goal
If you have read up on personal development, you will recognise aspects of the inner-mind approach to implementing a vision. That's not surprising. Personal development is about defining and achieving goals – and implementing a vision is pretty much the same thing, but with a lot more creativity added.
However, many self-help gurus suggest that you always keep the goal in mind. They insist that you visualise your goal regularly. Think about how wonderful you will feel once you have achieved it. Think about the benefits. They claim that this will motivate you towards achieving your goal.
They are wrong.
Law of Distraction
Some gurus even cite the Law of Attraction, which roughly says that if you think about achieving your goal hard enough, you will attract success and your goal will come true. Somehow, the law implies, the Universe will make this happen. This, of course, is ridiculous. The Universe does not really care about your goals or what you do.
Moreover, research* has shown that if you fantasise about achieving your goal, your mind will start to anticipate the pleasure and satisfaction of success. Indeed, your mind will feel so good about the fantasy, it will lose interest in the implementation. In experiments, people who fantasise about achieving their goals are less energised than those who do not. Worse, they are less likely to achieve their goals than those who do not fantasise.
Moreover, having only positive thoughts about a fantasised future makes you
less likely to see the potential pitfalls and obstacles you will likely face
on the road to achieving your goal, which will leave you unprepared to follow
the path from where you are to achieving your goal.
On the other hand, expectation that you will achieve your goal increases the likelihood that you will succeed. Why is this? It is because expectation comes from experience. If you have had similar experiences with positive outcomes, you know what is required and can be more confident about achieving your goal. Thanks to experience, you are also more likely to be aware of – and better prepared for – the pitfalls, obstacles and challenges you will face along the way.
Anna is a highly respected and qualified virologist specialising in Hepatitis B and C diagnostics. She has published a number of articles on the topic and shares ownership of a few patents. There are not many people in the world with her expertise and most of them know each other.
She learns that a major pharmaceutical company is setting up a unit to develop a new Hepatitis B diagnostic tool and wish to hire a principal scientist to oversee the unit. Anna knows she has the qualification and sees this as a great opportunity and a great challenge. She spends a day researching her potential employer, updates her CV and writes a cover letter which she asks a couple of friends to critique for her. Once she is satisfied with her application documents, she emails them to the manager in charge of the project and calls the next day to ensure he has received the application. A week later, he calls her back, invites for for an interview. After several meetings, she is offered the job and an attractive compensation package. She accepts.
Martin is a freelance designer who has previously been employed by design firms. His design work is very good and his clients are generally happy with his work. He learns that one of the big London design firms is looking for a senior creative director. It is his dream job: good pay, a lot of responsibility and many challenges. He would oversee a team, travel regularly and work with top clients. Of course, Martin does not have management experience, but he's a good designer who gets on well with others. He's sure he'd be a good manager. Martin is soon imagining himself in the job, travelling around the world, having a nice car, hobnobbing with top management at parties, meeting pretty young woman who admire him.
He quickly writes a cover letter and emails it, together with his CV, to the design firm. He’s sure he’ll get the job because it feels right.
In fact, he never hears from them. Pity, it was a cool fantasy.
Do you see the difference? Owing to her background and the nature of the job offer, Anna can reasonably expect to be offered the job. Nevertheless, she realises that she needs to demonstrate her value to her employer. So, she devotes a serious effort to updating her CV and writing a compelling application.
Martin, on the other hand, is busier fantasising about getting the job. Indeed, it starts to seem real to him. As a result, he loses his motivation. He hardly even bothers to fill out an application letter. But that doesn't matter, he probably would not have got the job anyway as he is not sufficiently qualified.
Unfortunately, big creative visions, by their nature, are more likely to be outside of your experience. Worse, if you are a creative thinker, you are probably particularly good at having fantasies! So, you need to avoid fantasising or even thinking much about the final goal.
Each step, on the other hand, should be a simple action It is easy to visualise and you probably have relevant experience. This is why it is critical to focus on each step on the path to your goal rather than to think about the goal itself.
Don’t Fantasise Do It
Clearly, if you have a creative vision, you need to deconstruct it into manageable steps. Then focus on the steps rather than the goal. Visualise each step, what you have to do and how you will do it. Then do it and move on to the next step.
Gabriele Oettingen, Doris Mayer (2002) “The Motivating Function of Thinking About the Future: Expectations Versus Fantasies” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 83(5), 1198-1212
Is your organisation overwhelmed with great ideas but failing to implement those ideas so that they can become innovations?
If so, maybe I can help. I would be delighted run workshops with your and your colleagues on how to turn ideas into creative visions and how to implement those visions using the methods described in today's feature article.
Do you want to build a fast-track process to identify and implement creative visions? I can facilitate a series of collaborative workshops and follow up communications that will enable you to set up such a fast-track process. The aim of the workshop is to identify obstacles to idea implementation and design ways to overcome those obstacles.
In addition, I facilitate workshops on inner-mind creativity (also known as cosmic creativity) and anticonventional thinking. I can facilitate sessions to build creative visions using these methods and I can design customised workshops to meet your specific needs.
My workshops are interactive, thought-provoking and effective. That's why organisations, like yours, have hired me to help them improve organisational as well as individual creativity and innovation.
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