Creativity doing or some hobby they had. So I

Creativity is a
natural instinct and something we are all born with. Human beings, have an
inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extend and exercise
their capacities, to explore, and to learn. This becomes apparent the moment
you observe a baby. I have a one year old daughter and just by watching her
play it is so obvious to me can that we are born with curiosity, an endless
appetite to explore, to question boundaries and to learn built-in. For myself
though this obvious realization was not so easily gained.

In my young years I used to
believe that creativity is a distant ability that lies only in higher personal
talents and artistic expression. I remember I was always really fascinated to
meet people that were feeling very passionate about some activity they were
doing or some hobby they had. So I was constantly forcing myself to find out
what could be my personal “talent”, my “niche”. I have
tried dancing, singing, field hockey, tennis, playing the piano, photography,
drawing etc. Although each time I was having a good time none of them was
helping me feel creative or awakening my inner motivations. School years and my
undergraduate experiences as an electrical engineer student didn’t help either.
Studying book after book to give exams on specific step procedures if anything
can be considered as a creativity killer. Through the current educational
system we are taught that the right way to do things is by proceeding
incrementally one very small step at a time, day-by-day, grade by grade. If you
overachieve and end up learning something that’s not on the test, you won’t
receive credit for it. But in exchange for doing exactly what’s asked of you
and for doing it just a bit better than your peers, you’ll get an A. It was
only after I was at the graduating year of university that I finally understood
that creativity is much more than the narrow perception I used to have.
Realizing that, helped me come to peace with myself.

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Back then together with my
fellow students we had attended several conferences from other universities.
This led us to the realization that our school was lacking such a conference
and had the simple idea to organize one in a Pan-Hellenic scale. Being only a
team of ten students we decided to establish the organizing committee and we
started undertaking all necessary steps to bring our vision to life. Finding
ways to solve all the problems that arose through the steps and walking through
unknown territory made me realize how creative one can be if he is strongly
intrinsic motivated and has a purpose. Besides the demanding workload and
classes and our lack of experience we managed to deliver all activities
including identifying the sponsors, collecting the budget, booking the venue,
appointing the scientific committee, selecting the subject matters, arranging
the schedule, inviting speakers from international universities, advertising
and ensuring participation. Finally the 2-day conference was successfully held
in Athens at May 2007 and became an annual institution ever since. This
experience taught me a lot of things like the importance of team collaboration
and the satisfaction you gain through the process of implementing an idea and
facilitating its creation. Most importantly, that was the trigger that led me
professionally towards what I am currently doing; working on new business
development and project management.


The very essence of
creativity happens when you combine technical expertise with creative thinking
skills and motivation to address complex problems. In project management you
have the opportunity to be a part of the end product knowing that what you do every
day creates value. Apart from that you also observe the project from its
beginning until its delivery and get an overall view, which greatly gives you
the perspective of ownership and the opportunity to try things out. Also for
the realization of complex projects you have to collaborate with others.  Working with teams, especially in teams where
deep level diversity is present enables greatly the sharing of knowledge, the
idea generation process and the selection of the right solutions. And in order
for teams to be creative, they must live by a set of shared values: commitment,
focus, openness and respectful interaction. Finally one important aspect of
project management I really appreciate is that from the right beginning you get
assigned to a project you have a very clear purpose set. Ultimately the
ingredients of genuine motivation to unleash creative thinking in its fullest
potential are: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. The science confirms that this
sort of behavior is essential to being human and that now it is also critical
for professional, personal, and organizational success of any kind. As a
project manager and a modern manager in general nowadays your work is not well
described in advance. You get to be interchangeably a coach, a facilitator, an
impediments-remover, a shepherd, a change agent, a cheerleader and a mentor.
Although some traditional managers can question on where is the glory of being
a facilitator as a manager the answer can be found in reaching the collective
goal with success.


In the company I am currently
employed, I got hired at 2012 as a project manager realizing photovoltaic
parks. Until 2013 my company’s activities were focused on the solar
photovoltaic industry, but a change in the relevant law reduced dramatically
the investment incentive causing the PV industry to diminish. After only one
year the revenues of my company dropped by 90% and numerous companies in the
field bankrupted. It was then that the top management of the company took the
strategic decision in order for the firm to survive that it should become more
ambidextrous. So in parallel with the core business the company decided to
commit resources and enter an exploration phase. We established a novel
interdisciplinary department, the new business development department, which I
was asked to join, in order to elaborate market research, evaluate investment
plans and identify cooperation opportunities aiming to the diversification of
the company’s activities by entering new markets. For me, being very left
minded by nature, at first my new job description seemed very chaotic and
vague. However, eventually I appreciated the opportunity to work with more
flexibility, without so tight deadlines and being able to experiment on
different ideas and play with different scenarios. New business development by
nature is an activity requiring from teams very frequently to come up with
novel solutions and fresh approaches, there is no room for command &
control management and in that regions, creative thinking is a requirement for the
success of a team.  The exploration
journey lasted almost two years and gradually led the company to become active
also in other business sectors (heating, cooling, bio-energy and led lighting)
and start exploiting the newly acquired know-how. Since 2016 I was positioned
again at project management now for realizing bioenergy project.


Apart from intrinsic
motivation, that derives from what I like in my job, as already discussed, the most
important factor when I am considering how my creativity at work has unfolded
over the last years is the right leadership. Personally I have observed a very
positive relationship between the presence of empowering leadership and
creativity among employees. For example, the newly founded division I mentioned
above, received great support from the top management and that triggered our
engagement of to produce results the soonest possible. Psychological safety makes
people feel secure in order to take the necessary risks without feeling the
threat of being seen as ignorant or incompetent in case of failure. Another quality
creative leaders must have is to the courage to grant as much independence as
possible. Off course a leader should provide directions but it is another thing
to set the boundaries where an employee’s work should be within and another
thing to detail the specifications in such a way that no room for deviation is
left.  In other words, professionally I
prefer to be given a map with a destination point rather than one with the
route. I had a really bad experience with my former manager, that used to
exercise micromanagement in such an extreme that you never had the big picture
of what you were doing and how this was affecting the company’s targets. After
numerous conflicts she eventually understood that her control issues were
blocking team’s enthusiasm and that work can flow much better when all parts
receive appropriate communication and autonomy is encouraged. Trust from
management transforms employees from labor workers that copy procedures to individuals
that think freely and have the self-direction to make their own decisions and maximize
their impact on the company’s performance.


The work conditions play also
a secondary but important role. The work environment needs to be developed in
such a way to provide the space for mental breaks and promote play.
Organizational pressure, strict time limitations and behavioral consistency are
elements that increase the stress level but unfortunately in most industries cannot
be always bypassed. In that context, playfulness & happiness among peers
plays a big role in order to lower anxiety and recharge emotional energy and
creativity.   My team and I try once a month to organize a
group activity, that could vary from an after office coffee to a more formal
gathering. This enhances the interpersonal bonds between us and gives us the opportunity
to reflect on work related subjects through a more relaxed point of view.


Off course, the starting
point for any discussion of motivation and creativity in the workplace is a
simple fact of life: people work to earn a living. If someone’s baseline
rewards aren’t adequate or equitable, the focus will be on the unfairness of
his situation and the anxiety of his circumstance. You’ll get neither the
predictability of extrinsic motivation nor the weirdness of intrinsic
motivation. You’ll get very little motivation at all.  As recession in Greece was getting deeper the
past years, I have seen a lot of companies in the energy and infrastructure
sector introducing low wages to new employees and even lowering the salaries of
existing employees. And although this was not exactly the case for my company I
have noticed a great difference in the level of services provided by employees
from many of our subcontractors or public companies I am cooperating with.
Managers in my opinion should greatly consider in advance how individual
efficiency and loyalty are affected by such cost cutting decisions even if the
improvement of accounting ratios will justify this decisions in the short run.


To conclude, partly because
work has become more creative nowadays and less routine, it has also become
more enjoyable. Every manager should try to find ways to maximize novelty and
creative thinking. This is the only way modern work should be realized and
traditional management needs to undergo several changes in order to be
successful in this fast-paced world of constant innovation and creativity. A
popular framework, I read about recently, is Design Thinking. Design Thinking
originates on Tim Brown’s and David Kelley’s work in IDEO and is basically a
framework for innovation. Its basic premise is that there are 5 stages to
ignite the innovation engine that can be applied to many industries of product/service
development: a) Empathize (understand the user/client and his needs), b) Define
(the problem), c) Ideate (divergence thinking), d) Prototype (synthesize,
convergent thinking) and e) Test (for feedback). I would like to try to
incorporate this in my work in the future.