Complacency vs. Creativity: How to Ignite the “Fire” in Employees

The War Between Creativity and ComplacencyComplacency

Creativity indicates a continuous desire to make things better, expand into new territory, take on more responsibility, grow and innovate. It means keeping things not just interesting, but captivating and compelling. From painting a picture or writing a song, to launching a new product or opening a new store, creativity drives us forward and motivates us to break new ground. Creativity and courage go hand in hand.

Complacency means being OK with how things are, even when “how things are” could stand vast improvement. It means being satisfied with mediocrity. It’s a desire to keep things at the status quo because one is afraid of failure or even afraid of success. Complacency, self-doubt, failure, fear, and apathy go hand in hand.

Creativity and complacency are – to one degree or another – at war with one another. The person who is creative is continually trying to ignite the fire of creativity under the person who is complacent. The creative person is constantly taken aback by the unwillingness of the complacent individual to do something new or take a risk. And the complacent person doesn’t understand why the creative person isn’t happy with how things are or simply being comfortable.

So do we just give up? Do we settle for the status quo and assume that our dreams are just too grand and unrealistic to begin with? Or do we get creative and do something about it? Since no one is truly happy without dreams and aspirations, and at least a sketch of a plan for getting there, I would say wholeheartedly that we ought to do something about it. Here are some recommendations for igniting the fires of creativity on an individual and group level, no matter how long those fires have been dormant:

Rekindle the Original Intention

The reason that many people are afraid of change or do not appear motivated is that they had failures in the past and they are “stuck” in those failures. Where they were once passionate, they are now jaded and cynical. Sit down and start talking with someone and they’ll likely tell you that they are not “naive” like they were before. Now, after a series of losses and heavy blows, they are “realistic.” The thing to do then is to get them back to their original intention and purpose. What were they after in the first place? Why did they even get into this business? When you start asking these questions, you may be surprised that many people will literally not remember what they were originally after. It is quite factually blocked out of their memory and they need some coaxing to recall it.

Once they get an idea what that purpose was, the trick is then to REKINDLE it. Just like you rekindle a dying fire, you’ve got to stoke that fire somehow. Exactly how this is done is unique to each person. Some will get fired up just talking about it. Others require a lot more work. They may need to talk about some of their failures for a while. While they do this, you work into the conversation that THAT WAS THEN and THIS IS NOW. In other words, they are stuck in the PAST and their chances for recovery lie in being in the PRESENT and looking with positivity toward the future. You won’t get through to everyone, but with many you will.

Group Creativity

You can work on the group level as well as the individual level. Set aside some time for a longer staff meeting. When you do so, make sure people have the time to attend and aren’t worried about picking up their kids or the traffic or whatever. At this meeting, go over where you as a company are versus where you want to be. If you feel that your people are stuck in a failure, ask them to tell you about it. Maybe some of your employees have been there since the beginning and have gotten burnt out. They’ve gotten jaded and battle-weary. Have them talk about it.

Once you’ve gotten that download (yes, that part can be rough), start talking about their original intentions and purposes and where you want to take the company. Invite new ideas. Tell them no idea will be scoffed at. All brainstorming is appreciated and the most unrealistic ideas will be accepted. Obviously you cannot act on every single idea, but the point is to get the spark of creativity ignited. And you’ll find that some of the ideas can and should be acted upon.

Recognize & Reward Creativity

There are two surefire ways to stifle employee creativity and encourage complacency. The first is to not acknowledge an employee for a good idea. The second is to have the company take credit for an employee’s suggestion. If you want to get people involved in the creative process, then recognize them for their input and contributions. When an employee’s idea is implemented, make it clear whose idea it was. You’ll have to decide how much recognition is sufficient. You may wish to give out some bonuses, or even promote someone. Just be sure that you are fair about it.

Challenge and Empower EmployeesReward

When the company is facing an important issue, put the challenge out to your employees to help solve the problem. When a company is genuine about seeking input, its employees will demonstrate genuine interest in problem-solving. Put out the challenge to help solve a looming issue and empower your team to come up with solutions. You may be pleasantly surprised what you get back.

Show Progress

In addition to recognizing and rewarding creativity and innovation, employees should be able to see the results that their suggestions bring in. When an employee suggests a better way to ship a product, let the staff know how much money was saved using that suggestion and how it is helping the company grow. Not only does this demonstrate the tangible connection between their ideas and real-world results, it inspires them to be active in the expansion and viability of the company.

Make Room for Complacency

How can “making room for complacency” be part of the process that inspires the creative spark in employees? Each employee is different and operates at a different pace. You’ll have people who will voice several creative suggestions each week, and those that will have a good idea or two each month. Some are content just doing their job, not bothering anyone and not being bothered. If you are constantly pressuring everyone to “be creative,” then you could end up inadvertently suppressing some of the creativity. Creativity, by its very nature, is voluntary. If you make a little room for complacency, you will be giving each employee the space they need to contribute. So there is a balance there.

Cultivate an Atmosphere of Creativity

complacent staff is one that is not contributing to the future of your company. A creative staff is one that is genuinely interested in prosperity and is having a good time in the process. If you want your company to grow, you need creative input from your employees. Sometimes an employee wants to be creative, but they are not sure how to go about it. The more a company fosters and encourages creativity, the more that company will get in return.

You may not be big enough (yet) to offer stock options to your staff in order to incite vested interest in corporate expansion, but you can certainly cultivate an atmosphere of competence and creativity. You can and should reward productivity and creativity in whatever manner your people will positively respond to and which best suits your business. Talking to people individually and as a group is a good start for getting your finger on the pulse of your company. Ultimately, you want everyone pitching in, doing more than the bare minimum, and building a creative atmosphere on their own steam. You want a place of business that is truly alive!


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