Innovation

Creating Something New

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I have spent the last couple days in Portland, ME creating something new.

In my business when you get a break in the action that means it is time to create what is next and new.  Every entrepreneur, executive, leader, manager and individual contributor needs to spend time working both in the business (doing the work) and on the business (inventing the future and/or improving skills/competency).

Creating something new is hard work.  Creating something new when there are very real time, financial and resource constraints can prove to be a difficult and delicate balance.

However, it is simply work that must be done.

If you aren’t inventing the future and improving you are falling behind.  The status quo is dead.

I have learned a little bit about creation in the last couple years. My last creation project was our new, leadership development course:  Collaborative Leadership.

There were moments during the course design where I wanted to stop.  Start over.  Or scrap the entire project all together.  One day I thought it was my best work.  The next day I thought it most certainly wasn’t.  I pushed past that little voice of doubt and a few inevitable moments of pause to eventually ship (amazing how a firm deadline helps make that happen).

I was throw up nervous the day I delivered the course pilot at AT&T University and I am pleased the outcome is AT&T including the course as part of their 2012 executive development curriculum.  However, even if they hadn’t moved forward the act of creating something new would have still been well worth the effort.  Simply for these 5 lessons learned:

Start:  Research and planning needs to have a beginning and end.  The key is to start making progress.  Any progress.  A white board, post it notes, project draft and/or a sample counts as a start.  The start creates momentum.  Momentum is required to finish the work.  Keep in mind that everything is a draft until you decide it isn’t.

Effort:  It is supposed to be hard.  There might be a little pain, long nights, sacrifice, self-doubt and seemingly insurmountable obstacles along a creation endeavor.  Let me rephrase.  There will be.  Know it.  Expect it. Finds ways to push through it.  Your very best work will demand your very best effort.

Collaboration:  Because creating is hard you need help. I need a team.  I need to know my Business Manger is working in the business while I am working on the business.  I need to know that my Advisory Board is available for feedback and counsel.  Source your sounding board.  Your very best work is rarely done alone.

Commitment: Collaboration also helps drive commitment.  When you are accountable to people you care about it can drive a ferocious resolve to push hard simply to make sure you don’t let them down.  Having the right attitude toward the choices and commitment you make is essential to delivering your very best work.

Cross the Finish Line:  Starting and stopping is easy.  Finishing isn’t.  When procrastination is the enemy it helps to have an adversary.  A firm deadline works for me.   Finishing means we have to confront our fear of failure.   That is a powerful fear to face down.  Once you’ve done whatever it is you are doing once the next time might just get a little easier (no guarantee).  {Tip:  The Dip is an excellent little resource for determining when to quit and when to stay the course.  Many people give up on the cusp of a breakthrough}.

I am back to the beginning on a new creation project.  I am probably writing this post as a reminder to myself more than I am for anyone else.  I know what it feels like to finish.  I know I am capable.  I just have to do the work.

The truth is most people don’t want to create something new.  What they want is to be finished, receiving praise and accolades. Most people don’t want to spend 60 minutes, 6 days a week working out.  They simply want a killer body in a bathing suit.

Creating something new isn’t easy.

Results take real resolve. I believe it’s worth the effort.

When in doubt, just ask someone who crossed the creation finish line…victorious.

I’ll pose the same question to you that my friend Ross Bernstein (a creation machine) posed to me:

How many books are you going to write this year?

OR

What something new have you resolved to create in 2012?

Let the work begin.

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