Ep174: A Lesson in Creativity from a Dictator

26 minutes

We cheat on our own podcast for a story this week, as we talk about This American Life, North Korea’s former leader Kim Jong-il, creativity and risk. 

Why is that important for business? 

This episode references the This American Life podcast episode, Same Bed, Different Dreams https://www.thisamericanlife.org/718/same-bed-different-dreams

If, like Kim Jong-il, you are finding your people lack creativity, consider where you are making it unsafe to be creative. Perhaps there is too much structure, too little structure, or perhaps your people believe it is better to do something safe and crappy than to be sorry for taking a risk. And the risk doesn’t even have to seem dramatic – it doesn’t have to involve a single dictator to be a deterrent. But you do have to help your people embrace the risk of being sorry so they can push past crappy and safe. 

While it might not be wise to create a culture that courts all kinds of failure, you need to encourage it in spaces that require creativity. You have to recognize and mine for the really good parts of failure that only arise because someone took a chance. 

Keep in mind – this is often a blind spot for leaders. But when people aren’t acting the way you want them to, as a culture, there is a shockingly high probability that this is the reason. 

Sometimes it is as easy as eliminating part of structure, so you create more breathing room for creativity. 

Lastly, a great trick to look at the solution of opening up creativity is to access it as if you are giving advice instead of finding a solution from your current place within the problem. Imagine yourself being interviewed about your success – “how have you helped your team to work so creatively” – and imagine your answer. 

What story do you want to tell?

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