David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
And on the 8th day . . .

September 23, 2011:  And on the 8th day . . .

I have had an incredibly draining and productive couple of weeks.  My meetings and conversations have involved topics ranging from, frankly, dry and dull to highly volatile and emotional.  In between all of those meetings and conversations were many projects requiring my attention, ranging from data collection and interpretation to agenda production.  All of these tasks could have sucked the life out of me . . . and at times they did.

However, I found that in moments when I couldn't stand approaching my tasks from a traditional way, I relied on creativity to turn a chore into something much more fun. 

So, instead of writing a traditional "end-of-trip" report for a conference, I wrote a travel journal, as if my colleagues and I had climbed a great mountain, instead of sat through two days of presentations.  

Instead of writing a standard thank you e-mail to a faculty member who had delivered to faculty, staff and students a wonderful presentation on why no one reads poetry anymore but should, I wrote two limericks of gratitude.

Instead of going into a meeting with some health care professionals where internal strife needed to be dealt with directly, I developed a nursing plan for this "ill" department consumed by such strife, and asked the group to help me figure out the necessary nursing interventions.

Instead of planning a straightforward video that will show faculty how to use certain elements of our learning management system, I wrote a script for a fake infomercial that will accomplish the same outcomes.  (Filming may begin next week.  Where's my make-up girl?)

I'm not saying any of these creative approaches were brilliant and perfect in achieving their outcomes.  That's for others to determine.  However, I do know that once I got into the frame of mind that said, "what is a creative way I can tackle this task?" the task got done very quickly.  The conference report was written in about an hour.  The limericks were written in about 15 minutes, the nursing plan in about 10 minutes, and the video script in about 45 minutes.  All told, that is about 2 hours of work, some of which I did from home after hours because, after all, once the creative juices get going, there is no slowing down.  I can go two hours staring at an excel spreadsheet and feel like I accomplished nothing.

Why I am writing about all this?  Well, if you've never heard or read Daniel Pink, do it now.  Literally.  Listen to him here.  He has challenged all the business models (and as Wannabe U has told us, colleges and universities are dying to be the business model) that rely on carrots and sticks, or even more calculatingly, the bonus.  Scientific fact and studies are disproving that strategy.

Creativity comes from freedom and lack of rules and limitless space to attack a problem.  Reward systems, by nature, place structure and rules and time limits that are creativity's enemy.  I have been reminded of that the last two weeks.  My hope is that most of us can work for a place like Southwestern Michigan College where creativity is encouraged as the way of life, not the way to riches.