Friday, April 04, 2003

Nurturing Creativity

A while back, I wrote about how it helps us be more productive to establish good relationships with co-workers. I've had enough experiences to prove to myself that this is true; now I have some better ideas about why that is and how to harness it.

Today provided me with a good example of how this works. First, a flashback... When I first started working at this particular company, someone asked me to join the group one day for lunch. I couldn't do it that day but I figured that lunch was a good way to get to know people so I wanted to be sure I was invited the next time there was an opportunity. "Sorry," was my reply; "Tuesdays aren't good for me. If you're going on another day, can you let me know? I'd like to join you next time."

A few weeks later, came another invitation: "Today's not Tuesday!" Even though I had other things in mind, none of them were critical so I dropped them and joined the group for lunch. On the way back, I made sure to thank the person responsible for the ride and for the invitation.

Fast forward to today... Having set the stage for future invitations, I received another one today. On the way out for Chinese buffet, we talked mostly about who had kids and what ages or where we each had gone on our last vacations. At lunch, talk turned to food preferences of different cultures and which substances should be legal or illegal. Having exhausted a lot of the "normal" topics of conversation, or perhaps because we were all ready for post-lunch naps, or even more likely because we're geeks and it's what we love, talk turned to the latest problems stumping some of us.

Some lively debate ensued over how some of the code worked and what customers were likely to see and under what circumstances. Even when there weren't out and out answers, there was good food for thought being tossed around and ideas of who to talk to next.

This is the kind of collaboration that puts us at the top of our form. It flows freely out of our shared interest in solving a good puzzle and willingness to talk easily with one another. The fact that it happens in a car ride back to work from lunch is a testament to the fact that what we do is creative and creativity happens how it will, not how we will it to. The fact that there was a car ride to begin with (for me anyway) was a testament to my efforts at building a new relationship with a new group of people. I haven't solved the problem yet that I'm working on, but I'm quite certain I'm closer now than I would have been without the time spent with the group.

Do you spend any time consciously building relationships in your workplace? What works for you? Email me at and I'll post your ideas here.

Provide yourself and your co-workers with opportunities for your creative thought processes to come together and build on each other's work. Nurture the relationships that make this possible and take advantage of the opportunities that show up.