(I accidentally broke a Permalink from a post in 2009, so I decided to repost and update the original text at the same time.)
When someone asks you to be strategic, what do they want you to do, exactly? When someone asks you to be creative, what does that mean, specifically?
Here's my take.If someone is asking you to be strategic, they're asking you to ...
- Know and understand the project's objective, and to know your role in moving the project toward its successful conclusion.
- Analyze and prioritize the problems (external threats and internal weaknesses) which might prevent the objective from being reached.
- Determine which opportunities can be leveraged to address or eliminate the real or potential problems.
- Judge or assess a piece of information for its intrinsic worth. In other words, what insight does it have and how can we apply it to the project?
- Know the available and potential resources. Determine how to use them most efficiently and effectively.
- Define the criteria for the brainstorm to select the best idea, if by no other virtue than it solves the problem or need.
- Measure your milestones along the project's path, and the final outcome to ensure the campaign achieved its goal.
- Develop a focused plan of action if warranted.
Your "strategic value" refers to how quickly you can assess and narrow down information to a conclusion: a decision, a recommendation or an insight, all of which link directly to the project's objective.
The question that guides your strategic thinking: Yes or no?
If someone's asking you to creative, they're asking you to ...
- Create as many potential ideas as possible, using the insights as an initial springboard. ("Be idea prolific.")
- Withhold and prevent premature judgment, both of others as well as yourself.
- Be intellectually playful, tapping into a full range of diverse people to help look at the problems from every perspective.
- Take risks, even perhaps to fail if it meant learning something insightful that could be used in the future.
- Express yourself. You have to be able to articulate either the insight from your knowledge in a way which others can acknowledge and understand, or to describe the idea, bringing it to life.
- Be non-conformist. You treat the status quo as a piece of information rather than a restriction.
- Seek ambiguity, uncertainty and disorder because this creates new and different explorations, explanations and experiences which creates potential answers.
- Inspire the people around you, igniting their curiosity and imagination through your enthusiasm and passion.
Your "creative value" refers to how many different or atypical ideas (both good and bad) that you can create using actual or imaginary stimuli.
The question that guides your creative thinking: What if?
Of course, it's ideal to be able to do either style proficiently. Similar to Closed Mind vs. Open Mind, or Linear Thinking vs. Lateral Thinking, both thinking modes are as advantageous as they are dangerous, depending upon the situation and the people involved. Real fluency can be defined in two ways: 1) Knowing when to think in a certain style. 2) Knowing how to switch from one style to the other.
How have you defined what it means to be strategic or creative? What tricks do you use to get your brain to switch from one style to the other?