How Can Goals Enhance Creativity?

August 4, 2010  

Innovation Targets and CreativityIn my previous blog entry, I discussed how goals can either enhance or detract from performance.

Over the years, I have written numerous articles on “The Performance Paradox” that show how an obsession with the future reduces performance in the present.  And typically, creativity is significantly diminished in the process.

But given that businesses are driven by goals, how can we leverage them as a tool for enhancing creativity?

One way is to use stretch targets.  REALLY stretch targets.

For example, one client that I was with last week has a target of doubling their business over the next 5 years. I know MANY organizations that have exactly the same goal.   That equates to a 14% growth rate each year (assuming compounding).  I’m sure, with hard work, they could hit those numbers, even though it would certainly not be easy.

But what if they set a target of growing by 50% a year? It might have a fundamentally different impact on the organization.  That level of growth is unprecedented. It will certainly stretch the way they think.  A 14% improvement can most likely be attained through conventional thinking.  But a 50% growth target would require some breakthrough thinking; radical ideas.

It might also have an interesting psychological impact on the organization.

Because a 14% growth rate is viewed as doable, it might create an attachment in the minds of the executives and employees.  “We should be able to hit these targets.  Therefore it we don’t, there is something wrong.”

But a 50% growth rate is unheard of.  Clearly no one in the organization would be “attached” to that outcome.  Surely the executives would not expect employees to deliver on those targets.

As a result, the 50% target becomes a “game” without attachment.  Everyone knows it is designed to shift their thinking and to help create enthusiasm.

The future gives them the present, rather than present giving them the future. (to learn more about what I mean by this, be sure to click the link and read the article)

As long as everyone in the organization believes they are playing a game which is designed to get them energized today, and it is not specifically about hitting the target, I can assure you that people will be more motivated.  Creativity will be stimulated.  And even if the company does not hit 50% growth rates, they will certainly have a better chance of hitting the 14% improvement than if they focused on that as the goal.

Goals that are not goals, can enhance creativity.

Leave a Reply

Old Comments

9 Responses to “How Can Goals Enhance Creativity?”

  1. Laura Bergells on August 4th, 2010 7:01 am

    Love this.

    I’m fond of saying that goals are fun for games, but poor for living life.

    Unless, of course, you look at life through the lens of “it’s a game”!

  2. Stephen Shapiro on August 4th, 2010 8:35 am

    Hi Laura, thanks for the mention. And I love your expression ‘goals are fun for games, but poor for living life.” I’ll have to remember that one.

  3. Fred E. Miller on August 10th, 2010 4:56 am

    Go BIG or Go Home!

    I like it, Stephen.

    Sometimes, if the goal is seen as absolutely unachievable, people will give up on it.

    Often best to set high, attainable goals.

    Thanks for the Post!

  4. Dick Brandt on August 11th, 2010 4:25 pm

    To disengage from never ending shoulds and from my ever ready inner critic, I use the lap counter on my watch to keep track of how many moments of satisfaction Each lap is 10 savored moments – so far today, I’m at 56 laps (560 moments) I make Enjoying These Moments MY TOP PRIORITY. I started this with savored portions, bites, and sips. I lost about 6 pounds in the last ten days after realizing that I could my top priority. – Not any outword success!!! Will I lose weight doing this? I was down about 6 pounds after a few days. I don’t think I could seek, and find, these satisfactions for periods where I delay eating.

  5. Dick Brandt on August 11th, 2010 4:45 pm

    Oups – I didn’t proof read my last post to the end. Forgive me.
    It should have read:
    To disengage from never ending shoulds and from my ever ready inner critic, I use the lap counter on my watch to keep track of how many moments of satisfaction Each lap is 10 savored moments – so far today, I’m at 56 laps (560 moments) I make Enjoying These Moments MY TOP PRIORITY. I started this with savored portions, bites, and sips. I lost about 6 pounds in the last ten days after realizing that I could seek, and find, these satisfactions for periods where I delay eating.

  6. Personal Finance Articles on August 14th, 2010 4:31 pm

    That is excellent advice. I have been telling many of my business clients the relatively same information. It is great to have and set certain goals, but sometimes it is best to stretch them. Once they are stretched, there is actually more room to create more goals.

  7. 4 Ways Goals Can Enhance Creativity for Ad Agency New Business « FUEL LINES Fueling Ad Agency New Business Through Social Media on August 16th, 2010 7:25 am

    [...] I would encourage you to read Steve’s full article, “How Can Goals Enhance Creativity?” [...]

  8. Shawn on August 20th, 2010 8:17 am

    A really great article.

    Your articles have given me a better understanding of goals and how to use them to enhance life.

    The bottom line is focusing on maximizing the present rather than worrying about the future….hmm…enough food for thought.

    Thanks

    You are making a great impact. Even on my blog: http://sparkmaginnovate.blogspot.com

  9. Adult Games vs Kid Games | Business Innovation Speaker and Consultant Stephen Shapiro on August 30th, 2010 11:05 am

    [...] my blog post, “How Can Goals Enhance Creativity” I [...]