One of my most memorable ITK experiences in 2022 involved leading 70 people through a Mission Canvas exercise. We divided the team into ten groups of seven, which means over the course of the hour I got to see 10 Mission statements take shape, ten different descriptions of this team’s present activities. The participants were not only were exposed to a variety of perspectives, they also uncovered the things they all have in common. It was a great example of how ITK helps teams develop “clarity and consensus,” and a cool affirmation that such things can even be established with a really big group.
In addition to the ways this benefited the participants, this experience was transformative for me, in large part because i got to see so many things happening at once. One thing I discovered is that I don’t love some parts of our canvas. Little things that previously seemed like a minor quirk I could easily dismiss or work around now loomed large as an unavoidable flaw in the canvas. I hadn’t really noticed this before – and now I couldn’t miss it. So we’re gonna fix that canvas – watch for an updated version, coming (hopefully) soon!
This experience brings to mind an observation from prolific artist Steve Keene (his website says “Over 300,000 paintings sold or given away“). In an interview, he explained “I love the idea of doing sixty paintings a day, and finishing them, more than the idea of trying to make one that I think is perfect. The whole system is based on trying not to beat myself up.” Volume has a certain magic about it, creating a sense of freedom from perfectionism and enhancing our understanding of the work (and the tools themselves).
I find Keene’s approach fascinating and inspiring. I love his emphasis on doing the work, on experimenting and trying a bunch of things, rather than trying to get it absolutely correct on a single try. It’s a refreshing alternative to the self-defeating perfectionistic approach, which prevents progress and does not, in fact, produce high-quality outputs. You know what does lead to creative, high-quality work? Making 60 paintings a day, and not just learning from each one, but learning from them in aggregate.
My suggestion – don’t just do one ITK session or come up with a single idea. Do ten sessions. Do sixty. Do them back to back. Do them simultaneously. Do them with 70 people in the room at once. As the brilliant Stephanie Medicke observed a few years ago, “The most dangerous thing you can do is go with the only idea you have.” So try out some different ideas, by doing more than one thing… or by doing something more than once.
To be super clear, this isn’t about pursuing quantity over quality. That phrase drives me bonkers. Instead, this is about recognizing that ramping up the quantity of our output is a path to improving the quality of our output. Sort of a “practice makes perfect” thing… except perfect isn’t the goal either (but I digress).
Back to the point – when a few of us attended South By Southwest last March, we heard Jeremy Utley provide a great definition of creativity that ties this all together nicely: “Creativity is doing more than the first thing you think of.”
So if you want to be creative (and I bet you do), the secret just might be… to pump up the volume, increase your output by a factor of ten, and expand your participant list beyond the usual suspects. Let each individual effort be a little bit wrong… and when you put it all together, you just may find it’s very, very right.
(image credit: courtesy image from Fort Myers Florida Weekly)