It has always been my family’s tradition to wake up on Thanksgiving Day and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from start to finish. This was, and still is, a major accomplishment for the kid who loathed parades; but the Macy’s Parade was different. It signaled the start of the holiday season and was the only appearance that the real Santa Claus ever made in public!
As an adult I had the good fortune to spend Thanksgiving 2008 in New York City. I was able to see the parade balloons line the street the day before they would make their debut down the parade route. My inner child went wild to see the gargantuan size of the balloons and the beauty of the detailing in the design of the floats. I turned to my friend and in all sincerity exclaimed, “This is one of the COOLEST things I’ve EVER gotten to see!” What was it about the time of year, the parade and being in New York that was giving me pure, childlike delight? Imagination! The amount of imagination and creativity that has gone into creating the parade since 1924 is astounding.
If you are a PR professional, imagination is one of the greatest tools you have in your toolbox. Manufacturing in this country has dwindled in recent years, and our society is a competitive field of thought leadership and creativity. Imagination is no longer left to the children and the artists, nor is it a luxury to an elite few who are considered “gifted.”
We are a global economy, and the speed in which we accomplish tasks has accelerated to speeds never thought possible. Daily office tasks performed the same way each day quickly become stale. In an interview with Forbes last year, Todd Henry, the author of Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice, made three suggestions to help creativity flow in the workplace and cut down on distractions:
- Tell your mind where to focus and define the problem. Visualize the end product.
- Hone your tasks list. Define the largest priorities and keep those top of mind.
- Stop jumping from task A, to task B, to task C, back to task A, over to task C, and then back to B. Whew! That’s exhausting just to write! Prioritize your day in order to leave blocks of time to respond to mundane, but necessary, emails and a separate block of time for a project. Don’t try to integrate the two.
Being innovative and finding unique solutions is the “stuff that jobs are made of.” Allow yourself to be free to dream, write down your ideas, doodle and let your mind wander. Force yourself to go outside of your normal routine and social circles; step outside of the norm. It’s important to continuously experience different things in life. Henry also cautions about the overuse of social media, “One of the dangers of the social Web is that it’s becoming easier and easier to only experience what we choose to based on our own likes or interests. This does nothing but reinforce our existing belief systems and neural pathways, but not in a good way. Rather, it causes us to develop blind spots about the world and our experiences become a smaller and smaller set of concentric circles.”
So as the holidays approach and stress starts to build, take a deep breath and slow down. Review your tasks and refine the list. Find something that leaves you awestruck, like seeing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade did for me. Make sure you take time to laugh, and let the creative juices flow – spilling onto your work.
How have you been creative at work lately, or is there a particular task you perform routinely that helps your imagination let go?