My girls play Minecraft. I don’t pretend to understand it. I was just relieved they’d put Barbie down and picked up blocky shaped people. I don’t pay a lot of attention to it, but one idea has implanted itself as a metaphor for so much in our community. As explained to me by my 9 year old, there are two modes: creative and survival. If you are in one mode, the conditions of the other do not apply. If you’re in creative mode, you can build things but if you’re in survival mode, your only goal is to survive. Please don’t correct me on the facts, it’s the idea that was intriguing.
So many of our organisations are in survival mode:
“We are under threat.”
“Org ‘x’ is doing better than us at ‘y’.”
“The governing body changed the rules and our funding is under review.”
“A new organization is threatening our market share.”
“We can’t find a successor for our leader.”
In survival mode, you can’t be creative. Creativity thrives in security. If everyone feels under attack, then the familiar, traditional ways are seen as providing stability and continuity.
“This is not the year to change things up.”
“With ‘a’ or ‘b’ uncertain, we don’t want to mess with our brand, our position, our donors.”
“One day, maybe, your new ideas have merit but for now…”
The problem with thinking in survival mode is that you are safe, but moribund. In survival mode you are stuck watching your back. There’s no chance to look up or out.
Modern communal organizations need creativity more than ever. We need to engage younger generations, who thrive on uncertainty, who have never known stability. We need to disrupt the paradigm of people giving on trust, on faith that an organization will ‘do the right thing’ because in a Google world we look things up for ourselves and we don’t trust anyone.
Survivalist managers want a war of attrition, where they are the only one left standing. Creative managers have no preconceived notions. Thriving might look quite different from the way the organization is built today, and that’s ok.
Our migrant parents and grandparents understood the virtues of taking a risk, because they had nothing to lose. Now we hesitate, paralysed by the perceived need for safety, and ignore the possibilities of creativity.
Communal organizations need to log on in creative mode, to take a risk, to try a new way to build, to engage, to connect. Survival will get you to keep breathing. But only creativity will make the game worthwhile.
What are you doing to keep your workplace thinking in creative mode?