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9 Career Lessons Every Pro Needs To Know

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by Robin Landa, author of “The New Art of Ideas: Unlock Your Creative Potential

I knew bullying took place in middle school, but this was kindergarten.

When my daughter was being bullied, I confided in Marge, one of the other mothers at the school. Her advice, “Be proactive. Speak to the headmaster, who needs to know what’s going on.” Seemed like a no brainer but as someone who doesn’t like to be confrontational, it was just the push I needed to speak up.

“Be proactive” imprinted on me. It didn’t actually solve the bullying issue because the principal couldn’t fathom that it was going on in her school among such young girls. But, being proactive has served me very well in many other matters. Since Marge’s advice was so important in my life and career, I would like to share some of my own rather seasoned advice with you.

1. Be a nimble thinker.

When asked which characteristics were important in employees, (assuming the candidates had the necessary hard skills) employers said: Agility, flexibility and adaptability.

Be ready to pivot on a dime; adapt to problems as they arise.

2. There is no playbook.

Because life is long and art is short. During many great periods of time, for example, the Italian Renaissance or the Enlightenment, among others, life was short and art was long. Schools of thought would last a long time and people died at a much younger age than now.

Living in a global economy with rapidly changing technology, there is no playbook, no dogma of the Academy of Painting and Sculpture (Academie de Peinture et de Sculpture) to adhere to or even challenge. To conceive and produce ideas that people notice, imagine that you are the first to do it.

3. Creativity needs to be strategic.

Creativity frightens some business people because they think it’s willy nilly–that creative professionals just want to do their thing and are not thinking about the bottom line or even the triple bottom line.

Strategic creativity is the power to conceive something that solves a problem, anticipates issues, aims empathetically and appropriately at the target audience, and ultimately benefits people.

4. Listen mindfully.

As a mother, educator, creative professional, wife, and friend, I’ve learned the importance of granting my full attention to what someone is saying or asking.

The key is listening to understand without presumption.

5. Obtain multiple perspectives.

When you’re with colleagues or team members, obtain multiple perspectives on the topic under discussion.

Respectful dialogue with others, especially with a diverse group of people that gives you different and multiple perspectives, could spark recognition of a goal or a gap (what’s missing in the organization). Too often particular groups of people are excluded from discussions about goals and ideas.

Taking multiple perspectives — that is, looking at a goal, an outcome, a partially realized idea, or a fully-fledged idea from viewpoints different from your own — ultimately results in better goals, ideas, and outcomes that appeal to more people in more meaningful ways.

Learn from everyone.

6. Get people on board.

Whether it’s getting a client to buy into your idea or solution, or getting people to vote for your proposition, it pays to have allies. Avoid making enemies.

Almost anyone can be an ally and share in the glory.

7. Do your part.

Be an ally.

It’s challenging to juggle a career, family, social life, and also contribute to communities, organizations, or causes when time is limited. I understand that.

Whether it’s mentoring someone junior to you, volunteering to speak to your former high school on career day, advocating for a cause or candidate, or planting a tree, doing your part not only brings humanity closer to an ideal but it actually will make you feel good.

8. Generate worthwhile ideas.

Not frivolous ideas–generate ideas worth pursuing.

I’ve literally taught thousands of people who are now creative professionals to generate good ideas on a daily basis. If you think you can’t, it’s the system you’re using, not you.

Here’s how. Answer three questions, The Three Gs:

  1. What’s your goal? Your goal is what you hope to achieve.
  2. What’s the gap your goal is filling in any discipline, sector, or business?
  3. What’s the gain for individuals, society, or our planet? Your goal and gap should result in a gain beyond simply profit.

And since I’m a mother, I must add,

9. Eat more vegetables.

 

Robin Landa is a distinguished professor at Kean University and a globally recognized ideation expert. She is a well-known “creativity guru” and a best-selling author of books on creativity, design, and advertising, including “The New Art of Ideas: Unlock Your Creative Potential“. She has won numerous awards and The Carnegie Foundation counts her among the “Great Teachers of Our Time.”