THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Most advice... on managing creative people is awful

A good manager is someone who makes everyone feel like he or she is creative in their work. Because creative work is the most fulfilling work, and we are each capable of that kind of work.

My favorite research on this topic is from John Mirowsky, professor of sociology at University of Texas, Austin. He finds that people people make choices to be more creative if they are gainfully employed. But also that we have more control than we realize over how creative we make our worklife.

"One thing that surprised us was that the daily activities of employed persons are more creative than those of non-employed persons of the same sex, age, and level of education."

How can you tell if you are creative at work? You could just ask yourself if you like your job. It is nearly impossible to like a job if you are not solving problems that are challenging. And if you are doing that, well, that is creative.

For another gauge, look at your cell phone call log. If you're routinely calling friends from work, you're probably not happy there, according to research from Nathan Eagle, at the Santa Fe Institute.

Here are five ways to make a job more creative:

1. Change your mindset

Bad situations breed creativity– but only if you feel responsible for fixing your own problems. So stop blaming your job or your boss or your work, and start looking to yourself. All jobs have opportunities for creativity. This usually means solving problems no one asks you to solve. That's right: Creativity at work is often about finding your own work, finding and solving your own problems. So most of you should blame yourself, not your job, for lack of creativity in your work.

2. Change your response to stress

We tend to respond to stress with routine responses– almost all of them bad for us in some way. Natalie Angier writes in the New York Times about our predisposed type of response to stress: "Regions of the brain associated with executive decision-making and goal-directed behaviors had shriveled, while, conversely, brain sectors linked to habit formation had bloomed... Rodents were cognitively predisposed to keep doing the same things over and over, to run laps in the same dead-ended rat race rather than seek a pipeline to greener sewers."

So when you have stress, try a new response.

3. Change the pace

John Freeman points out in the Wall Street Journal that changing the pace changes what it's like to do that task. You know this intuitively from dancing or sex. But it's also true of workplace tasks like writing email or cleaning our desk— both of which we often do quickly with no examination of whether or not that is a good pace for that task.

4. Try job hopping

This is a way to change your level of creativity on a larger scale. A big reason that job hopping helps your career is that people who job hop are more engaged in their work. Mirowsky explains this further: "People with a wide variety of jobs manage to find ways to make them creative."

5. Get in a long-term, intimate relationship

Be careful putting too much burden on a job. You need to be creative in order to feel fulfilled, yes. But there are infinite ways to be creative, and they don't necessarily have to relate to your job. Which is why the connection between a job and happiness is totally overrated. Intimate, long-term, intimate relationships matter most– and, not surprisingly, the act of putting two lives into one life requires creativity, always.


Penelope Trunk has started several companies and worked for many more.