There often seems to be a tension between creativity and continuity when growing small firms. Which is most important, or can you have both even when they seem mutually exclusive?

tug of war

Continuity?

A great firm needs a lot of continuity.  Staff know where they are if there’s continuity, you can step back from the day to day operation because processes are running smoothly and everybody knows what’s going on (continuity) and other stakeholders value the predictability that continuity brings.

An important part in your role as leader and owner of your firm is to provide continuity.

Creativity in your firm?

Creativity isn’t only about creating wonderful shiny new things, and creativity certainly isn’t all about strange artwork!

At the same time as your firm is delivering great continuity, the outside world is changing. Think of all the change that’s going on around you (cloud, demographic change, economic change, technological change). Not only is managing change important to you, but adapting to changing circumstances is key to your survival.

There’s the problem. Being good at change needs different skills and mind-set to being good at continuity. Who in your mind makes a better leader, people skilled at change or skilled at continuity? Who would you rather work for, if given the two as choices.

Continuity – the enemy of creativity?

I’m never sure if the stories about left brain and right brain are true, even less can I remember which is supposed to do which. But one half (right?) is good at logic and following processes, the other is the creative half.

More simply than that, if your firm always works to process and instructions – how can you also be creative? How can you release the team’s shackles (yes the ones you’ve fitted them with), so that they will happily think creatively on demand?

You could start with doing things a little differently yourself.

  • Shakeup your regular team meetings (or some of them), get others to chair them rather than you.
  • Consider what and how – the two critical words to understand when you want to improve team performance  (the linked article explains)
  • Hold one to one discussions away from the desk, even outdoors! It’s amazing how people think differently in a different setting.

Hold a creative meeting each quarter (or month)

If you’re serious about finding a new way to do things, without throwing out all of the processes you have now – create a small space where you and the team think creatively for a while.

  • Have a meeting involving the team where your aim is to collectively find a solution to an issue your firm faces.
  • Draw picture about possibilities (even accountants can draw). Maybe that’s a bit way out for some people, although it does work. Instead you could use some magazines for the team to take cuttings from? Each person to take a cutting and explain how it represents something they think would improve the firm (or the client experience)

Ask each person

  • what other firms do your team admire
  • what other companies do they admire
  • what personalities do they think are great
  • Ask what these companies / people would do to help them move on

Daft is good. Daft is about giving license to shift the normal thinking. Allow weird thoughts to filter through, they can inspire really practical ideas for another time. Normal service can resume after the meeting.

How could you bring creativity and continuity together, to improve your firm?

Written by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Have you got your "next step kitbag yet"? It's stuffed with guides, reports & templates helping you grow from 5 to 50 employees Click here for immediate access

Photo used under creative commons licence. For more information, click here.