What do people do when they don’t have enough resources and can’t get more? It depends. On what? Whether or not they have imagination and motivation.
Last month, my family and I took a trip to Havana, Cuba. The number of examples of ingenuity were stunning. The famous old cars that have been kept running for decades is a well-known example. The ways people have dealt with lack of running water and reliable electricity is remarkable. Tangles of bare wires hanging on the outside of a building may be shocking to us, but it is evidence that people have taken matters into their own hands.
My early memories of Cuba are the odd combination of Ricky Ricardo and the Cuban Missile Crisis. The thought of Cuba was at once intriguing and fear-inducing. Now, here I was all these years later, about to visit a place that was so geographically close to where I grew up but so different politically.
While in Havana, I marveled at the creativity all around us. So much ingenuity. People have found ways to create, market, sell, and promote things of value. Havana is not a place of luxury. Much of what we observed was sad from crumbling buildings to many very skinny animals roaming about. Air conditioning? Yet, amongst it all were people who showed us what industriousness can do. How ingenuity and action can improve one’s life, even if not to a standard that other would think remarkable.
In a completely different circumstance, here in the US, there are many examples of industriousness. One that is currently in the news is called Teachers Pay Teachers. Teachers are creating resources and tools for their students, classrooms and themselves and, of course, have been doing so for decades. Now, teachers are offering one another the things they develop, using Instagram as their platform to communicate and sell. One teacher, who makes $50,000 per year in salary, reported that she makes $200,000 per year selling her creations.
The idea has caught fire enabling teachers to acquire resources for what is typically a low cost, sell their creations and interact with one another. Not only are the teachers able to earn more but they serve as a role model for ingenuity and motivation for their students. Students can follow their teachers on Instagram and see the results of their teachers’ efforts.
What do the people in Cuba and the teachers on Instagram have in common? Two things: Motivation and Imagination. Two things that you cannot buy, nor can you place a value on them, other than to say they are priceless.
This got me thinking about people I know in my client companies that are creative, innovative, always coming up with new ideas. They have these qualities as well. Motivation and imagination may be spurred by necessity, but hardship is not a requirement. The Innovation Lab at MIT doesn’t operate under such hardship nor do most corporate innovation labs and centers.
Indeed, most of the companies I come into contact with provide amazing tools and support for innovation. Do they get good results? It depends.
While there is no doubt that the environment, including the culture of a company is important to creativity and innovation, even the best environment won’t engender motivation in those who don’t already have the spark. The same with imagination.
The two, character and circumstance, together, produce amazing things. Sometimes the right circumstance is necessity and sometimes it’s opportunity.
As a leader, you need dreamers, doers and creators. What you don’t need are takers, the ride on other’s coattails types. Not only will a taker not create, they will get in the way of creation. They are the kid in your red wagon who sticks his foot out and drags it on the ground every time you turn your back. The person who disdains creativity and tries to prevent others from inventing, piloting, engineering.
Hire the dreamers, just make sure you also hire the doers. Help them see that together, they create and achieve. Hire the creator, who can synthesize information from far-flung disciplines. Hire the person who neither creates nor leaps on dichotomies. Seek out the person who can imagine, model, test, build and launch. These people are rare and too often overlooked.
Hire the dreamers, the doers, the creatives. Hire those whose happiness comes from dreaming, doing, and creating. Steer clear of the pontificators, bombasts, Chicken Littles, and the miserable Devil’s Advocates who do nothing but point out the flaws in your plans.