When I was young I lived in Southern California, and was mesmerized by the desert. We moved into a house when I was eight-years-old that had been owned by a man who collected desert objects, like skulls and wagon wheels. Those objects lined our tiny backyard.
To keep with the theme, I went into a field one day to find my own treasure. I soon found out that skulls aren’t that easy to find in a small neighborhood field, but as I was looking for a skull, a tumbleweed blew by me. I went after it.
I took the tumbleweed home, named her Samantha, and kept her in our postage stamp of a backyard. I fed her leaves and sticks, taking her out for a roll every day. I even watered her, which wasn’t the best idea.
After a while I realized that my tumbleweed had no room to tumble. I had boxed her in, and she wasn’t nearly as impressive blowing from one side of our yard to the other. I had inhibited her with my desire to own her.
Sometimes, that’s what we do with our best employees. We hire them because of their ability to think outside the box and bring creativity to our team. After a while, we start boxing them in with phrases such as:
• That’s not how we do things around here
• We tried that once and it didn’t work
• I don’t think we have the systems to support that idea
• That’s going to create a lot of extra work
We take these free-wheeling spirits and fence them in with old beliefs, and then wonder why their creativity is blowing away.
If you hire creative talent, give them room to be creative. It might have to be within your control, but try not to put them on the corporate hamster wheel of mediocrity. You can:
• Provide a “tumbleweed room” where all thoughts are entertained and let these thinkers use it once a week, for any topic.
• Create a tumbleweed of ideas, rolling a ball around the room while letting people “feed” the ball by taping ideas to it before it is rolled to somebody else.
• Catch yourself when you’re boxing in a creative thinker, and truly entertain their ideas. .
Sometimes talent needs to tumble. Find ways to let that happen.