Published in El Pais, 15 December 2018.
As kids we learn to color neatly within the lines. The lines of the drawing need to be respected and if we don’t respect them an angry teacher, mum or dad, will stress again the fact that we have to color within the lines! In addition, the trees need to be green, roofs need to red, the air and the clouds are blue and white (although we often mix it up) etc. Not much space for our own opinions or ideas. But we learn how it has to be and that it is the only correct way.
Now what happens when we look for a job and we hear from the HR person it’s requirements. They need people that are creative, think out of box, are able to take bold decisions and convince other people to do things in other ways to be able to maintain the good completive position the company to be able to go beyond the state of the art. Almost the complete opposite as what our teachers taught us. Can it be more confusing? Yes, it can.
Once you have started your new job, you are overwhelmed with hundreds of company rules, policies and procedures and deviating from them is followed by a nice meeting with your boss or some guy from HR telling you again that you have to color within the lines, but in a creative way. So, you can use all your creativity as long as the green leave of the tree is green, the air is blue, and all within the lines.
So, dear bosses, let your employees color once a while outside the lines. Do not put this obsolete, dusty and probably empty, suggestions box in your company, but give them real time and possibilities to go nuts. Be open to changing or removing procedures and policies which only limit the freedom of your employees. Hear the ideas for new products, campaigns and be bold and let them create a prototype or a proof of concept. If your job vacancy looks for a creative person, then do not disappoint him with obligatory green trees.
People need to find their limits, so do kids. They know your need to color within the lines, but isn’t it fun to see what happens when you don’t? Van Gogh, Vermeer, Picasso, did it and we know what happened.