Freak flag is one of those phrases I really appreciate. It’s a catchy way to express an important, meaningful concept. Plus, it prompts a great visual.
Urban Dictionary’s definition of freak flag includes, “a characteristic… of a person, either subtle or overt, which implies unique, eccentric, creative, adventurous or unconventional thinking.” I’ve been thinking about the value of freak flags in our businesses, especially the creative aspect.
I like the notion that we all have creative abilities and that creativity is not available to just the select few. I believe (and there’s research that backs this) that we all can be creative in many situations. So, for me, it follows that we should find ways to be creative in our work.
We often don’t use the opportunities we are given to think or act creatively.
Unfortunately, we don’t all recognize or engage those creative abilities in our work. To paraphrase Ben (Luke Wilson) in A Family Stone, we all have a freak flag but we just don’t fly it.
This is a sad fact for us personally and for our businesses. By not employing our creative abilities, we take away some personal satisfaction and we short change our businesses. Why not recognize the breadth and value of creativity in everyone and every workplace? Why not reap the benefits?
I certainly see this challenge in my consulting business. My work focuses on helping professional services firms do good planning. We cover mostly marketing strategy and tactics but also some specific project work. To give in to some stereotypes, architects and designers dive deeply into their creativity. Attorneys and engineers are less likely to see themselves as creative on the job, not because they are not creative but they just do not think about their work in that way.
It’s also a personal challenge. Sometimes my inner strategy/planner/process wonk takes over and my freak flag creative abilities get pushed aside. Work becomes less rewarding and more needlessly challenging. Fortunately, I slip into this mode less and less frequently. Self-awareness is a wonderful thing!
Overall, we are victims of our own wrong-headed thinking.
Wrong-headed thought #1: Creativity pertains to arts endeavors such as painting, sculpting, writing fiction, or composing music. Yes, these activities are creative endeavors and have become a kind of default response. But creativity is a much broader, more welcoming trait. Creativity relates to imagination, ideas, analysis, solutions, and expression. All of these abilities have business value.
Wrong-headed thought #2: If we have a particular skill set or are a certain personality type, we are by definition not creative. Do you design landfills, write technical copy, manage a firm, litigate, or find ways to save money for your clients? Do you solve problems? These are all business activities that use your creativity. Or, at least give you the opportunity to use your creativity. If we buy into certain assumptions and stereotypes, we can easily push down those creative abilities. Doing so is a disservice to yourself, your clients, and your business.
Wrong-headed thought #3: Creative people are likely to be dreamers. They may be impractical, irresponsible, or unproductive. Maybe, but only because these words fit some portion of the general population. Actually, being a dreamer is not bad. Dreaming, imagining, thinking, and exploring can lead to powerful, positive results.
Wrong-headed thought #4: Business plans and their execution are rigid, inviolable things and therefore are no place for creativity. Wrong on both counts! Good plans and how they are executed are THE place for creativity, fresh thinking, and finding new solutions. Once developed, a plan should be monitored and fine-tuned so that it continues to be a valid guide. There is room for creativity in every stage of plan development and execution.
You can be creative.
Stop stereotyping and limiting your view as to who can be creative. YOU can be creative! Acknowledge and engage your creative abilities, not just in personal interests but also in your business. Maybe especially in your business. Why not reap the benefits?
Fly those freak flags!