A musician friend recently brought to my attention the Australian artist Sia (pronounced See’-Ya). What is impressive about her is the creativity that she brings to her performances and videos. I stumbled upon a video of her performance of her song “Soon We’ll Be Found” from an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman in 2008. It’s a beautiful song, and set up against the all white backdrop, with the exception being her colored hands that she uses to convey the lyrics in sign language. It’s both a visually and musically stunning performance. It’s clear that music to her is an emotional experience, and that level of investment in the song is conveyed to the listener.
Perhaps even more impressive was a video of the same song for a radio appearance. On a day when she was clearly battling some sort of throat ailment, and with minimal instrumentation and only serviceable live audio support, Sia gave an equally compelling performance. It was a clear indication of her professionalism. A true artist gives 100% of whatever they have in any given performance – Whatever 100% might be on that day and in that environment.
In other words, no matter the challenges, you don’t just mail it in. The song, the emotion, and the performance are too important. Here are the 2 videos for comparison:
According to an IBM study of 1,500 CEOs conducted in 2010, creativity is the most important quality of 21st Century leaders. Creativity and the creative process are hard to define, and can vary depending upon the nature of the work you are doing. However, we do know certain characteristics common in creative people:
- The “Creativity Muscle” – The capacity to be creative is like a muscle – it either strengthens with use or withers with inactivity. So you want to be creative? Take time to read a book, paint a picture, write a song, or snap a few photos – and do it consistently. Don’t have time? Close your eyes and visualize something completely from your imagination – a vacation paradise, a fictitious form of transportation, or a prehistoric animal. Do it 5 minutes a day. Everyday! (THINK MUSIC AND ARTS EDUCATION ARE A WASTE OF YOUR CHILD’S EDUCATION TIME? THINK AGAIN!)
- If You Believe You’re Creative, You’re Creative – Have you heard the quote, “Those who believe they can and those who believe they can’t are both usually right?” Creativity studies show that people who believe that they are creative tend to be creative. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Besides, we’re all born with the ability to be creative. If you doubt it, watch a group of 4-year olds when a teacher tells them to take out their crayons and a blank sheet of paper.
- Be Fearless – Creative people are fearless, and don’t worry about mistakes. If you’re a manager who tends to have punitive measures in place in your organization, whether formal or informal, you’ll get consistent results from your employees. Consistently mediocre. Until the rewards of innovation are greater than the consequences of failure, your organization will never foster creativity.
- Awareness – There are ideas all around you. Do you ever notice them? Drive down the street. Every sign you see – someone made the decision which color it should be, where precisely it should be located, and the font of the lettering. Most great ideas are spawned by simple observations. If you’re sleepwalking through life, you’ll never make them. That cashier at the convenience store where you stopped for coffee this morning – what was her name (she had a nametag, I’ll bet), what was she wearing, what color was her hair, and how many people were in the store at the time…See what I mean.
- Reset Button – In his book The War of Art author Steven Pressfield discusses the mindset of the artist. Paraphrasing – the artist doesn’t define his or herself by a particular piece of work. They understand that it’s just one item and tomorrow there will be another blank canvass, ball of clay, music manuscript paper, etc. Some efforts will be better than others, but it’s just a process. Like a cornerback in football who just gave up a touchdown pass or a pitcher who gave up a home run, shake it off… AND GET BACK TO WORK!