The Enigma of Creative Processes

One objective of a business process is to perform a business activity in a standardized, repeatable way that provides consistent results with minimal management intervention.  And many managers take that very seriously.

“Just do it the way we tell you to do it.  Don’t get creative.”

I speak from experience in telling you that getting “creative” can cause consternation for your manager, irrespective of the results.

“Do not work outside the process.”

But there are some activities that simply do not lend themselves to this sort of process-driven logic.  For example, I once had to document my process for solving technical problems for customers whose mainframe systems were down in the middle of the night and could not be fixed using standard 1-800 number methods.

I balked.  It was like asking me how I cooked Chinese food.  Well, I never do it the same way twice.  It’s NOT A PROCESS.

I finally yielded and described my “process:”

  • I arrive at the account.
  • I ask them what the problem is.
  • I ask them to show me the mainframe.
  • I fix the problem.
  • I tell them I fixed the problem.
  • I leave.

That’s a pseudo-process.

My experience has been that tasks requiring creativity and innovation benefit only marginally from “processes.”  Processes have their strengths without a doubt, and they are numerous and real.  But driving creativity and innovation is not one of them.