Tracy heads up the procurement division of a large multi-national IT retail organization. Her role includes providing laptops for visiting VIPs. She needs three days to kit out a laptop so that it works properly for visitors. She also needs to be provided with the correct information to install on the laptops so that visitors can access their email while in her office.

Each time Tracy’s office had a visitor, the information that she needed would be provided one day before the visitor’s arrival date. The first five times this happened, she would approach the front line of people who provided her with information, and question the late delivery of the information. Each time the line of information providers explained that they simply could not get the information to her earlier, and there was nothing they, nor Tracy could do to change the situation.

Tracy thought over the situation for a few weeks. During that time, there were seven visitors who couldn’t access their email accounts while they were in her office. They were noticeably annoyed at the situation. Tracy felt like she was achieving her purpose in her working system properly. She decided to think laterally about the problem.

She started to observe the system in place.
She took note of who the information traveled through to reach her.
And she went to the beginning of that line.
Then she went to the person next in line.
And she explained to each link in the chain, that she really needed that information at least three days before VIPs arrive in her office.
She made people aware of the consequences of their actions. These people had been previously unaware that there was a three-day time frame for Tracy to achieve her objective.

She took responsibility, and she thought creatively. She observed a situation that wasn’t operating at a level of excellence, and she went out and did her best to fix it.

The next time she had a VIP visiting, the information arrived two and a half days before their arrival, and the next time, it arrived three days before their arrival. The status quo slowly changed, and today Tracy knows each human-link in the information chain she operates in. It meant using her tea breaks to seek out the necessary people, but that time invested by her paid off in the end. Her desire to take responsibility and make things better ensured she was joined by more colleagues for Friday night work drinks, and had less stress on a day-to-day basis.

Oh, and she achieved her purpose – VIPs almost always have access to their email accounts during their visits to her office!

Tracy did not accept mediocrity in her system. She believed she could make a positive change in the status quo.

Working creatively and with responsibility means thinking about what you do, and taking ownership for your part in creating a sustainable, successful system. If the most enabling organizational culture is one rooted in values-based excellence, then creativity and personal responsibility are integral to that culture.

Working smart and being happy stem from operating in line with your personal values, and feeling valued in your organization. Tracy was told by her system that she had no power to change the status quo, but she decided to take up personal responsibility, and try to make a change anyway. She thought about her values, and about how she would like the system to be.

Values-based excellence is the bench-mark for behaviour and likely to enable your happiness, because values care about the individual. And care is the key component for working creatively and with responsibility. Tracy cared that the people visiting her office had what they needed in order to perform their roles, so she went out to try and make sure their needs were met.

It is in caring for something or someone that we most often find a sense of fulfillment. We have complete choice over our response to our environment, but how often do we exercise that power of choice and start to be creative with the great gift of life that we wake up to every morning?

Why do so many of us choose to just get through the day? Why aren’t we living a great, creative, challenging, adventure everyday at the office? Do we believe we deserve a life that good?

If we each believed we were destined for greatness, it would change the way we operate in our workplaces. If we believed we were gifted with talents and abilities that are necessary to our world, we would apply our knowledge differently. We would apply it effectively. We would apply it purposefully and with the intention of achieving our purpose. Because we would believe we were capable of it. In the face of opposition, Tracy believed she could make a difference. She believed in herself, when other people did not seem to.

People think creatively and take responsibility when they believe they can make a difference.

Look at a department with an autocratic style of management in place, and note how little creativity and responsibility there is amongst the individuals there. People need to be given responsibility, and then they will take up ownership of that responsibility. If no responsibility is sincerely given to individuals, then it is unlikely that any will be taken up by those same people. There are not a lot of Tracy’s out there. It is up to managers to enable people to act like Tracy. But if your manager does not do that, then it is up to you to be a Tracy.

Where does your sense of self-worth come from? Do you believe you have the power to be creative in a responsible way? Are you inspired by the gifts that you, and just you, have been given in order to grow the systems you operate within? When you choose to be creative, and take responsibility and ownership for your part in the system, you start to grow, and the self-fulfillment that comes with that growth is invaluable.

To start acting creatively and with responsibility, ask yourself four questions:

What is my purpose here?
What am I trying to achieve
How could I be more effective?
Where is the system falling down?
Go to the beginning of the system, like Tracy did, by asking “where does my work originate?”
What resources are available to me for achieving my purpose more effectively?
What is my measureable, goal orientated action plan towards achieving my purpose more effectively?
And then commit to taking responsibility for your creative thinking!

The benefits will be twofold – you will grow yourself, and you will grow your organizational system. In the immortal words of a large manufacturer of sports gear – “THIS IS MY WORLD!”

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