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December 2010
Seizing Creative Capital Out of the Chaos
By Sam Frowine

     Let’s create a little chaos.

     Plenty of that already, you might say. Chaos and confusion, over-the-top complexity, uncertainty in every direction. And for added tension, every day seems to bring contradictory messages. Employment, up! Real estate values, down! Dow Jones, up! New construction starts, down! What’s up today may be down tomorrow and we’re left with nothing to beat back the chaos.

     I say let’s wade right into that tension and complexity and confusion. Let’s claim the creative capital that can be found—has always been found—in places of turbulence.

We know this. It’s the story of entrepreneurism and pioneering that built our nation. Whenever we’ve hit junctures of change and turbulence, it’s been revolutionaries and rule-breakers and visionaries who have broken new ground and led to innovations and solutions. Turbulence spawned energy; energy transformed into creativity.

     During the last half of the 20th century, abundance and stability birthed a new norm for America’s economy. Predictability became the yellow brick road to the success we all thought we were entitled to. In the corporate-dominated economy, the marketplace was driven to make things duplicatable, systems-driven, efficient, profitable. We engineered ourselves into a linear mindset and perpetuated that mindset in MBA-land. We populated the workplace with managers, not leaders and creators.

     Then came inevitable change and, with it, the inevitable turbulence. Our instinct is to find our way back to the stable and the predictable. It’s the wrong instinct.

     Today, our economic enemy is not the chaos, it’s the status quo.

     As leaders in this new wave of creative energy, it’s up to us to foster a cock-eyed attitude that sees not chaos and confusion, but opportunity, hope, a chance to create solutions beyond our typical imaginings. We’re working on doing just that. We’re thinking about innovation and adaptation. New offerings, a new pricing strategy, a new sales manager to replace the one who was surely the problem—all good things to consider. Some will work and some won’t.

     But they won’t be enough to move us beyond the chaos and confusion, the tension and turbulence. They’re external changes. They won’t go deep enough.

     The real change to aim for: Turning ourselves into creative leaders.

     Predictability, meet Creativity.



     We can’t fix the macro until we fix the micro. And we are the micro. That’s you and me, the creative leader.

     Getting our economy on track will require us, the entrepreneurial minded, to get our enterprises on track. And getting our enterprises on track will require us to get ourselves on track by seizing our creative capital.

     But how? Everybody wants the formula. Bad news: Creativity doesn’t come in a box. No rule books. No diagrams. But when I work with teams of leaders who are ready to throw away their old rule books, here are some of the things I encourage them to consider on their journey to birthing a culture of creativity.

     Act like children. If we start with solutions and certainties, we’ll never find our way out of this forest. The first step is to become like little children, who know nothing and want to know everything. Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions.

     Welcome obstacles. Obstacles—especially the ones that seem insurmountable—force us to think beyond the typical. Entertain the most absurd and unlikely ways to overcome or get around or knock down those obstacles. See what shows up.

     Build a three-legged stool. The best way to keep ourselves balanced is a three-legged stool made up of openness to the future, wisdom from past experience and clear-minded awareness of where things stand right here, right now.

     Converge. Think across departments, across disciplines, across industries, across countries and continents. Redefine boundaries.

     Embrace ambiguity and give up control. This one actually gets easier once we accept how little we know for sure and how little we actually control. Focus on understanding what’s going on and not how to control it.

     Get humble. Life is messy. Things and people break. So do business models. None of us are immune.

     Entertain radical ideas. Ideas that scare us or tick us off or upset apple carts. Doesn’t matter if most of them turn out to be bad ideas. Just entertaining them opens a space in our imaginations where seeds of fresh thinking can be planted. Start an idea journal today.

     Read. Read. Read. Books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, the cereal box—not just information about business. Cross-fertilize ideas through associative learning.



     Stop asking what went wrong. Stop asking who made the mistakes. When that’s our focus, we become problem-blamers instead of problem-solvers. When we focus instead on the simple fact that our economic model is broken, we open our eyes to fresh solutions. Negative mental energy leads to mental blocks. Positive mental energy is fodder for genius. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you find yourself giving thanks for problems.

     Content provided by Samuel E. Frowine III, founder, owner and president of The Performance Group, Ltd., a business consulting firm aligning enterprises with the ambition of owners. For a complimentary self-analysis to gauge your readiness to cultivate creative leadership in yourself and your organization, contact him at 704-597-5156 or or start a dialogue via his blog at



Founder, owner and President of The Performance Group, Ltd.
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