Creativity Is for Project Managers, Too

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by Cyndee Miller

“We are all inherently creative,” proclaimed Google’s Abigail Posner at PMI Global Conference.

And yes, that includes project and program managers.

Every year, Fast Companythat arbiter of all things cool and cutting edge— releases its 50 most creative people in business. It’s (justifiably) filled with big names like cosmetics guru Pat McGrath and Netflix VP of innovation Chris Jaffe. And while there aren’t a whole lot of project and program managers who make the cut—there is a whole lot of talk about how all those brilliant ideas got executed.

It’s a different kind of creativity, which doesn’t often get the spotlight. But Ms. Posner knows the score. “Some of my favorite partners are project managers.”

As head of strategic planning for Google, she’s constantly on the hunt for that next big idea. For her, it starts with one fundamental question: why? “[By] understanding what makes [people] tick, you’ll develop a foundation for so many ideas,” she said.

From there, look for the links. Creativity is making connections that others haven’t, Ms. Posner said. “Ideas don’t come out of nowhere. They don’t fall from the sky. There is no eureka moment.”

That means project and program managers must be open to lots of stimuli from a range of collaborators.

“The more you can ideate with people—especially people who think differently than you—the more creative you will be,” she said. “Do not try to be creative on your own.”

And although teams must resist the temptation to overanalyze, don’t throw too wide of a net. Even creativity can benefit from some constraints—something project leaders are probably very familiar with.

A quick survey of attendees revealed not all project managers consider themselves to be creative, but Ms. Posner sees it as part of everyone’s DNA.

“Being creative is what defines us as human beings,” she said. “We just don’t realize we have the tools inside of us or how to harness them.”

That’s it from this year’s conference, but I’ll have plenty more to report on from this year’s PMO Symposium on 11-14 November. And mark your calendars for the 2019 Global Conference on 5-7 October in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

In the meantime, what’s your creative strategy? How do you and your team get past any innovation slumps?

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: October 10, 2018 12:56 PM | Permalink

Comments (16)

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Yup, team synergy. Thanks for sharing.

Of course, project managers are creative too. How else could they tackle most risk issues without being creative in finding solutions? They are daily confronted with implementation issues that challenge their creativity.

Creativity is very important and essential trait which Project manager exercise for many project activities like stakeholders engagement, communication, team building, problem solving etc..
However creativity involved in project management activities are not highlighted as you have mentioned rightly in your article.

Thanks a lot for sharing!

Good post, Cyndee. Thanks !

Safety zones within the team and organization aid to creative and innovative thinking and discussions.

Interesting perspective, thanks for sharing

Mix design thinking with project management could be a good idea.

Great, thank you for sharing!

Awesome!!! Indeed, we're creative until we act and move!!!

Real talk Cyndee. I need more unusual people in my network to ideate to be creative with. Is anyone out there? Thank you Cyndee

It's great that Abigail sees the value of creativity, which leads to innovation.

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