Please watch your head

Please watch your head

How innovation and execution ceilings are affecting your team's creativity

04 | 03 | 2018

Most of the people reading this will have active execution ceilings as well as active innovation ceilings. Our innovation ceiling represents the extent to which we can think creatively. It’s the highest reaches of our imagination and creative potential. Our execution ceiling is much lower. It represents our threshold for delivery, our ability to take an idea, produce it, and make it real and tangible.

Balancing the two ceilings creates tension.

You’ve likely got someone outside your office door telling you that you need to be more creative, that you’ve got to do more to move the needle and innovate.

In addition, you’ve probably got someone else (or the same person, which is even more irritating) reminding you to watch your budget, keep staff numbers down, and mind the conservative board members when you are coming up with new ideas. Hello rock and hard place, nice to meet you.

Countless marketers beat themselves up over this – they feel like they are idea killers when they really are quite passionate about good ideas.

They resent the agencies they work with because they are constantly told “No,” and, “That won’t work because.” And, they also feel like they are failing as marketers because they can’t juggle innovation and execution while still feeling creatively fulfilled and getting work out the door efficiently.

If this is you, you are not a bad marketer, you are not an idea killer, and you’re more than capable of coming up with game-changing work that will give your company the ROI it’s after. You can be the person to spearhead creative and marketing evolution in your organization and get everyone else to see the light.

So what do you do? How do you free up your brain and create the distance you need to reach for your innovation ceiling?

Well, you can start by closing your office door (if you are lucky enough to have one). Then you can break the problem down into smaller stages so you might have a semblance of hope in trying to solve it. Because let’s face it, it’s not easy.

Here are a few ways to separate execution from innovation within your own mind. You’ll feel more in control of the outcome, and you might even get better at wearing each hat. (If you like what you’ve read so far, you may even want to dive deeper into the concepts of innovation and execution ceilings with us – feel free to download the full whitepaper.)

Ask if you’re having a conversation about creation or delivery

Start practicing this habit: At the outset of a conversation, brainstorm or meeting, ask the group whether you are having an innovation/creation conversation or an execution/delivery conversation. Share your own expectations with the group. As much as you can, try to separate these two lines of thinking.

Divide your meeting into topics related to innovation or execution

To take it one step further, schedule two 30-minute meetings and devote one to innovation and one to execution. You’ll be more effective in two short, focused meetings than a one hour-long meeting where you bounce back and forth between the ceilings.

Try brainstorming in groups: one for innovation, and one for execution

On an upcoming project, try separating your team into two groups: a Concept Team and an Execution Team. The first group will be responsible for creating the idea or concept for the project. The second group will bring that concept to life. Keep the teams separate until the Concept Team has solidified its idea, otherwise the Execution Team may raise flags that limit its freedom of thought.

Get the Concept Team to develop an idea that excites them, has few limits and boundaries, and fulfills the project objectives. Make them present the concept to you, and then present it to the Execution Team together. Work with the executors to develop a plan to build and launch the campaign, product, or initiative. Recognize that some elements of the concept may have to change, but challenge the Execution Team to do its very best to make it work.

For the next project, switch up the teams. Changing responsibilities will keep everyone motivated and fresh. The simple separation of the idea creation and execution functions can help your people recognize their proximity to challenges, give them a chance to create some distance from them, invite more creative thinking within your organization, and significantly improve the quality of your output.

Want to help your team break through its execution ceiling to reach for more innovation? Download the full whitepaper.

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