I recently spotted a tweet from my friend Trish McFarlane, which read:

Just thinking out loud~ increased #productivity is good, but does it kill time for #creativity? What is the inflection point? The spot where you get both in an ideal amount? My creative time isn’t always immediately productive.

I responded, ‘Hi Trish – I’m not sure there is a sweet spot, and I’m not sure there should be… creative practice is by nature, hit and miss.’ The exchange continued:

Trish: ‘I agree. I think that is why I wonder if we’re spending too much time on making employees more and more productive. Who is going to build the #HRtech that increases creativity? I want in on that action.’

Me: ‘We’re busier than ever, yet certainly here in the UK productivity is seen as an issue. I expect that poor job design, poor org design, and crappy cultures have a lot to do with that. Sigh…’

Karina Schultheis contributed: ‘Completely agree — I think by alleviating time-consuming processes & optimizing productivity thru effective tech, more “reading/thinking/creative” time naturally results that hopefully moves the needle on both innovation & employee wellbeing’.

Ben Eubanks added to the conversation by recommending a book titled Two Awesome Hours. I’ve not read it but wanted to include the reference for completeness.

I’m no HR Tech expert so I’ll leave how technology is going to save us all to someone else, but I do know a bit about creative practice, so I’m going to approach this productivity/creativity conundrum from there. Here are a few things I am noticing after several years of blending creative practice with personal, team, and organizational development.

Be Curious.

How does that work? Why does that matter? What happens if…? Questions like these don’t instinctively feel like they fit in the productivity space, but they’re essential food for the curious mind. Questions like these were what enabled me to take my interest in art as an organizational and team development tool and apply that interest to art for its own sake.

Doug Shaw on HRExaminer.com

Doug Shaw, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board Contributor

Start Something.

Back in 2011, I offered to paint holiday postcards for people in my social network. A few kind people accepted the offer, so on arrival in the South of France, I bought brushes, paper, and some paints, and I got started. I had no previous experience as an artist so these pieces took time to make, and eventually, I sent six handmade postcards to friends. As pieces of art, they were naïve, lacking depth, perspective, in fact, they lacked anything but for the most basic ability to transfer artistic mediums from their box onto small sheets of paper. Nevertheless, I sent the cards, and they were gratefully received.

Keep Going.

After we returned from France, the painting continued, somewhat sporadically. My Dad died unexpectedly in January 2012 and that threw everything out of balance for a while, and when I returned to painting, I decided to offer another round of Summer postcards. After I had completed and sent the second series, I compared them to the previous year’s efforts, and I could see changes. I was beginning to understand more about color, shape, and basic techniques were emerging.


Good work often reveals itself slowly. I persisted with my art and in 2014 I began to develop a series of arts-based tools and methods anyone can use to help them do things differently. This work grew into something called Art for Work’s Sake, which I continue to use in my consulting practice to this day. Alongside this, I continued to paint, but still only occasionally. Then, in April 2016 I took a decision to begin making and hiding art in my neighborhood, for people to find.

Two things motivated me to start this latest experiment. I decided I wanted to commit to my art more regularly, and I saw this experiment as a way to increase production – after all – if I’m going to hide the art, I need to make it first. I also wanted to get better at letting go, physically and mentally. The grief I experienced after Dad died was still very much with me, and while I believe it always will be, I felt I needed to do something different, and learn how to work better with it.

The free art project is now three years old, and during that three-year period, it’s enabled me to change many things. I now find myself developing much more coherent bodies of work. I have three main art projects on the go right now, one based on physical location, one on mental health, and a third which involves stencils and spray paint onto old LP records. I find myself live painting at conferences and other events, I’ve exhibited locally and abroad, and my art hangs in people’s houses across the UK and worldwide. I run workshops to help others use art for its own sake, and as a way to do things differently. I’m still figuring this stuff out – and for sure it’s a bumpy ride at times, but it is me, for now at least.

So what?

Creativity is messy at times, it is unpredictable and relies on curiosity, patience, persistence and more. If you want to deploy it in your work – start with the curiosity. How does it work? Why does it matter? What happens if…? Answers to these questions need to be explored, and if you find a need, then, by all means, use creative practice to follow that need. If you can’t answer them now – then it’s important to accept the creative pursuit may well not lead to a productive output, at least not initially. A bit like the paint I use – I think we need to see the creativity productivity challenge as something fluid, something to be played with.

Read previous post:
HRExaminer v10.15

Jason Seiden is exhausted, stressed, and the next time he has to make a big decision, he could really use...