Ep. 83 | Allen Gannett Being Ahead of Your Time is Lazy Not Creative

Are you creative? Most of us business people do not think of ourselves (or our professions) as creative. When we think of creative people, we think of artists and musicians and actors and writers. This is just one of the mistakes we make about creativity. Allen Gannett, founder and CEO of TrackMaven and author of The Creative Curve: How to Develop the Right Idea, at the Right Time, explains that anyone can be creative because creativity can be learned. He did the research and provides a way of thinking that will help any of us believe we can be more creative. 

In just one example, Gannett explains that being creative is not just about the technical skill of whatever it is that we do. That skill could be painting or software sales. The technical skill of painting or selling is only one part of being creative. "A creative person is good at three skills: the technical skill of the act, timing, and communicating and distributing your ideas, says Gannett. In other words, if you invented a new painting style or a new sales technique, it means nothing if your timing is off or if you cannot get that new idea out into the world. 

Allen Gannett of TrackMaven on Helping Sells Radio by ServiceRocket Media

How can I be more creative in sales or customer success?

Here's the problem. There is no shortage of stories of creative "artists" in the traditional sense. But no one seems to ask:

  • How can I be a creative sales person? 
  • How can I be a creative customer success manager? 
  • What is the deliberate practice for being better at sales? 

Gannett brings us back to the three skills of creativity: the technical skill, timing, the getting your ideas out there. In particular about timing Gannett says, "The timing thing is interesting here. We have two urges. First, we either create things that are familiar OR we create something novel and new." It turns out neither of these approaches is creative. Creativity blends the two. Something that is familiar enough and a little but novel.  

To be more creative, a salesperson might ask themselves, "What are the things I can do to be a little bit different?" You don't have to be radically different. You just have to be a little bit different. So for a sales person that could be something as simple as start doing sales calls with video calls instead of conference calls. 

Don't be too ahead of your time

This combination of leveraging the familiar and the novel is critical to creativity. You definitely do NOT want to be ahead of your team. Even though being ahead of your team conjures up glamorous images of being the next Steven Jobs or Elon Musk. "Ahead of your time implies a positive," says Gannett. "I think ahead of your time is intellectual laziness because it's easy to be ahead of your time." It's easy to make something new. It's hard to make something familiar and just new enough so that someone uses it TODAY. "It takes listening to your audience. Listening to your customers and making that part of your process. I think that is really hard for people."

For a preview of The Creative Curve, watch this talk:

Learn more about Allen Gannett:

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Bill Cushard

Written by Bill Cushard

Bill Cushard covers the intersection of learning, software adoption, and customer success. His career has focused on helping companies adopt disruptive software through learning, change management, communications, and implementations that help people get the most out the software.

Bill Cushard is also the author of the 2018 book, The Art of Agile Marketing: A Practical Roadmap for Implementing Kanban and Scrum in Jira and Confluence.