We Value Creativity

By Catherine Lang-Cline

One of the main reasons we started this business is because we value creativity. It was not necessarily to start a staffing business, but that was the closest model. And, I had gained a bit of knowledge of the basics of a staffing company as a freelancer because I had used companies in the past to help me find work while I also found my own projects. I was registered with a few companies at the time but my best jobs came from the company that specialized in creative. Knowing staffing is important, being connected, but by valuing the creativity, you can offer more.

Tell me if you see yourself here. Growing up I remember valuing my Spirograph®, sketch pads, new crayons with the pencil sharpener in the back. I would spend hours on someone else’s Etch-A-Sketch® because we couldn’t afford to buy one. Easy Bake Oven® led to decorating cakes, graph paper allowed me to draw out layouts for homes, doodles on my school paper contained little outfits I would design and the complete love affair that I had with photography.

My career started by getting a BFA and getting a job with an agency. Commercial art is creative from the problem solving to the finished deliverable. There is also no end to possibilities; headlines, copy, content, images, and format. I appreciate all of it like a symphony that comes together and makes something lovely. Don’t get me started on my love for music.

What else? I travel to see exhibits and art museums. I read great books, watch movies, listen to podcasts, and see speakers just because I love a great story. How about you?

I tell you this because creative people are a special breed. It a talent to visualize and create something out of nothing. Starting a business is also creative and this brings us full circle. Why do we do this? Why does Portfolio Creative exist? Why have we never taken on anything other than the creative space?

We value creativity.

Creative people speak a different language. (Sometimes no language, as for us, it is just sometimes easier to draw a picture.) Our favorite people to work with are the ones that understand us and our vision. The ones that want to turn us loose and see what we can do because they value the talent we possess. The ones that see what we do as having value, not something to be handed out for free. My business partner, Kristen Harris, also believes in the value of creativity and our first conversation in starting this company was, “We want this to be about making the right match, finding the right person for the job, making sure the talent gets paid what they are worth.” (Let’s face it, as artists, we are always asked to do something for free.)

“We value creativity” is one of the very unique things about us. Artists are unique. Creativity is unique. People that value creativity are unique. We exist for all of you.

To Be More Creative, Schedule Your Breaks

By: Jackson G. Lu, Modupe Akinola, and Malia Mason for the Harvard Business Review

Imagine that on a Friday afternoon, before leaving work to start your weekend, you are asked to solve two problems that require creative thinking. Do you:

  • Spend the first half of your time attempting the first problem and the second half of your time attempting the second
  • Alternate between the two problems at a regular, predetermined interval (e.g., switching every five minutes)
  • Switch between the problems at your own discretion

If you are like the hundreds of people to whom we posed this question, you would choose to switch between the two problems at your own discretion. After all, this approach offers maximum autonomy and flexibility, enabling you to change tracks from one problem to the other when you feel stuck.

But if coming up with creative answers is your goal, this approach may not be optimal. Instead, switching between the problems at a regular, predetermined interval will likely yield the best results, according to research, we published in the March issue of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

Why is it the case that switching at your own volition, the approach most participants in our study took, may not generate the most creative outcomes? Because when attempting problems that require creativity, we often reach a dead end without realizing it. We find ourselves circling around the same ineffective ideas and don’t recognize when it’s time to move on. In contrast, regularly switching back and forth between two tasks at a set interval can reset your thinking, enabling you to approach each task from fresh angles.

In an experiment, we randomly assigned participants to one of the three approaches. Participants who were instructed to continually switch back and forth between two problems at a fixed interval were significantly more likely to find the correct answer to both problems than participants who switched at their own discretion or halfway through the allotted time.

A second study focused on creative ideation. In this experiment, the problems we posed had no right answers. We wanted to find out whether the benefits of stepping away from a problem at regular intervals transferred to other types of problems warranting creativity, such as brainstorming.

We once again randomly assigned participants to one of our three task-switching approaches and asked them to generate creative ideas for two different idea generation tasks. As in the first study, most people believed that they would perform best if they switched between the two idea generation tasks at their own discretion. We again found that participants who were instructed to switch back and forth between the two idea generation tasks at a fixed interval generated the most novel ideas.

The issue with both other approaches seemed to be that people failed to recognize when rigid thinking crept in. Participants who didn’t step away from a task at regular intervals were more likely to write “new” ideas that were very similar to the last one they had written. While they might have felt that they were on a roll, the reality was that, without the breaks afforded by continual task switching, their actual progress was limited.

The creative benefits of switching tasks have been supported by other research. For example, Steven Smith and his colleagues found that individuals instructed to list items from different categories while continually switching back and forth between the categories listed more novel ideas than individuals who listed items from one category before switching to listing items from the other. In a similar vein, other studies have found that brief breaks during idea generation can increase the variety of ideas generated. These researchers’ findings, coupled with ours, suggest that the hustle and bustle of your daily work life may facilitate your creativity if it leads you to step away from a task and refresh your thinking.

When you’re working on tasks that would benefit from creative thinking, consciously insert breaks to refresh your approach. Set them at regular intervals — use a timer if you have to. When it goes off, switch tasks: Organize your reimbursement receipts, check your email, or clean your desk, and then return to the original task. If you’re hesitant to break away because you feel that you’re on a roll, be mindful that it might be a false impression. We tend to generate redundant ideas when we don’t take regular breaks; ask yourself whether your latest ideas are qualitatively different. Finally, don’t skip your lunch breaks, and don’t feel guilty about taking breaks, especially when you are feeling stuck. Doing so may actually be the best use of your time.

Perfecting Your Craft: Does It Really Take 10,000 Hours?

By Kristen Harris

There is an oft-cited “rule” that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice are needed to become world-class in any field. People have latched onto this 10,000 Hours Rule, especially after Malcolm Gladwell’s best-selling Outliers, because it’s short, simple and easy to remember.

Does this mean you can’t be world-class in less than 10,000 hours? Or that you’re guaranteed to be world-class if you put in 10,000 hours of practice? No, and no. It’s more complex than this.

  1. What’s true about the 10,000 Hours Rule? The original research(1) shows that it requires a lot of effort and practice, over many years, to become accomplished in a field where there is a history of people working to become experts. The exact number of hours invested may vary, but it does take intense study and practice to become a master in any field. This is most obvious in areas that traditionally require study and practice, like music, chess, writing, or academic research. The real insight of this study is that you must be focused and dedicated to commit this amount of practice to fine tuning your craft. Most people are not willing to put in the time and effort; those that do have the opportunity to become world-class.

What’s wrong with the 10,000 Hour Rule? It’s much too simple. Just because you are willing to practice 10,000 hours, or whatever amount of time is required for someone to become world-class at a certain activity, does not mean you will become world-class. Natural ability is a key factor that can’t be ignored. No matter how hard or long I practice, I will never become good enough to play basketball or dance professionally. I simply do not have the physical attributes and innate talent required. Putting in the required amount of practice does not guarantee you can become world-class.

This brings up the issue of what exactly is meant by “deliberate practice”. The study seems to indicate that there is a difference between what is gained through performing vs creating. Someone can practice playing a piece of music over and over, and get quite good at performing it, but that does not help them build the skills required to write new creative music of their own. Creativity and fresh ideas can catapult someone to success, with or without the required hours of practice.

Finally, the field in which one is striving to become world-class makes a difference.(2) Deliberate practice seems to be a higher predictor of success in fields that are stable, like tennis, chess or classical music. Everyone is following the same rules, so more practice helps you become more skilled. However, in fields that are less stable, like entrepreneurship, rock and roll, and creative design there are fewer rules. Rules are made to be broken, amirite? When the field has less restrictive rules or standards of measurement, a brilliant idea can trump years of practice.

So, does practice matter? Yes! It’s important to grasp the core message of the 10,000 Hour Rule...practice makes you better. When two people have equal talent and abilities, the one who practices more will generally achieve a higher standard of excellence. If you want to get really good at something, practice, practice, practice. Hone your skills and keep learning how to get better in your chosen field. To be world-class you must be willing to put in at least the same amount of work as those you are being compared to or competing with. Additional practice always improves performance; there is no top limit, the equation never maxes out.

But practice is not the only factor in your ability to become world-class. Physical traits, mental capability, innate talent, access to resources, and being in the right place at the right time all contribute to one’s ability to become world-class. Honestly assess your abilities and steer yourself in a direction where they can be put to the best use. Take advantage of available resources and opportunities, practice your craft, and keep developing yourself to become the best you can be in your field.

1 Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Copyright © 2016 by K. Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool.

2 Deliberate Practice and Performance in Music, Games, Sports, Education, and Professions. A Meta-Analysis / Research Article by Brooke N Macnamara, David Z. Hambrick, Fredierick L. Oswald. First published July 1, 2014.