My daughter is off competing today in the state finals for a program called "Future Problem Solving." The idea is to take a team of kids, give them some future, real-world situation and have them apply their creativity to come up with solutions.
The competition got me thinking about the balance between creativity and productivity. Early in my career, while still in the military, I received some feedback that I wasn't creative enough. I puzzled over this. I was in the Navy, I just had to follow orders. It took me a while, but I began to realize each of us should bring our creativity to our jobs. It comes with problem solving, creating new ways to approach the work. After all, a project is a "unique endeavor" so it should be approached creatively.
There's got to be a balance though. We can't just sit around all day and brainstorm ideas. Unlike my daughter and her team, who just have to give a presentation on the ideas they come up with, we need to take an idea and make it work.
My favorite approach; if I'm stuck on a problem, I'll get away from my desk. If it's convenient, I'll do something physical like go for a run. Talking to someone else helps sometimes. Whatever approach I take, I know how long I have before I need to get moving on a solution, so I don't get lost being creative.