Tips on Being Creative Military Style

Being creative in the military? Is that not an oxymoron? Not really especially if you, like me, believes that the “the most creative freedom comes from a tight brief”.

After my last rant on creativity in a structured environment, where I insist that creativity cannot occur in vacuum or an environment of total freedom, I am continued to be surprised to see pockets of extreme creativity in what I would say the most structured and stifling environment. The top-down regimental military command structure.
I am continued to be surprised at how good soldiers are able to think of combat solutions in the heat of battle, how resourceful soldiers able to solve problems in shortage of supplies, or how infamous shirking soldiers are able to hide from their duties.
So what does a good Military Officer have in common with a shirking Grunt?
Or in other words how does one navigate a very tight and structured organization or brief and yet still be creative?

1) Stop!
We often take instructions at face value, and quickly go ahead and do it. Especially in the Military, instructions tend to be orders which are obeyed without questions. Many times, however, information through a grape vine often get skewed when tempered with biases or human agendas.
This only really becomes an issue when people don’t stop but blindly follow instead.

2) Access the situation
I’m not asking you to be insubordinate here and question authority, but what I’m asking you to do is to stop to identify the instruction’s objective or end results desired.
Access the situation and list the facts and influences that have a direct impact on your desired objective.
Marketing objective, manufacturing requirements, corporate budgets and casualty rates are such factors that could affect your desired outcome.

3) Know your limits
Identify what you can and cannot or are not willing to do. At this time you would also need to know and consider the corporate system or the way things work in the environment around you.
This way you will be able to know where your boundaries are and how far you can push it to get or NOT get the job done.
I have found the best Shirkers all somehow knew intimately how the system worked!

4) Think creatively to solve the problem
Once you established the first three points, you will find this fourth point comes naturally. At this time you will find that instead of feeling oppressed or stifled a whole realms of opportunities open up before you.

So dear readers, the next time you find you are in a situation where your boss is twisting your arm to do something you are not happy to do, or an instruction that negatively impacts your project, or you cant seem to come up with a design solution for that tight brief, do try these four points and let me know what you think? Now its time for me to get some sleep and do keep in touch?

  • Design Translator

    November 28, 2006 at 3:35 pm Reply

    Hi Jessie,
    Thanks for the great comment. I totally agree. The explore step will consider all possible options, and interestingly under such environments there could be more than one solution!

  • JessieJane

    November 28, 2006 at 6:21 am Reply

    Seems to me that restriction and structure are often very conducive to creativity. That is, given specific rules and structure, the creative mind is forced to problem-solve in new ways to achieve the ultimate goal. I’ll just add one more step to the four you’ve mentioned: explore. When you give yourself permission to explore seemingly unrelated, irrelevant, or impossible options, you often find that at least one of these directions can be adapted somehow to the structure imposed on you, leading to a unique solution to an otherwise mundane or rote assignment. Thansk for making me think about this!

  • Design Translator

    November 16, 2006 at 1:02 pm Reply

    Heh-heh, I have updated the link! Now get back to work! (Whip!)

  • AEN

    November 16, 2006 at 2:28 am Reply

    I remember someone (Joshua Davis?) once said, when your brain is dead, put everything down and just don’t think about anything about the work. Best if you can dig a hole and bury yourself.
    For me, I just sleep, go out, hang out or just watch videos and anime to take the load of my brain. Usually inspiration will follow.
    By the way I’ve changed my blog to Mind changing my link in your blogroll to

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