One thing I find particularly curious is the assertion that some jobs are somehow inherently “creative” and others are not. We hear people talk of the “creative industries”, and this conjures up an image of well-paid executives in huge and sparsely furnished Madison Avenue corner offices discussing what the next big ad campaign will be, yelling to their assistant through the office door. Other roles are labelled as “technical”, which conjures up an image of hard working professionals in cubicles, heads-down and headphones on, diligently analysing complex information. I am sure the reality is different, but these are the images that spring to my mind!
This distinction “technical” vs “creative ” is sometimes discussed as if the two were mutually exclusive. This begs the question “Is there really such a thing as a non-creative role?”. Surely just about every role has the capacity to be creative… if we want it to be? Isn’t the “technical” vs “creative” distinction a false dichotomy?
This brings me back to one of the first part-time jobs I had, while still studying. I was an “Assistant Groundskeeper” for a small industrial estate. This is a very grand title for a role that essentially involved a lot of weeding of flower beds and sweeping of roads. Now, those jobs probably sound boring—and I won’t lie, it was physically and mentally difficult in a very different way to the jobs I’ve had since (imagine looking at your watch… then looking at your watch later, assuming at least an hour had passed only to find it was actually only 6 minutes later. Yep, time can drag and that takes mental resilience to get through).
You might assume this job had no capacity for creativity. After all I was a lowly assistant, and how much creativity can be involved in sweeping roads and weeding flower beds? Well, quite a lot it turns out. There are different approaches and techniques to road sweeping (trust me, I’ve tried them all), and you start to think “how can I prevent this road requiring so much sweeping in the first place”. For example, small potholes in the gutter often fill with leaves and rubbish, and after rain they are horrible to clean out. Reporting these to the site owner so they are filled in could prevent that horrible job. Equally, I remember taking the leaves from the gutters, adding them to a compost heap, then later using these as “mulch” for the flower beds (a creative idea borrowed from another member of the team). There was ample opportunity for creativity— and although the boss didn’t ask for it or require it, they supported it.
So if it’s possible to be creative in an important yet seemingly ‘routine’ job, what about other more empowered roles?
What This Means For Business Analysis and BAs
So now examine business analysis. We are empowered from the very beginning to engage with stakeholders, understand problems, define what the organisation values and help define possible improvements. We have a plethora of frameworks on which we can build, adapt and embellish, and a global community of practitioners that we can network with. No two projects or assignments are the same and we have to be constantly learning, whilst helping our organisations to learn and stay nimble too. Our role is inherently creative, and we have the privilege of being able to be able to work with others to creatively facilitate and generate ideas and interventions. Different roles call on different types and levels of creativity, but in analysis the capacity for creativity is constant.
Yet some types of creativity are less visible in organisations, which risks this significant element of our work going unnoticed. We shouldn’t be afraid to showcase it, to use new techniques and experiment. There is no such thing as “painting by numbers” when it comes to analysis, and whilst we have a robust toolkit of techniques, it is for each practitioner to creatively adapt to the context utilising both their technical and creative skills and knowledge.
So, let’s dispel that false dichotomy!
What are your views? Please add a comment below, and let’s keep the conversation flowing!
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About the author:
Adrian Reed is Principal Consultant at Blackmetric Business Solutions, an organisation that offers Business Analysis consulting and training solutions. Adrian is a keen advocate of the analysis profession, and is constantly looking for ways of promoting the value that good analysis can bring.
To find out more about the training and consulting services offered at Blackmetric, please visit www.blackmetric.com