Recently I saw an article on adults using coloring books as a means to de-stress. I loved to color and am excited of its resurgence for grown-ups. This got me to thinking about the popular sound bites about coloring outside the lines and the value of thinking independently and creatively. Sure, there is value and I hope to soon write a blog on the rule-breakers and how the workplace needs them. But for now, I’m thinking about the enormous value of those that do “work inside the box” and consistently do jobs that are really the foundation of a workplace.
I am recalling an organizational behavior class I had where we learned of “followership”. There are some great blog posts from the professor I had found here. Followership is not a secondary state (contrary to leadership) and is critical for success. In fact, individuals can flip flop between being a leader and a follower. Isn’t the same true for inside and outside the lines?
Some kids follow rules extremely well. They quietly fall into line and often are overlooked because they do so with zero disruption. In the workplace, there are positions that are mission critical, and employees consistently and quietly work within their parameters and again, are often overlooked. Truly, these positions can be the footings of the structure and allow a path for the rule breakers to challenge the status quo and move the company in new directions. History has repeatedly shown this example with architects and brick layers. The brick layers stay in the critical lines to ensure a solid structure and architects are revered for thinking beyond the normal. Both are necessary and both are valuable.
For those that do color within the lines, keep these items in mind:
- Don’t make creativity the only recognition point at work, or at home. Celebrate consistency and correctness. If I have a payroll person or tax accountant that consistently submits completely accurate reports, find a way to give credit to the work. If I have a child that consistently does homework without being asked, celebrate!
- Offer an avenue to present ideas. Not everyone enjoys spending time on new ideas and certainly not everyone enjoys sharing them. Ways for people to communicate that are non-threatening or even anonymous can be helpful.
- When individuals that are very different team up in a supportive environment, great things can happen. Often the creative types have no appreciation for the baseline, routine functions of the organizations. Learning opportunities will abound.
- It can be therapeutic to work inside the lines. Even those that are expected to drive new ideas and play devil’s advocate, can find reprieve in working inside the lines. There is a reason that adult coloring books are popular. Checking-out for a while can lend a brain a different way to process. The converse works the same for those that work diligently on rote work and get breaks to delve into a creative task.
Researching this topic, I see countless articles on how to squeeze creativity out of employees and think outside of the box. I challenge the mindset to accept those that don’t find comfort there. What if we can tolerate and then capitalize on both types? In fact, coloring inside the lines can produce some beautiful results.