For me, being at work is often about being inside my head. Day-to-day administrative tasks require that I be organized and attentive to detail. But they require no skills out of the ordinary and therefore yield no extraordinary results. I believe that I am doing my true job—the one not written in my job description—only when I am moving my company forward in a unique and significant way.
To that end, there are three kinds of things that I do to add value: I model, I game, and I create.
Modeling is the easiest. There are some business processes and structures that are industry-specific and some that are fairly universal. To model is to understand what the goal of a given task is, envision the process or structure that has been demonstrated to most effectively achieve that goal—the model—and compare the model to what is at hand. I am able to model complex scenarios in my head accurately and instantaneously. When my company wants to add a capability I can rapidly prototype that capability. When my company finds that something is going wrong I can see the ways in which we differ from the standard model and determine if that difference is the cause. More importantly, I can determine whether emulating the model would be a solution.
This leads me to the second thing that I do, which is gaming. To game is to foresee the consequences of a given course of action. Gaming for me can be overwhelming at times. When someone proposes a change to our company or our products it sets off a gaming sequence in my head. I take into account the peculiarities of our company within our competitive landscape, apply market forces, human factors, and technology considerations, and spin the whole thing into a probable future. And I really mean “spin”; while the gaming is going on in my head I can seem distracted, unfocused, and inattentive; sometimes I get dizzy. I recognize the incongruity of describing business processes and personal quirks in the same breath, but that incongruity, I think, is at the heart of substantive change.
The most difficult of the things I do is to create, because it is the process over which I have the least conscious control, yet it is the one that provides the most significant benefits. The process of creation, for me, is to take a set of data, complete or otherwise, and consider not what it is or what it means, but to imagine what it could be or what it could mean. It is asking, and answering, the question: “What if?”
Because I am in marketing my creativity most often expresses itself in terms of market positioning, product positioning, concepts, and messages. But over time I have found that the creativity is extending into diverse areas such as corporate structure and infrastructure, hiring and growth strategies, and alliance strategies.
I do not doubt that I am finding new ways to add value as I find new paths to walk within my head. I do not yet know if these directions will provide the level of job satisfaction I had when I was a creative director, and dealt mainly in flashy, engaging conceptual work. But I do know that they are exercising different parts of my brain, and that in itself is an experience I enjoy.