In high school writing class I was assigned to write about a place, I wrote about being trapped inside a gleaming, white box. I think my writing teacher asked me if I needed to see the guidance counselor. I always thought assignments were stupid, limiting my creativity. I pushed up against them to demonstrate that I couldn’t be contained by their ‘limited’ thinking. If the assignment had been to write about whatever I wanted I would have stared blankly at the page. I probably would have written about my summer trip to New Hampshire or whatever topic my rebellious teenage mind thought was an attempt to force me to conform to their suburban American mindset.
We want to stay relevant, we want to create new ideas, new ways of doing things, new ways of relating, and cool and unique products. We want to disrupt and innovate, evolve, invent and reinvent. Yes, we need to give our teams the freedom to create and innovate. We also need to give them the safety of a container to do it within and a box to think outside of. Without the box, where are the edges you’re asking them to find?
Mrs. Anderson gave me the freedom to rebel by giving me something to rebel against. The rules about how many words and the deadline gave me safety and pushed my creativity to find a solution within those boundaries. She could have celebrated the disruption but high school isn’t always the real world and insubordination isn’t always celebrated, even when the end result is a lot better than the original idea.