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File Under DUH: A More Civil Workplace Boosts Creativity

A new study probes what happens when the workplace is informed by “political correctness.”

What if instead of using the phrase “politically-correct” we just used the word “civility”? Would it strip the former phrase of anything other than its crude and irrational cultural associations? Would it do any harm to the truth? These are ginormous questions for another day, but if one thing’s for sure, if we used the word civility in the place of politically-correct we likely wouldn’t need Cornell University’s recent 46-page study bravely debunking the notion that “imposing a norm to be politically correct (PC)” among men and women in the workplace would “necessarily stifle creativity.” Who would’ve thought that professional cultures promoting civility between men and women wouldn’t transform them into desolate automatons content to dither away the workday building rubber band balls, reading CNN headlines, and steadily drooling?

The study, published in the journal Administrative Science Quarterly, chronicles two experiments conducted with 582 subjects in mixed-sex brainstorming sessions: one in which they’re instructed to be politically correct and one in which they’re not. In an unforeseeable twist of fate, the groups that consistently generated the most creative and innovative business ideas were the ones that discouraged inappropriate banter, gender-biased language and sexist stereotypes.

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Four Infographics to Help You Get Back to Work in 2014

As we come back from the scramble and hopefully reprieve of the holiday season, it seemed like the right time to (re)turn our attention to the...

As we come back from the scramble and hopefully reprieve of the holiday season, it seemed like the right time to (re)turn our attention to the work we have ahead.

To kick off 2014 right, we pulled together a selection of work-related infographics to help you think about how much we work, how effectively we work, and how we might work (and live) better...

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What I Learned in 2013: “I Had to Become More Efficient Creatively”

I was working happily on a new film with my team and out of the blue I received a call from AOL to do a new original series of films.   I...


“When the door opens, go in.” - African proverb

I was working happily on a new film with my team and out of the blue I received a call from AOL to do a new original series of films.

I said, thank you, I would love to, but my plate is very full. I also had never made films for other people or companies. I was skeptical. I had heard countless stories over the years of filmmakers who have had their vision changed, trampled on, truncated by “notes” from layers of executives. No thank you.

However, the offer kept getting better and better… complete creative control, whatever I was interested in, being part of a new era and platform of making and distributing films in a new way.

In my 20s, time was endless and I was immortal. But; I am married now and have children and didn’t want to work more hours. I had spent the last four years really focusing to maintain a schedule to create films but also spend more time with my families, unplug on Saturdays (for our technology shabbats), get more sleep, exercise, and enjoy life. I value these changes.

I talked to my family, I talked to my team, I talked to my mentors….I will never forget one conversation with a mentor who said, “You always want elevate the conversation. Go out there and elevate it to a bigger audience!!”

So if I wasn’t going to work more, I had to scale and become a lot more efficient creatively.

I needed to set boundaries so I wouldn’t become mentally, physically, and emotionally depleted. I bought books about artists and writers creative rituals and organizing time. I tried to think of my creative time like an athlete -- to put more out, you need to take more in (more sleep, more rejuvenation). And which hours would I be most creative in? And which hours would I need to be most with my family? How could I work more but not during the hours I am with my children.

I also realized that scaling wasn’t just about bringing on more people. It was about finding partners that truly compliment my team’s skills. I called a filmmaker, who I had great respect for who ran a production company in SF….and after a request that sounded like one to be in a relationship... they were in.

Here was the scaling strategy:

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  • I awoke 2 hours before my children at 5am when I was fresh, and when I could still resist the Facebook, Twitter, and email bombardment to work on scripts.
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  • I put a firm block in my calendar for creative time with my team from 9am - noon (no calls, no emails, no interruptions) and blocked off family time with the kids 3 - 6pm, 3 days a week (no calls, no emails, no interruptions).
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  • I put an auto-responder on my email that let people know I was very behind in email and focusing on a film series and my family, and how to reach me if it was a time-sensitive matter.
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  • We researched tons of productivity tools to manage so many moving parts and settled on the cloud-based Asana. (Highly recommend it.)
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  • My team worked late at least one day a week (more during crunch time) so that we would always unplug Friday afternoon and take the weekend off.
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  • We made sure everyone (from my team and our partnering teams) focused on the skills they were best at so that we could maximize both time and creativity.
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Now this isn’t to paint a picture where we had the most perfect production for 5 months. We’re making movies, which are messy, with moments of darkness, breakthroughs, laughing until you cry, and edit sessions that run past 2 am. But all-in-all, it was perhaps the most prolific period of creativity I have ever had and the most fun.

So this year I learned, in a new way, when a door opens, check out the door, ask the people you trust to help you access what’s on the other side, then, if all that checks out, you walk through it.

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Ask Yourself: Why Do You Do the Work You Do?

In the last several weeks, I had two radically different experiences spending extended time with leaders at two large, global companies. A long, alcohol-fueled dinner with the first group was a pure downer: dull, rote, and devoid of positive energy.

In the last several weeks, I had two radically different experiences spending extended time with leaders at two large, global companies. A long, alcohol-fueled dinner with the first group was a pure downer: dull, rote, and devoid of positive energy.

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Want Productive Employees? Treat Them Like Adults

For more than a decade now, I've struggled to define what fuels the most sustainably productive work environment—not just on behalf of the large...

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