Creative Outlier Manager

Day 127 Week 19 Q2 Monday, May 8, 2023

Yes, you can be both and many people are. But to do it well is not easy. Since you are curious, you can now explore a new subject, but it is more active than a topic, as it is your new life and it impacts other people. The others you are managing may not be anything like you at all. And you are likely to have to divert some of your creative energy to them and their needs, so find out who they are. If you were promoted from within that group, you might think you already know who they are. But the context has changed, meaning both parties’ perceptions may change. We try to hold onto the relationships in their prior form, but it doesn’t always work. This is why it’s sometimes better to be promoted outside the group.

Like it or not, there is often something of a gap between management and the people who work for them. It can be helpful to think of working with instead of for, and this does tend to occur in innovation cultures. On the other hand, authoritarian cultures may not be the best place for creative outliers, either as managers or as those being managed. A great predictor of unhappiness in a person is working for an insecure person. 

If you’re respectful and secure, you can be a successful creative outlier manager in both senses. You are not only managing creative outliers but also are a creative outlier yourself. This can work marvelously, and I have experienced this both on the receiving end and on the giving end. It works especially well when a rising tide is lifting everyone because the company is doing well. After all, abundance is more pleasant than scarcity, and historically that is one of the secret sauces of Silicon Valley’s success unless and until greed gets in the way and rears its ugly head. Nonlinear market caps can create delusional behavior.

Presumably, as a creative outlier, you are more of a maker than a consumer, which means you actually get pleasure from doing the work of making. It helps to realize the act of managing is on the critical path of making and that a co-creative mindset tends to connect people instead of dividing them. You have to give others some skin in the game. Making things all about you is a recipe for failure, no matter how smart or capable you are. 

You do want other smart, capable people as stakeholders, right? Then treat them as smart and capable. It takes a lot of mental bandwidth to hold in your mind the mental models of the others in your group, but this does have to be done because not everyone can express themselves clearly. If you really know who they are, you have a much better chance of understanding what they are saying and what they mean.  

Being a creative outlier manager can be one of the most rewarding or exacerbating things you ever do. It is a choice you can and have to make.