Creative Tension

One of the neatest ideas from Peter Senge’s Fifth Discipline was the concept of creative tension.  I think it is in the section on Shared Vision which is one of the five disciplines.  The concept is that reality and our vision are often significantly different and create in us tension.  The picture he uses is using one hand representing vision and the other reality.  An elastic band stretches between hands.  The tension in the elastic band represents the creative tension.  The higher difference between reality and vision the greater the creative tension.

I fear I am not a fellow who can tolerate high creative tension.  I am always saying to myself "Be realistic, Jim."   In comparison, Serge Godin, the founder of CGI, has a great deal of tolerance for creative tension.  He has a vision and still has vision for CGI that I thought was very unrealistic.  I guess he really kept his vision intact regardless of what was happening in the trenches.  Also I think he really knew what was going on but did not get sucked into the details.  He was the deal maker and the charismatic leader. 

I think it is useful to evaluate our own tolerance for creative tension and I think if you do not like what you find, change it.  These days with all the great psychological techniques available, we can change anything we want. 

Some suggestions:

  • Team up with somebody who has greater tolerance for creative tension.  Recognize that person is not likely a strong on the operational side.
  • Talk to people whom you respect that has more creative tension.
  • Focus on the possibilities, rather than on the problems.
  • Creative a vision on paper and look at it frequently.
  • Talk about your vision to others.
  • Create a shared vision with others, not just sharing yours, but one you all share and love.
  • Harness the vision energy and produce rapid results.

Keep in your mind my cloud theory which was the subject of another blog post found here.

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