Set It On Fire

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One of my preparatory drawings for my Cat Circus series.

Preparatory drawing for my Cat Circus series

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s face it. Many of us are more productive when there’s a deadline. Whether from a client or teacher, a challenge-a-day or a show deadline, that little bit of pressure can be the catalyst to create. The result may not always be our best work, but it does require that we make something, which almost always leads to something else, and can often be surprising.

That’s why I love shows like Project Runway and Top Chef. Contestants are faced with a challenge. There’s a list of supplies, like sequins and burlap, or tuna and turnips. The criteria are always coupled with a time limit, say, 24 hours, and relatively high stakes, like culinary stardom or famous haute couture. The contestants are instantly in a flurry of activity and ready to tackle the problem. Materials are considered. A plan is made. And production begins. Just when things seem to be moving along (better for some than others) there is usually an unexpected announcement that ramps up the pressure. One of the hosts tells the chefs that they must cook without electricity, or designers must use asymmetry and the bark of a tree. Suddenly, the original plan is derailed and must be rethought or enhanced by the introduction of new information.

The former president and CEO of Honda, Takeo Fukui calls this, “kicking out the ladder.” In this video, he tells a short parable about how he gets his engineers to produce high quality work in a high stakes business. Ignore the plug for Honda and pay attention to the discussion taking place among the employees about problem-solving and risk-taking. The ideas presented about creating can be applied to anyone in any discipline committed to eliciting the best results.

While you might not want to use these high-pressure strategies of setting parameters, creating unexpected obstacles, and taking extreme risks all of the time, they are great for short-term projects or when you need a boost in your production. Yes, you might fail, or things may not turn out like you’d hoped, but you will learn a ton. You might also find yourself doing greater things than you ever thought possible.

In what ways do you encounter challenges, deadlines, and unexpected obstacles? How do you use these perceived roadblocks to further your own creative thinking?Can you find or set parameters to achieve even greater results?

Get yourself to the next level, kick out the ladder—and set it on fire, so there’s no going back!

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