(Another) 5 Principles for a Creative Career


Right then, part two of my post about the principles that guide me in my work. If you missed it, part one can be found here.

6. Be yourself.

I try to follow my own path and call things as I see them.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting or liking approval, it’s a healthy behaviour which can motivate you to perform to the best of your abilities. But, modifying your behaviour to gain approval? Hmmm…not so sure about that.

We live in a society which conditions us to seek the approval of others. Yet those who receive the most respect and approval never make any attempt to seek it. They know that approval seeking is a pointless labour. Happiness, wellbeing, or whatever we call it, is not something which needs to be chased; it’s something which needs to be let out.

This is also about allowing me to be me. I’m an introvert who has spent most of my working life trying (and most often, failing) to be the opposite. Because that’s how I thought you needed to behave to get on in the workplace. But there’s a growing recognition that the best workplaces have a symbiotic mix of both extroverts and introverts (see for example, Cain, 2013).

7. Share your toys!

So, I like to work on my own and that’s OK. But as a librarian, I know that sharing knowledge is power. We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.

I work out loud. And I’m trying to learn out loud (Jarche, 2014). That’s why I blog. By sharing what I’m doing here, I’m inviting feedback and connections that have the potential to make my work better.

I have lots of ideas, but I can’t make them happen on my own – I need to work with others. Working out loud has helped me develop a purposeful network, with a broad range of people, who are open to collaborating with me.

8. Fail like you mean it.

Risk and failure are central components of innovation. Indeed, it’s been claimed that “success can breed failure by hindering learning at both the individual and the organisational level” (Gino and Pisano, 2011).

I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I’ve found this hard to come to terms with. But, here’s the thing. I’ve made some proper, full-on, ‘slap-on-the-forehead’ mistakes over the years. And it’s true that those failures have inspired better reflection – prompting me to ask myself difficult questions – than my ‘successes’. I guess there’s less of an imperative to learn from our successes.

And with a bit of distance, I’ve been able to turn even the worst of those mistakes into funny stories that I can relate in polite company without coming out in hives or bursting into tears.

9. Try thinking with your hands.

It’s been a bit of revelation to me over the past year or so, that our hands can lead our mind; spearheading, as well as providing the outlet for, our thinking. Using our hands to build still emerging ideas forces decision, reflection and synthesis. It creates a direct experience of something real that feeds the mind, enriching the imagination.

So, if I’m stuck on something, I’ll try sketching it out or building a quick prototype. I let my hands do the thinking.

Building a concrete and tangible prototype helps bring abstract concepts to life – which is also useful when you come to share your ideas. Having a physical thing that people can interact with will spark a very different conversation than if you simply explained the concept to them or presented them with a report. A prototype surfaces potential misunderstandings, different interpretations or assumptions, and helps to resolve them.

10. Frustration is inevitable. And welcome!

Some days I just want to give up.

But that’s OK. Sometimes, before I can find an answer — perhaps, before I can even know the question — I need to be convinced that a solution is beyond my reach. Because it’s only after I’ve stopped searching that the answer becomes clear. Frustration is an essential part of the creative process. When I’m stumped and I let go, a part of me can be quietly rummaging through the creative part of my mind, looking for inspiration.

So there you have it, the complete set*. Ten principles that encompass how I go about my work. In my next post, I’m going to get a bit more into the what.

* Except it’s not. Since I’ve written these, I’ve thought of two more! I won’t bore you with them now, but they may make an appearance in future posts!


Cain, S. (2013). Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. London: Broadway Books.

Gino, F. and Pisano, G. P. (2011). Why leaders don’t learn from success. Harvard Business Review, 89(4), pp. 68–74.

Jarche, H. (2014). Working and learning out loud. Harold Jarche, 10 November 2014. [Accessed on 9 January 2015 from: http://jarche.com/2014/11/working-and-learning-out-loud/]

Lesley Thomson is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.


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Hannah Moss

#7 is always one that I have to remind myself about. I like working with others, but sometimes you get in the zone on a project and forget that others could really help you think outside the box. Thanks for the reminder!

Lesley Thomson

The sharing bit comes fairly naturally to me. But I do find real collaboration with others a bit harder – I have to be careful not to be too precious about letting other people play with ‘my project’ 😉