Last week, I attended a “Sip and Paint.”  In this creative endeavor you are guided to recreate a painting that gets better with coaching and “adult beverages.” Our mission was to paint the sunset over a field of bluebonnets, representing the Texas countryside that is now in bloom.

The class is led by the instructor/painter who tells us he knows what he is doing and directs each of us to an easel. He then picks up the brushes, describes them by size, and points to the blobs of paint on the paper plate placed at each spot. He says, “put on your apron and if you make a mess on you, your clothes, or your hair, wash it off immediately.” OK, I am starting to get worried.

The painter/instructor then tells us the rules…

  • You have “artistic license,” you cannot make a mistake. Remember, this is your opportunity to make the painting “your own masterpiece!”
  • He then started to sing the song that helps us all let it go, let it go, let it go. If you are a control freak, let it go! Get out of your head, art is not perfect, go for it!
  • Paint one color at a time and let it dry. If you mix two colors, the result will be a color you did not anticipate.

He was singing the song to help us let it go, while I was hearing just do it!

Ready, Set, Paint!

We started with a yellow streak across the canvas to represent the line of the sun. Just above would be an orange line to represent the setting sun, and the upper canvas was pink and purple to signify dusk, and the coming of night. I messed up and instead of remaining calm, I did the exact the opposite of what we were instructed to do. The purple mixed with orange and turned brown. Before my eyes sunset over bluebonnets became a mud storm in Lubbock. The more I tried to fix it, the worse it got. I looked at the instructor and said, “I give up, it is ugly! What do I do?” He walked over and looked at it, took a breath, and said, “We can fix it, you must be patient. It does not have to look like mine, remember artistic license. It is OK to screw up!”

I am a recovering perfectionist! Really, you want me to be patient?

We then painted the clouds, the rolling green hills, the black trees in the distance, and the blue dots representing the bluebonnets. Once my “mud sky” was dry, I touched it up, and the sunset was lovely, my masterpiece! At the end of the event, the painter/instructor asked me, “Did you have fun?” I answered, “I did, and I learned a lesson! When I got out of my head and out of my own way, the picture progressed quickly, and it looks great.”

The experience was profound. How many times do we squash creative ideas because they are not “perfect?

Now when I look at my picture, I hear the Winston Churchill quote “Perfection is the enemy of progress..“ “Coloring outside the lines” gave the world the wheel, the light bulb, flight, vaccines, streaming video, and peanut butter cups … to name a few.

As a business leader, entrepreneur, or a parent, you must ask yourself,

  • Is there a mechanism in place to capture great ideas?
  • Are we encouraging and rewarding creativity?

OR

  • Is there already a mechanism in place that crushes great ideas?
  • Are there people that suppress innovative ideas because they are afraid of change?

Often the mechanism that encourages or “kills” an idea is not a process, it is a person.

The leader’s role is to coach, guide, and encourage their team to find solutions and alternatives in the workplace. People need to feel that it is safe, to be creative and offer ideas without repercussion.

Fostering great ideas enhances engagement and a great company culture. This makes people feel valued and heard. If they do not experience this, it starts to erode creativity, solution orientation, and connection. People start to look at other opportunities when they do not feel their ideas are considered. Encourage “out of the box” thinking and create a method to capture these ideas.

The organization may not be ready for them today, but in one year or five years, this could be the next sticky note, Smartphone, or the internet! Let it go!