Your creativity is perceived differently by your employer depending on where the corporation is in its life cycle. How your creativity is valued has more to do with how "mature" your company has become than it does with your actual creativity.
Please don’t take this as gospel, it is merely the result of personal observations of some 20 different companies over a period of many years.
Stage one – Your company is starting up
If you join a startup, your creativity is valued. If your startup has fewer then 20 employees, your ability to help sell, provide input to Design and to double in brass as a goodwill ambassador is vital. If you are a product designer who is comfortable talking to prospective customers, you are priceless!
You may not be great at every one of these different roles, but your enthusiasm and sincerity will often carry the day because prospective customers get a sense that you care and will do every thing possible to see that they get what they need. If enough of you are doing this, the company may take off and succeed in spite of overwhelming odds.
Stage two – Your company has established itself and has built a reputation
As the company starts getting well-established, management can become pre-occupied with appearances and what the market will think. "Professionals" are hired to speak for the company and "suits" are hired to head up departments that were formerly managed by people whose main strength was competence.
Your creativity is still valued, but it is better that you exercise it in more carefully defined ways and don’t let this creativity disturb the ruminations of top management.
There is increased emphasis on "management of results against goals". Predictability, not creativity, is the winning strategy at this stage.
This is where the creative people in the company start to drift quietly out the door to join other companies with more challenging assignments.
Stage Three – Your company has become a major player in the field
Your career undergoes a major change… 🙁
Stay tuned for the next installment of "Your Creativity vs the Corporate Life Cycle."
You will not want to miss this one… 🙂