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Your Instincts and the Creative Process

When you embark on a large-scale creative venture, you bring every aspect of your human nature with you. One influence you may not think about is your instincts. The Enneagram describes three basic instincts that influence people’s behavior: Self-Preservation, or the drive for conservation; Sexual, which involves the drive for stimulation; and Social, the drive for shared engagement. Some of these instincts are more active in your daily life than others, with one usually being unconsciously overdone, one moderately engaged, and one under-attended to. If you look at your creative process, you’ll find these patterns recurring. Each instinct brings vital elements to creativity.

I was introduced to the idea of using the Enneagram’s instincts in service of the creative process in Lindsay Robertson and TJ Dawe’s Develop Your Creativity workshop, and have gained additional insight through teaching The Enneagram Institute’s The Three Instincts (Subtypes) Workshop, which I’ll be holding in Edinburgh this 14-15 October. The instincts are powerful material because they shape your behavior so deeply yet so unconsciously, and bringing them into your awareness opens opportunities for change that we wouldn’t otherwise access. Below, you’ll find strategies that you can use to work constructively with each of the three instincts. Notice which come easily to you, and which could use a gentle nudge. How can you incorporate the strategies you underuse into your creative practice?    

Foundation: In order to create, you need to have some form of structure and discipline in place. You could have the greatest ideas in the world, but without sitting down in that chair and making something, they will remain intangible possibilities rather than vibrant creative projects. Building a productive foundation is one way the Self-Preservation Instinct plays a key role in creativity. You can make this instinct work for you by scheduling time to devote to your project. Many find it helpful to create routines for themselves, such as writing every morning, setting timers, or using a program that blocks the Internet for a set amount of time. Tending to your basic needs and creature comforts is another way to use this instinct in service of your creativity. Is your workspace comfortable? Does the setting enhance or detract from your productivity? Some people find it most conducive to their creativity to work in a cafe with a comfortable hum of chatter, while others might need their workspace to be clean before they get started. Are you sufficiently fed and rested? Many creators have day jobs in addition to their creative work, which help with their foundation by ensuring that their financial and material needs are tended to.

Immersion: All creativity starts with a spark. You have a great idea that gets you excited. You’re drawn to make something new. Connecting with the Sexual Instinct in your creative work is similar to the rush of falling in love. If you can stay passionate about your project, that spark can mature into commitment. Let yourself love what you’re doing, and have a way of recording new ideas when they come to you (notebook, phone app, etc.). Give yourself to your inspirations when they strike: if you’re sizzling with enthusiasm about your novel one night, this might be a good time to get out the laptop. Let your impulses be woven in and see where they go. This won’t always look like foundations and patterns, but fits, starts, and lightning are part of productivity, too. When you aren’t feeling lit up, continue to energize your work by bringing in new ideas. Julia Cameron suggests making weekly artist’s dates, a practice that fuses the routine of the foundation stage with the excitement of immersion. Make it a practice to take yourself new places and experience new things.

Context: No one creates in a vacuum. Even if you complete a creative project on your own, you draw inspiration, consciously or unconsciously, from a broader context. This may include the works of other creators (which are often part of long lineages of influence), and ideas or feedback from other people. Everyone uses the Social Instinct to connect with influences, strengthen, and disseminate their work. If you look in the Acknowledgements section of any book, you’ll see that it wouldn’t exist without a long chain of people involved. You can draw on this instinct’s power by seeking community and context. Find writers’ groups, critique groups, or collaborators who you can bounce ideas off of, and receive valuable perspective. Feedback will shape your work into something more powerful and ensure it resonates with your intended audience. Forge accountability partnerships where you keep each other motivated. Look for work in your field that interests you, and study it to learn new forms of technique and craft that you can try out. You may want to seek professional help, or public response, to take your work to the next level. These strategies will strengthen your work and ensure your voice has an audience and influence.  

Which instinct-based strategies would you like to use more of? How can you build them into your creative practice?

 


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Book Excerpt: Solving Problems at Work

Our new book, The Modern Enneagram, just got published. It’s an introduction to the system and its practical applications, with a storytelling style and modern updates. We’re pleased to share an excerpt about ways to use the Enneagram for workplace problem solving with you.

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The Enneagram is a popular way for businesses to help their teams understand each other and improve their performance and communication. It’s a useful tool for mediating disputes and resolving interpersonal conflicts on the job.

After learning about the nine types, Julia, an Enneagram Type Seven, started applying her new knowledge to her job of managing a team of graphic designers at a branding firm. She had her colleagues take an Enneagram type assessment, and they now have a common language to talk about each other’s personalities and viewpoints.

Let’s take a look at a scenario where the Enneagram helped solve a problem involving a diverse group of people in Julia’s workplace.

Bob is a repeat client of the firm where Julia works. He has contracted with the company to rebrand his business, including a new logo and marketing strategy. Exacting and critical, he has many specifications for the project. Having worked with Bob before, Julia believes him to be a Type One.

Kevin, a Type Four, is the designer in charge of visual branding for Bob’s company. He completed a logo and portfolio of visual material for the rebranding project, but Bob is dissatisfied with Kevin’s colorful, free-form designs. He wants the whole portfolio redesigned, and he has many specific changes that he would like Kevin to make. Being a One, he has high expectations and desires a brand identity that gets all the details right. He tells Julia that he wants the new portfolio within a set timeline, and says that if it isn’t up to his standards, he will not work with the company in the future. As a Seven, Julia wants to keep interactions optimistic—and she does not want to lose a valuable client. She assures Bob that Kevin will give him what he wants.

Kevin, however, says the timeline is unrealistic. It’s just too tight for him to redesign all the material required. Julia does not have a background in graphic design, and her knowledge of the field comes from working with designers rather than from firsthand experience. She doesn’t understand why a redesign can’t be done quickly.

Kevin explains that Bob’s expected timeline will not result in the powerful visual brand identity his company desires. At best, it will result in some slapdash materials that don’t reflect the quality the branding firm is known for. As a Four, Kevin takes the creative process seriously and values producing well-developed and eye-catching work. Kevin needs more time to come up with new concepts that will fit Bob’s precise specifications and still stand out in the market.

Lakesha, who heads the marketing department, is also advocating quick turnaround. She needs to have the visual branding finished in order for her department to complete the marketing strategy for Bob’s company and have it ready for an upcoming launch party. As a Three on the Enneagram, she wants the branding firm to put their best foot forward, and she sees satisfying the client as part of that.

Julia feels caught between Kevin’s request for more time, and Bob and Lakesha’s requests for more speed. She expresses her frustration to Lakesha—who has more design knowledge than Julia—and they decide to problem solve together. When she hears about the level of changes that Bob wants Kevin to make to the visual branding portfolio, Lakesha agrees that the timeline is unrealistic. Julia is resistant at first. After all, managing interactions with designers is her job, and she wants to make the customer happy. When Lakesha suggests negotiating a compromise with Bob, Julia realizes that she has some workable ideas (and strategies to deliver them) that will please both Bob and Kevin.

Julia contacts Bob and tells him that she respects the integrity of his vision for his company (a strong value for Bob as a One), and her branding firm is committed to representing this vision in the world. She uses her Type Seven strength of positivity to emphasize the advantages of Kevin’s design, and explains that, in order to get the new portfolio completed in time, Bob will need to compromise on some of the changes he wants. She speaks to the effort Kevin is putting in and the high standards of the firm’s design process. Bob is still grumpy, but Julia’s upbeat manner and understanding of his values assuage him somewhat. He is willing to compromise on certain aspects of the redesign, though not on the timeline.

Julia and Lakesha talk to Kevin together about the compromises Bob is willing to make. Kevin is relieved that, with a less intensive redesign, the timeline is closer to being workable. Lakesha proposes a structured plan for completing the project on time, and Julia expresses full confidence in his work. With Julia motivating him, Kevin is able to complete the redesigned logo and portfolio, and Lakesha’s team moves ahead with the marketing strategy.

Ultimately, Bob feels that his company’s rebrand is in good hands because Julia used honesty and integrity when dealing with him. Kevin feels like his creative process has been respected. Lakesha is happy to have achieved her client’s goal of a successful launch, and kept the firm’s good standing in Bob’s eyes. Julia is relieved that everyone involved with the redesign conflict is satisfied and on good terms. Thanks to the Enneagram, their needs and viewpoints have all been heard. They can move on to the next project harmoniously, without any lingering tension.

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The Modern Enneagram is available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon.com at http://amzn.to/2jIWXtR and from Amazon.ca at https://is.gd/qZt89f.


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Organizational Development Using the Enneagram

20160217_134027The Enneagram benefits more than just the individuals and teams who exist within a workplace; it also supports the organization itself in remaining healthy. Understanding company culture from an Enneagram standpoint can help organizations address blind spots, build new capacities, and grow.

Just like individuals, organizations and cultures also have an Enneagram type! Many Enneagram teachers, for example, will observe that the United States has a type Three culture and Canada a type Nine culture. Similarly, companies tend to have a culture based on an Enneagram type. A type Two company culture, for example, may be particularly focused on serving the relationship with their customers, while a type Six company culture may be particularly focused on protecting the security of the company.

While most company cultures have inherent strengths, they also tend to have certain blind spots. A type Two company culture may be so focused on relationships that they forget to attend to important paperwork and balancing the budget. A type Six company culture may be so focused on preserving the security of the company that they avoid taking risks that would move the company forward in a positive way.

An assessment from an Enneagram workplace consultant will assist companies in seeing what Enneagram type strategies their workplace culture values and what Enneagram types they tend to neglect. Often, workplaces will tend to hire people who display the Enneagram types their culture values. For example, a company that strongly values type Two strategies may hire a large number of workers who are Twos, while being less impressed by the contributions of another type, such as a type Five who is more likely to be focused on information than customer relationships. Looking at hiring through the lens of the Enneagram can help diversify the process and acknowledge the value and necessity of overlooked skill sets.

Organizational Enneagram consultants may also look at the Level of Development in which a company is functioning, outside of type. A company that is functioning well will not only have minimize the conflicts among employees, it will also bring strong contributions to the world. Companies that are less healthy will typically have more miscommunications and conflicts and will spend more time mediating these challenges than growing as organizations. Unhealthy companies may even resort to cutting corners, or even unethical behavior, just to stay afloat.

Using the Enneagram in organizations supports companies in creating and maintaining a culture that hires and values a workforce of diverse, complementary personalities. It also aids companies in developing strategies that allow them to function healthfully and focus on bringing intrinsic value to their field.


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What to Celebrate About the Enneagram Types

The holiday season is in full swing, and most of us have a full slate of celebrations planned, from work parties to family gatherings. Even the environment around us sparkles with excitement, with decorations, trees, and menorahs lighting up the houses and businesses in our communities.

While the busyness of this time of year sometimes brings special challenges, it’s also a time to celebrate, renew, and reconnect with those we care about most. This holiday season, get into the celebratory spirit by focusing on the wonderful qualities and abilities our family members, friends, and coworkers contribute to our lives – and the world around them.

Let’s take a look at the special talents each of the nine Enneagram types possess and remember to celebrate them in those we know personally.

Let’s appreciate how Enneagram Type Ones strive to make the world a better place. Whether it’s expansive, global change or a smaller task like ensuring every detail of the work holiday party is planned correctly, the intrinsic drive for improvement Ones possess ensures that we all keep trying to get better in what little ways we can.

Let’s treasure the way Enneagram Type Twos bring care and appreciation to the people around them. When part of a strategic process, or simply gathering with family, Twos ensure the human aspects of the plan are satisfied, and that people’s needs are met. Twos bring a compassionate quality that reminds all of us to love the people around us.

Let’s celebrate how Enneagram Type Threes inspire us to be the best that we can be. When Threes succeed, they teach all of us to value our own intrinsic great qualities and contribute our own unique achievements to society. Threes ensure that all of us create the best lives – and holidays – that we can for ourselves.

Let’s admire the way Enneagram Type Fours keep all of us emotionally honest. At times when the rest of us go with the flow, Fours remind us of how to stay true to ourselves in our actions and choices, whether big or small. Fours remind all of us to bring our own personal creativity to change, appreciate the beauty around us, and keep our holidays unique.

Let’s value how Enneagram Type Fives keep us open and searching for new truths. In creating and bringing change, Fives ensure that no intellectual base remains uncovered and unexplored. Fives not only discover how to make things better, but also bring an openness and curiosity to holidays, and encourage us to take time to reflect during this busy season.

Let’s respect the way Enneagram Type Sixes bring solidness and commitment to our relationships. Once committed, Sixes will ensure consensus on a project and work tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure everything is executed. Sixes remind us all to honor our promises, whether on a large scale or simply following through on an RSVP.

Let’s be grateful for how Enneagram Type Sevens remind us to enjoy ourselves and have fun. Sevens bring great ideas to the world, but they also remind us that life doesn’t always need to be serious. Sevens remind us all of everything in the world that we can be grateful for- as well as the times we can let our hair down.

Let’s think highly of how Enneagram Type Eights bring strength and cohesiveness to our communities. With their energy and strong sense of personal empowerment, Eights will lead and fight for important change – and to keep groups of people together. This holiday season, appreciate the initiative the Eight in your life brings.

Let’s recognize the way that Enneagram Type Nines quietly bring solidity and calm to the world. Nines do well seeing the bigger picture in creating change and ensure we all find ways to get along while working toward it. The Nines in our lives make sure we all feel recognized and accepted, whether in large group meetings or during the holidays.

The holiday season is also a time to celebrate your own self-awareness. Make sure you take time this year to recognize the incredible qualities you bring to your workplaces and communities as you enjoy the festivities!


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Book Review: The Awakened Company

Awakened Company cover
Our colleague Catherine Bell (no relation to Melanie Bell) recently released a book that we’re excited about. Written in collaboration with Enneagram expert Russ Hudson and Christopher Papadopoulos, The Awakened Company is a passionate and pragmatic call for a new way of doing business. While traditional business models focus primarily on profit and efficiency, Bell calls for a big-picture approach that also takes sustainability, community, and mindfulness into account.

The Awakened Company comes at a time, post-financial crash, when “the historic notions of doing business are rapidly unraveling on nearly all levels” (p. 4). Bell describes the problems of meaningless work, a growth-based (and thus ultimately unsustainable) financial model, and the “business is business” philosophy, which “assumes that the purpose of business is to make money, and whatever it takes to do so is okay” (p. 1). She recalls the history of early businesses, rooted in family, community, and service, and calls for a way of doing business that returns to these roots and innovates beyond them. The result is the “awakened” company of the book’s title, which is attentive to global context.

Bell argues that the smallest business decisions have consequences, and that companies benefit from making sure that these decisions – from the sourcing of products to the creation of company culture – are made ethically and with deliberation. “Business is far from just ‘business’,” she concludes; “It’s deeply interwoven with the whole of life” (p. 57). In order to thrive in the modern world, corporations need to adopt a deep-rooted sense of civic responsibility and connectedness.

Much of the book discusses the importance of building greater awareness in the business sphere. Bell introduces the qualities of “presence,” a state of being grounded, attentive, and open, and their positive effects on the workplace. Cultivating presence in leaders and teams fosters adaptability, harmony, and work relationships that feel meaningful. The book argues that the functioning of any company is improved when a leader or small team cultivates a climate of mindful awareness that spreads throughout the organization. Bell also makes a convincing case for the importance of growing aspects of company culture that are often overlooked, such as reflection and aesthetics (and the Enneagram is in there, subtly).

The Awakened Company takes a macro approach, and covers a lot of ground. The book is peppered with brief case examples, allowing readers to better understand how the book’s organizational principles are implemented on the ground. Hopefully a future publication will cover such examples in more detail. The book often uses spiritual language, but The Awakened Company’s suggestions are well researched and eminently practical. This book is ideal for leaders seeking a thorough and well-thought-out guide to principles of sustainable company-building. Happily, the approaches laid out by The Awakened Company are increasingly common in today’s business landscape. With Bell’s book reaching a broader audience, their reach may continue to grow.


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How Enneagram Types Work in Teams

20140926_143809Strong collaborative skills are more crucial in the workplace today than ever before. According to the New York Times, jobs with a strong social component continue to increase, while more solitary occupations have lost positions. Additionally, modern workplaces of all kinds are embracing a collective, consensus-based approach, with over 70 percent of offices using an open floor plan in their company.

Most employees spend a significant amount of time with their coworkers. Our coworkers often become our friends, and sometimes even feel like family, but when misunderstandings ensue, there’s also the potential for conflict and even workplace bullying within teams. In order to work together cohesively, teammates must learn to respect and leverage each other’s strengths, while productively solving any conflicts that arise.

The Enneagram provides a personality map that shows the unique gifts different workers bring to their team and workplace. When employees’ strengths are leveraged, and they’re each given a role in the team that plays to their strengths, they thrive and contribute in group work. The Enneagram also identifies areas of difficulty for each of the nine types, areas where teammates can provide support. All of the nine Enneagram types have the potential to work well in teams. Below, we describe the strengths and social role of each Enneagram type in teams, as well as blind spots they can face.

Type One: Ones bring principle and discipline to teams. Often inspired by great vision, Ones ensure everyone is working toward the team’s goals in a manner that is ethical. Under stress, Ones can challenge other team members by being critical of their teammates not doing things the “right” way. Ones work best in teams when given a role where they can bring structure and pragmatism toward pushing goals forward.

Type Two: Twos bring interpersonal skills and consideration to teams. In groups, Twos are excellent at checking in and making sure everyone on the team is taken care of. Under stress, Twos can challenge other team members by focusing on team relationships at the expense of completing the project. Twos work best in teams when given a role where they can work on the relational or collaborative aspects of the project.

Type Three: Threes bring excellence and adaptability to teams. Often extremely polished, Threes are great at selling and marketing the team’s product and helping out in any way they’re needed. Threes can challenge other team members when they become too focused on doing the work themselves, at the expense of collaboration and delegation. Threes work best in teams when given a role where their impressive results are valued.

Type Four: Fours bring creativity and awareness to teams. Oriented to the personal realm and aesthetics, Fours ensure goals are created and executed in a manner that’s true to the team and company. Team members can be challenged by Fours when they become self-absorbed, making it difficult for them to participate fully. Fours work best in teams when given the opportunity to bring their creative abilities and sensitivity to projects.

Type Five: Fives bring focus and strategic thinking to teams. In teams, Fives often become the designated expert, using their brainpower to solve difficult problems. Team members can be challenged by Fives when they detach into their intellectual worlds, ignoring team relationships. Fives do their best work in teams when given a role that uses their sharp mental focus, such as strategic planning and innovation.

Type Six: Sixes bring dedication and hard work to teams. Sixes make wonderful allies and are willing to put in long hours, building group cohesion and giving their all to any workplaces they support. Sixes can challenge their team members by doubting their commitment to a project, causing the Six to “test” their teammates. Sixes work best when given structured opportunities to provide team support and the opportunity to be an advocate.

Type Seven: Sevens bring lightning-fast productivity and team spirit to teams. Sevens make teamwork fun, ensuring team members enjoy themselves while they work hard. Sevens can be challenging to their teammates when they become overly scattered and busy, making it hard for them to be pinned down or complete work. Sevens work best when given a role where they can wear a variety of hats, taking advantage of their spontaneity.

Type Eight: Eights bring strength and energy to teams. Natural leaders, Eights are great at getting a project started and ensuring that it continues to move forward. Team members can be challenged by Eights when they become overly domineering and don’t let others on the team have an equal voice. Eights do best in active, “doing” roles and situations where they can express their natural confidence and leadership.

Type Nine: Nines bring consensus and harmony to teams. Nines make great natural mediators when there’s conflict on the team and are often excellent at seeing the broader picture of the team’s goals. Other team members can be challenged by Nines when they become overly passive, “checking out” from the group and not expressing opinions. Nines do best in roles of creating group cohesion and mediating conflict.

Ultimately, when teammates learn each other’s teamwork style, they develop a greater understanding of differences and respect for their colleagues’ strengths, creating a happier and more productive workplace.


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5 Benefits of Supporting Emerging Leaders

FullSizeRenderIn our Enneagram workshops, we’ve trained many emerging leaders, including younger professionals in their 20s and 30s, and people of all ages embarking on new careers. We really enjoy working with this demographic. Emerging leaders of different Enneagram types have unique talents to bring to the workplace. Initiators (Enneagram types 3, 7, and 8) bring energy and willingness to take risks. Soloists (types 4, 5, and 9) bring creativity and focus. Cooperators (types 1, 2, and 6) bring people skills and commitment to company culture. One thing they all have in common is that they’re eager to contribute to their fields and step into leadership roles.

In today’s businesses, there’s a trend toward hiring people with extensive experience and qualifications, rather than identifying and training emerging talent. One benefit of this strategy is that these hires are well-prepared to step into their new roles. On the downside, companies often overlook excellent potential hires. Emerging leaders and career transitioners bring fresh perspectives, energy, and great value to established organizations.

Here are five benefits of supporting emerging leaders, in your workplace and beyond.

1. Emerging leaders are flexible.
Newcomers to their fields are easily teachable, interested in learning, and readily adapt to the culture of the workplace. These qualities make them quick at adapting to changes in the industry and take on unconventional roles.

2. They offer new skill sets.
Younger professionals, as digital natives, are often particularly adept with technology and social media. Newcomers who have transitioned from a different industry bring valuable transferable skills from their past positions and an interdisciplinary outlook.

3. They bring innovative ways of thinking.
If there are aspects of a company or industry that aren’t working, or would otherwise benefit from changes, emerging leaders less entrenched in organizational or industry norms and culture are more likely to notice. They’re also more likely to think of out-of-the-box ways to make these changes.

4. They have time on their side.
Young leaders, especially, bring boundless energy, and have decades to grow in skill and contribute to their fields. Emerging leaders of all ages are interested in being mentored and taught new skills. You never know who will become a future CEO, or even revolutionize your industry.

5. They add to workplace diversity.
The most effective companies have workforce talent that includes people of diverse backgrounds and ages. This makes them better able to connect with different consumer demographics.

There are many ways that established professionals can support emerging leaders in their fields. One is by identifying and mentoring talent, and by leading from example. Newcomers to your field have a lot to learn from your real-world experience – and you’ll probably find they’ll be teaching you new things, too. Investing in growing and training new hires will pay off in ideas, energy, and colleagues who will keep contributing to your field long after the current leaders have retired.

Emerging leaders are among our favorite people to work with. They bring so much vision, great new ideas, and a desire to make a difference. Now is the time to invest in them, to ensure the future of your company.