Proficiency and Creativity

Every group skill can be sorted into one of two basic types: skills of proficiency and skills of creativity.

Skills of proficiency are about doing task the same way, every single time. They are about delivering machine-like reliability, and they tend to apply in domains in which the goal behaviors are clearly defined, such as service. Building purpose to perform these skills is like building a vivid map: You want to spotlight the goal and provide crystal-clear directions to the checkpoints along the way. Ways to do that include:

  • Fill the group’s windshield with clear, accessible models of excellence.
  • Provide high-repetition, high-feedback training.
  • Build vivid, memorable rules of thumb (if X, then Y).
  • Spotlight and honor the fundamentals of the skill.

Creative skills, on the other hand, are about empowering a group to do the hard work of building something that has never existed before. Generating purpose in these areas is like supplying an expedition: You need to provide support, fuel, and tools and to serve as a protective presence that empowers the team doing the work. Some ways to do that include:

  • Keenly attend to team composition and dynamics.
  • Define, reinforce, and relentlessly protect the team’s creative autonomy.
  • Make it safe to fail and to give feedback.
  • Celebrate hugely when the group takes initiative.

Most groups, of course, consist of a combination of these skill types, as they aim for proficiency in certain areas and creativity in others. They key is to clearly identify these ares and tailor leadership accordingly.

Ref: The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle