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The Future of Maintenance – Part 21 – Creativity or Mastery

It is worth noting that mastery can propel creativity forward or block it. This is the fact even though creativity and mastery seem to be entangled because the key ingredient for both of them is the knowing. let’s first understand the border lines between mastery and creativity.

Creativity and mastery seem to be entangled because the key ingredient for both of them is the knowing. Not only the physical knowing of the how-to but also the knowing that there is more to know. This knowing that there is more options and alternatives out there than what we already know opens the door to accept the flashes of the new ideas when they flicker in front of our eyes. Those new ideas are presented to us from many sources. Before elaborating the sources and blockers of creativity let’s first understand the border lines between mastery and creativity.

Is it creativity or mastery that move us forward?

Let’s start by some literal definitions about mastery and creativity with examples. This will bring the meaning of each one closer to our minds.

If we start by how is mastery defined in the Oxford Languages, Cambridge Dictionary, and Marriam Webster we can see the following definitions:

  • comprehensive knowledge or comprehensive skill in a particular subject or activity e.g. “she played with some mastery”
  • If someone has a mastery of something, they are extremely skilled at it: “her mastery of the violin”
  • control or superiority over someone or something e.g. “man’s mastery over nature” which is really an illusion
  • the authority of a master 
  • the upper hand in a contest or competition as in superiority or ascendancy

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Now let’s move to creativity:

  • the ability to produce original and unusual ideas, or to make something new or imaginative. Original here denotes that it is not a copy others work
  • the ability to bring into existence something new, whether a new solution to a problem, a new method or even a new device. It can also be a new artistic object.
  • forming something new and valuable. The created item may be intangible (such as an idea, a scientific theory, or a joke) or a physical object (such as new usage of existing tools, a printed literary work, or a painting).

So if moving forward is related to making new choices that we didn’t make before. Or, at least, discovering new choices that we didn’t know about before. Then, creativity appears to be what we need because it opens the doors to a new dimension that we didn’t explore before. But this is not the bottom line.

Sources and blockers of creativity

Without mastery of what we have in hand, we might not be able to go on with the new ideas that we discovered. This doesn’t mean that mastery is a prerequisite to creativity. But mastery is needed to make use of what we had came up with. Keep in mind that creativity stems out from the context we live in. To make it clear, you may hear some creative ideas about greasing from the greasing team because they are involved and engaged in the process and any problems around it.

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“Necessity is the mother of invention” is a proverb. It states that the primary driving force for most new inventions is a need. Sometimes when people have a problem, they will always have to be creative and think outside of the box to find a solution for the problem. So the problem was part of their context. But not every invention or creative idea is coming from a problem. Other times we want to make life easier. Other source of creativity is the deep engagement in a topic with an open mind.

The secret ingredient here is the open mind. Because one of the blockers of creativity stems from mastery of doing tasks in a certain way. Those mastering doing tasks in a certain way might have a strong believe that their way is the only way. Consequently they resist the existence of an equally good or even a better way to do what they master. Therefore a student can be more creative than his master and reach new ideas that the master didn’t introduce. However, a true master accepts the new dimension his student had reached.

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Creativity tools

So you might be mastering or not the area where you brought a creative idea to life. But, surely you are deeply engaged with it in order to receive the inspiration of a creative idea. One of the creativity tools is to persist on asking yourself and your team how we can make things better. Even you can set some incentives for the original ideas that will take us a step forward in performing our maintenance tasks. Surely, you need to start by educating your team where is the North Star that we shall head towards it. This will enable ideas to streamline in the right direction. Collecting anonymous proposals is sometimes not bad specially for those who are introvert or lack self confidence.

If we revert back to our previous chat: The Future of Maintenance – Part 20 – Tracks of Mastery, we emphasized there on how evolving the knowledge about a topic drags the track of mastery to new dimensions.

You can create some chances for your team to grow their knowledge about their routine tasks. This can be through in-house trainings. Systematic knowledge recording and transfer. Appraisals. Technical discussion meet-ups. Adopting a recommendations or feedback system that is well listened to. Encouraging engagement. Being open to reply to their questions and recommendations. This environment provides many chances of growth for the team. Out of this context some creative ideas will flow. Those ideas will ultimately pay back all the efforts exerted to reach to this point.

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What if the team lacks the knowledge?

Let’s take a couple of simple examples. If your greasing team knows only how many strokes of grease to add, where to add it and when to add it. And that’s the limit of their knowledge. You didn’t invest any effort in telling them more about the grease types or why it is important to be committed to the schedule and quantity. Moreover, at any failure due to grease problems you cut from their incentives. Now, you have a real problem in your equipment and you have doubts that greasing is creating a problem. Do you expect that they could or even would help you to solve he problem? Later on, you decided to upgrade you greasing system. Do you expect that they have the potential or the knowledge to advice what would go bad and what could be better?

If we take another example of cleaning electric medium voltage outdoor yard. Usually this team include some casual helpers or subcontractors. They know minimum about the topic and their safety is mainly the responsibility of their supervisor. One time one of those workers forget a broom inside the yard. He placed it inside one of the coils and it was just a wooden one. After releasing the safety conditions and switching ON the yard, it tripped with door open interlock. When the maintenance team reached there, they found a ladder leaning on the door as if someone was trying to climb inside the yard. After little investigation the story was revealed. He was trying to get his broom back and wasn’t aware of the hell yard he was about to enter. He escaped when the humming sound suddenly stopped and the alarm serein whistled.

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In Conclusion,

Creativity is a huge force that propels the team forward. You can teach creativity but the natural creativity is more profound. However you may not harvest creative ideas from a disengaged team. So, you need to put some effort in streamlining the team. It is worth noting that mastery can propel creativity forward or block it. It depends on the business environment created.

If you feel you need help with any of these ideas we discussed, drop us a line for initial investigation in the form by Clicking here or request Management Consultancy or Coaching Services From our Store

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By Rezika

I intend to create a better-managed value adding working environment.
Projects and Maintenance Manager with broad experience in industrial plants. Managed Projects and applied different maintenance strategies and improvements tasks in different industrial plants: steel, cement, and food industries.

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