In the course of a project kickoff the other day, I asked a client a rather standard question: “What will you do in a decade when you’ve achieved your mission?”

Their answer was refreshingly honest: “Fight to maintain the status quo.”

I loved this response very much, and all the truths implied. Our clients never come to us when things are just fine. They call when they’re uncomfortable. When there are barriers to achieving their mission or a lack of capacity. When they have a new mountain to climb. In short, when they have a problem, an opportunity, or when something is just not right. 

But sometimes, being intentionally NOT creative is the wisest answer. Sometimes, “mission accomplished” means it is not the time for creativity, which is ok. 

Thus the question comes, where are you as an organization? Be honest. Your task could be holding the line. On the other hand, you could have a conundrum. A perpetual to-do on your strategic plan. A battalion of forces somewhere working in opposition to you. That’s when you know it’s time to get creative. 

Signs it’s time to change your approach

1. That perpetual to-do that we never seem to get done. 

If I’m being honest, the majority of our clients don’t answer the aforementioned query regarding achieved missions with optimism. The perpetual nature of most mission-based work is daunting. Many organizations find they spend too much energy just treading water and not making significant progress. When you feel like you’re on a hamster wheel, it’s time to think differently. 

2. Imitation. 

At some point, you did something breakthrough. You landed on fresh language to describe your efforts, an innovative way to raise funds, or a unique way to position your organization. Now you look around the competition and see a lot of yourself, but, like they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The fact is, the marketplace will always catch up with the innovator. When you feel like the pack has caught you, it’s time.

3. The industries that YOUR CLIENTS serve have a sea change. 

We all need to look at least one step ahead. Maybe two or three. Watch for what’s coming, and if you see pressures that will affect your clients or their audiences, you know that will catch up with you eventually. When you watch the horizon, you can have a plan ready.

4. Nothing is amiss. 

Yeah I know, we said there was a time not to be creative. The caveat: not for long. Don’t let your legs grow numb and your feet get that horrible tingly feeling from sitting still too long. If you’ve been hitting the repeat button for more than a couple of years, get up right now and go look at your industry from a whole new angle. 

Innovative thinking might mean finding a different partner. Asking a different question. Tossing a tired plan out to the curb. Then, get creative. Creativity is one of the most powerful tools in your business arsenal. It can get you to your goal so you can savor success and enjoy the status quo for a moment. 

But only for a moment — then get up and do it again.