On Monday, I did an orientation with 8 potential new volunteers. Often I do orientations one-on-one and so I find the group dynamic to bring up new thoughts and conversation that is not the typical orientation questions when you are only talking to one person.
One of the things that I realized that I have overlooked for awhile, though have been very aware of off and on for the many years I have worked here, is the very different work all of our staff do. There is very little overlap in any one person's job, and each person is (almost) a department unto themselves, but many of us rely on each other to get our jobs completed and deadlines met. This becomes very apparent when people are asking details about volunteer jobs and you realize that certain skill sets and personality traits are very obviously favourable for one area and not necessarily other areas.
Some things that were said, and questions that were asked on Monday made me very aware that some people considered themselves potential volunteers looking for creative work (right brain thinkers) and others seemed to be looking for something else, which seemed to be more logical work (left brain thinkers). I am not sure that all museums operate the same way as ours, as I have never worked for any other museum, but after mulling this the last few days in the back of my brain, it seems very true, that some of us have to be very creative people and some of us have to be very logical people, to get all that we do done in the museum - we couldn't probably be successful without a mix as people would get bored of events, programs and exhibits that had no creative component to them, but the logical people help bring in the ideas of the creative people and provide a different perspective and the creative people help the logical people see that there are many sides to a coin that could be looked at (and potentially thrown away, but "let's brainstorm that first" <--- true to the right brain mind haha). I am the type of person who likes to see both sides of the coin on things before making a decision, but I also have a fine arts degree and most of my free time is spent around creative pursuits, so I was curious to think about where I, as a Special Events Coordinator, fell, because I require both logic to make good business choices (which each event is - basically a tiny business), but creativity so that people want to come back to my events again and again and think highly of the event that they attended - I need it to be memorable and logic doesn't make an event memorable, creativity does!) So I began to read.....and have decided that I am definitely a right brain (creative) thinker with some logical, left brain thrown in for the basics that require it. Some examples: I first found this article about the habits of creative people . It struck true in so many ways - for example, in the first statement, I am very much a question asker and I think it is important to be someone who can throw out a question for others to mull over - it is how I make good event decisions by finding out the why's, what's, and how's that other people come up with when I throw out a question. I can then mull over the many responses and use my logical side to make the best decision for the event. I love to ask a wide range of people so that I have a good perspective, too - I do feel that I can brag and say that I do make good choices because I excel in this area - asking coworkers, sponsors, ticketholders, friends, etc about so many things, ideas are awesome!
I also think that I am a type of person who likes to "roll up my sleeves" when problems arise, instead of running away. I might have a few seconds or minutes where I feel overwhelmed, but then I like to think about things and find a solution and move forward! It is a sense of accomplishment that I love! It is the challenge in this (also something mentioned in the article, the love of challenges) that makes me excited and pushes me forward - don't ever tell me something is too big, too crazy, or too much to do - I will climb that mountain and every one behind it, if allowed to do so! And I stick it out, as mentioned in the article - how many events or programs in the community get cancelled or smalled down because people don't want to stick it out through the hard times in planning and organizing? I am stressed at times but I know that in the end, it will all be great so I keep thinking of that and move forward without waivering.
I think every event planner has to have most of these skills, and the skills listed in this article. Planning a great, memorable event requires this type of personality and skill. But then I saw the word "environment" and it made me wonder if my working environment is so different from other creative people. I look around right now and what do I see???
4 coffee mugs, one Coke can, one pile of very old papers not looked at in the last year, a 4 shelf filing system that is used to hold things but they don't ever move from that to somewhere else, a pile of papers with information that needs to be "input" or "data entered" at some point, my rolodex with so many cards that they are falling out everywhere, the card holders for the rolodex that I ordered to put the falling out cards in that have yet to be used, one pile for August events papers, one pile for September events papers, one pile for October events papers, and 2 file holders that have files for ongoing projects that I am working on. Oh and sticky notes - everywhere! I LOVE sticky notes to write down ideas, thoughts, messages, and more! And a pen! And no room to actually write with the pen unless it is on a sticky note because that is how much desktop i can see - a sticky note size! And I have SO MUCH event stuff piled up in my office and in the common area - my office used to be huge and it was wonderful, but with the changes to the building I am now in a cubicle sized office and well, every event planner will tell you that that isn't going to work and be neat. I remember walking into offices of other event planners and fundraisers right before an event and not being able to actually go IN to the office. I am proud to say you can walk into mine - for about 4 feet! That is pretty good considering....or it means I am not working hard enough?! Depends on how you look at it!
So I wanted to read about creative people and their work environments. I think about the people I consider creative type at work and they mostly fit into having a similar scenario as mine, though to differing degrees, and I wondered if I could .... clump us messy people into one group This site most definitely says YES! And according to this article we are more highly educated than our peers and make more money....hmmm well that doesn't totally fit but I can dream ;)
This is my favourite quote from the above article: "The study also relates that your coworkers may be judging you based on your messiness; if you take three people sitting around you, for instance, one doesn’t care about your messiness, one will judge you for being messy and the last would say it depends on who you are." I find it interesting that anyone has time to judge anyone based on the appearance of their office, but then that is probably a creative trait - I realize that that is the lowest priority on the scale - I am a get 'er done, my events better be great, watch out I am full speed ahead kind of person. What am I supposed to do with the things that I will need many times in the next 2 months for the 12 event days that I have coming up? And I have much better things to be doing than worrying about better organizing the stuff on my desk - I know where it is and I'm the only one who works in here. There isn't even need for anyone to come in here to look for anything since everything that my coworkers may need from me is on our shared hard drive! So this made me laugh, and partly made me wish I had time to have opinions on other people's workspaces that are not in public areas. Ah well - I'll just keep working on my job instead ;)
The comments that follow that article are quite humorous - both supporting and refuting the messy desk idea. If I worried about my desk (and office and common area), I'd have to cancel doing about half my workload each year, I think....so I say "on with creativity" because THAT is what brings people to events (and thus into the museum), not the state of my desk or work areas.
(ohhh ironically I just got an email about an event in the community that was to take place tomorrow being cancelled...hmmm now I want to see that organizer's office out of curiousity lol)
Finally, I wondered what I need to continue to be able to do what I have done successfully for all these years, if I am in fact a creative type. I found another great website about nurturing a creative environment I should add here that I do not believe that you can google a topic and thus become a pro and totally knowledgable on a subject, these are 3 sites that I enjoyed of about 20 I have skimmed through, and while most all do have the same information and support the same opinions, there are a few others out there that state other things, such as how one website links the traits of creative people and right brained thinkers to being close to psychosis - interesting read! I wish I had kept the url because I'd have shared it here but google "creativity and psychosis" and I'm sure you'll find other articles and studies that maybe say the same (at least I am almost-psychotic with at least 3 other staff here at the museum, but I won't name names so as to not hurt their feelings, but look around their offices and you'll figure out who they are :).
In this article, it suggests that encouraging brainstorming and letting it get wild, will encourage new, great ideas. Well that fits with the creative personality that I mention at the start - my love of seeking feedback and talking things out with all the people around me. I will probably get 100 ideas and have to bring it down to 1 or 2, but don't stop that ball - let it play out and remember that every person's idea is equal to every other person's idea, at the start! If there is an impending deadline on the topic being brainstormed, well then I can understand it requiring some guidance and encouraging 25 new ideas instead of 100, but usually museum people are planning and talking about things a year or more away so let's let it play out, we have the time!
Encouraging questions is also mentioned and I love that - I love being allowed to ask "why", not to be a trouble maker but because I want to understand WHY, wrap my head around it and then look at all sides of the coin to ensure that the best choices are being made and that there is not better way to do things. I may have no input or feedback or suggestions or I may get excited and give you more ideas than one person can ever handle, but I promise you, the ideas that I give will include at least one "gooder" if you allow me to share and listen to what I have to say! But all creative people need to feel safe because we know we are going to throw a lot out, and it is completely deflating and discouraging when you are stopped almost from the start. I do believe it is possible to "pop" the creativity bubble and turn it to apathy and well, in a museum it is important that the creative people are being creative people because otherwise the museum will just offer "ok" exhibits, programs and events, and well, that isn't ok, in my opinion! You can see who the "popped" people are - they look deflated - they have lost their energy, vigour and excitement for what they are doing and instead are apathetic or on the other hand so overwhelmed that they can't make a decision about anything without needing support.
This article also mentions allowing space for visual thinkers - that is so me! I like to draw out EVERYTHING! For example, I was at a meeting last night and if people saw my minute taking from that meeting they'd wonder how I ever get from my notes to a document that everyone can read and understand - I have squiggles and lines and circles but you know what, *I* understand it and I don't fail at making sure that my language is interpreted for the group when it is time to bring it to the group! So don't laugh at me if a one hour meeting has 7 pages of rough minutes because I am visual and I draw it ALL out! :) Once typed and interpreted for the world, it will become a normal sized document (that the right brain thinkers can then doodle all over! haha)
Wow, I could just go on and on and on reading these articles and seeing myself in them. It actually makes me feel good to know that I am not alone in the way that helps me find the successes that I am able to find - that others thrive in the same environment and have the same needs. I am now, more than ever, grateful for all of these traits and needs of being a right brain thinker because if I didn't have them, I do believe I'd be pretty awful at my job.
And to end this with a little bit of love for the logical people (left brain thinkers) that I think are in museums - the Collections staff, the Archives staff, etc, well I found lots of great things about you - you are the ones that help me, when I get my 100 ideas and I have brought it down to 5, when I come to you, you help me bring it down to the final 1 or 2 (but please do it without judging because you risk popping that bubble); and your focus is on accuracy (oh how true this is- it is a word I use to describe a very necessary trait for volunteers in these areas - the focus is on accuracy!) when sometimes my focus is on the quantity - you help me to remember that at some point, the accuracy will be a benefit to the others who will intersect with my world so that it is important to always look to ensure I have included this in the work that I do.
Wanna see where you stand? Take this test According to this quiz I am 62% right brain - not really a surprise! So with that, I'll be proud of me, who I am, how I work, and the work that I accomplish because according to all of this, I am doing something right!
Any Event Coordinators out there that are more left brain? I'd love to hear from you! Could be an interesting discussion about the pros and cons of your traits and skills in the work that you do!