#Ideas17: Take Risks and Create “Unmistakable Work”

At ASAE’s 2017 Great Ideas Conference, opening keynote speaker Srini Rao encouraged association professionals to embrace risk and crazy ideas to avoid becoming part of "a sea of sameness."

Innovative, creative, great ideas come from taking risks and refusing to play it safe. That’s what Srini Rao, chief creative instigator at Unmistakable Media, shared during his keynote at ASAE’s 2017 Great Ideas Conference in Orlando, Florida.

Best practices are your worst enemy when it comes to innovation and creativity.

When people try something that’s never been attempted before, they create unmistakable work—art that is so distinctive it doesn’t require a signature to be recognized, Rao said. “But the most difficult thing about doing unmistakable work is that there is no math to it, there is no set of steps that we can follow to produce a particular result because the goal is not to replicate what’s already been done, but to create what’s never been created before in only the way you can create it.”

But creating unmistakable work starts with throwing out the social norms and pressures that push you to follow an authoritative source or established set of standards instead of creating a new way to accomplish a goal, he said—including best practices. “Best practices are your worst enemy when it comes to innovation and creativity.”

“Maybe in the short run the best practice will allow you to replicate the result that somebody else has produced and move you to the middle of pack,” he said. “But over a long enough timeline, it puts you in a race to the bottom, because your products, your services, whatever it is you’re doing become monetized, become sterilized, become irrelevant, and they get washed up in a sea of sameness.”

It is when you throw out those expectations that you can begin to fully express yourself in your work and create unmistakable work for your organization.

“We become indispensable and invaluable to our organization because what we provide goes so far beyond bullet points or a job description or a job title,” Rao said. “When nobody does what you do in the way you do it … the competition and all the standard metrics by which you’re typically measured no longer matter, because the factors that distinguish your work are so personal that nothing or nobody can replicate it. You’re not the best at what you do, you’re the only.”

So often, however, voices of resistance in your head and fear of being wrong stop you from embracing that individuality and taking risks, hindering innovation and creativity, Rao warned. They lead people to hide behind masks, let their stories define what they can and cannot do, and over-identity with unnecessary labels.

It’s not until you take the risk, despite those voices and fears, that they finally lose their power over you. So Rao encourages you to ask yourself: “What masks need to come off? What stories are standing between you and your greatest, most innovative, and creative ideas of your life? And what labels are you over-identifying with? Because underneath all of those layers is the essence of what makes each and every one of us unmistakable.”

(Sabrina Kidwai, APR, CAE)

Alex Beall

By Alex Beall

Alex Beall is an associate editor for Associations Now with a masters in journalism and a penchant for Instagram. MORE

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