Harmony and Diversity Lessons from Fused Glass
I recently visited really good friends in Long Island and learned some harmony and diversity lessons from a fused glass experience. My friend and I both identify ourselves as artistic – not as a profession – but as a hobby. We both like handmade jewelry in addition to hand-blown glass objects. We also have been journeying together for years to the annual open house sale of hand-blown glass at Vandermark Merrit Glass Studios (see http://www.vandermarkmerrittglass.com/). She has been going much longer than me and I don’t make it every year. My friend recently took a class on fused glass and had made some stunning pieces while in the class. She also made several pieces of exquisite jewelry on her own. She was able to make the jewelry because her sister had given her a kiln that works in a microwave as a Christmas present. I’m not sure if it was my drooling over the beautiful jewelry she had made, or something to do while we waited for the Belmont Stakes to begin, but she suggested we make me a pair of earrings. I was very happy to oblige being the jewelry hound that I am!
This post was inspired by our journey together to make fused glass earrings. The journey was fun and led to an unexpected but beautiful result. This post explores the role of harmony in creativity and collaboration, the role of meaning to transform creativity to innovation, and the role of diversity in innovation.
From a previous post (https://fulcrumconnection.com/blog/collaborate-to-innovate/), collaboration is when two or more people are committed to and engaged in working together towards a worthy goal. My friend and I viewed the making of earrings together to be a worthy endeavor! Just like you can’t have innovation without creativity, you can’t have collaboration without creativity. Creativity means to generate new and useful ideas. Thus, if you aren’t generating new and useful ideas, then you are not truly collaborating. Therefore, true collaboration leads to unexpected results. When we started to make the earrings, I had in mind a 4-leaf clover with colors representing the different parts in a barbershop quartet since I sing the tenor part in the Magic Moments quartet. I could tell my friend was a bit worried about the idea, nonetheless, she started pulling out pieces of glass with the colors I was looking for. There were two pieces I fell in love with – a deep blue and a variegated orange-yellow-white. I remembered that orange and blue were the colors for the college we attended together – Bucknell University. So I abandoned the 4-leaf clover idea and we worked together with the two glass pieces. My friend pulled out her dichroic glass collection and I fell in love with the piece that had a dot pattern because the dots reminded me of whole notes in music. My friend had not used this dichroic glass before and so was excited to see how it would behave in fusing. The design for the earrings was born. The unexpected result was that the dots from the dichroic piece formed a border between the blue and variegated orange-yellow-white piece (see a picture of the final product below).
This experience got me thinking about the role of passion in collaboration and creativity. I found a review paper by Robert Vallerand, Professor of Social Psychology at University of Quebec in Montreal, on theories for motivation and passion (http://www.er.uqam.ca/nobel/r26710/LRCS/papers/Vallerand2012CP.pdf). What is really terrific about this review is Vallerand provides experiemental evidence for the theories from his research. Interestingly, Vallerand makes a distinction between two types of passion he calls harmonious passion and obsessive passion. Vallerand describes obsessive passion as follows:
Obsessive passion results from a controlled internalization of the activity into one’s identity and self. A controlled internalization originates from intra- and/or interpersonal pressure typically because certain contingencies are attached to the activity such as feelings of social acceptance or self-esteem…, or because the sense of excitement derived from activity engagement is uncontrollable. People with an obsessive passion thus experience an uncontrollable urge to partake in the activity they view as enjoyable. They cannot help but engage in the passionate activity, as the passion comes to control them.
Vallerand then distinguishes harmonious passion as follows:
…harmonious passion results from an autonomous internalization of the activity into the person’s identity and self. An autonomous internalization occurs when individuals have freely accepted the activity as important for them without any contingencies attached to it and produces a motivational force to engage in the activity willingly and engenders a sense of volition and personal endorsement about pursuing the activity. When harmonious passion is at play, individuals do not experience an uncontrollable urge to engage in the passionate activity, but rather freely choose to do so. Such a state of mind allows the person to fully partake in the passionate activity with an openness that is conducive to positive experiences.
Vallerand’s harmonious passion is a passion that is important to a person, helps define who they are, and is something they participate in voluntarily for no other reason then it brings them joy. Vallerand’s research which has been validated by other researchers as well shows that harmonious passion leads to better relationships and drives the practice needed to improve a skill. My friend and I share a harmonious passion for making crafts. In this case we made earrings. In the process of participating in our shared harmonious passion, collaboration was easy and the generating and focusing processes of creativity were also easy. Therefore, harmonious passion makes collaboration and creativity easy.
The turning point in the creative process to achieve the final product, the innovation, was when the collaboration led to something that held meaning for me. Specifically, the blue and orange colors were the colors for the college experience we shared at Bucknell University and the dotted dichroic glass pulled in my love of music which triggered my initial idea. In addition, I remember loving to listen to the ‘Bison Chips’ with my friend at Bucknell University which was a men’s barbershop quartet. Who knew then that I would end up singing in a women’s barbershop quartet? In the business world, the difference between a creative idea that becomes an innovation and one that does not is making meaning in the market. The meaning can be anything from a business saving money to be able to reinvest that money somewhere else to creating a valuable customer experience. Making meaning is what can transform a creative idea into an innovation.
What does all this mean in an organization? Applying the lessons to an organization means you have to factor in the climate of an organization. There are elements of the organization’s climate that are conducive to creativity and those that are not. The Situational Outlook Questionnaire (see: http://soqonline.net/soq/more_soq) identifies nine dimensions of organizational or group climate important to nurturing creativity. A Qualified SOQ Practitioner like me can help you assess the degree your organization or group is conducive to creativity and provide an action plan to address any shortcomings. In addition, in an organization, it is not enough to be enthusiastic and passionate. In the workplace, you need to connect the things that motivate you to delivering value to the organization’s customers. Vallerand’s research showed that passion and motivation are both important to performance but the relative roles are not yet understood – perhaps motivation is more important when there is a lack of passion. Vallerand’s research also showed that quality matters to performance in both motivation (the more self-determined) and passion (the more harmonious).
In summary, some mixture of the right quality of motivation and passion and the right organizational climate is needed to maximize the performance of employees in an organization or group. The presence of harmonious passion can make collaboration and creativity very easy. Ideas that can make meaning in the market are most likely to result in innovation. I believe performance results from applying creativity to first generate good ideas and then focus on the ones most likely to result in attractive innovation for the organization. Innovation is simply implementing an idea to create value for the organization. Of course the organization must also have a climate conducive to creativity to promote the best performance of each of its employees.
If you would like to learn more about maximizing the performance of employees in an organization or group, then please contact Valerie Patrick at Fulcrum Connection LLC (412-742-9675 or firstname.lastname@example.org). Ask about our new suite of tools to help end employee disengagement caused by poor interpersonal interactions in your organization or project team. Also ask about our first-time client offer.