Want a creative solution? Delegate the problem.

Have you ever been working feverishly on a particularly tough problem, tell your manager about it and have them give you a great idea that pretty much solved it?  You probably thought, “Well, I guess that’s why they’re the boss” and then beat yourself up about why you couldn’t have come up with the solution.  Well, it turns out, your boss had the advantage, and not because they are smarter or have more experience than you.  Because they are separated from the problem, they can think of it in the abstract and more quickly come up with creative solutions.  Dan Pink discusses this phenomenon in his Flip Manifesto where he references psychology experiments conducted by Evan Polman of New York University and Kyle Emich of Cornell University.  You can research the details, but Pink summarizes their work by saying, “…people were faster and more creative when they tackled the problem on behalf of others rather than for themselves.”

This is at the core of Google’s 20% time.  Google allows all of their employees to spend 20% of their time working on problems unrelated to their area of responsibility.  Google recognizes that people are more creative when they are separated from the problems they are solving and leverages this fact to ensure their massive company maintains the creativity that made it so successful in the first place.

When you first read the title of this post, you probably thought the theme was going to be to develop and trust your people and they will come up with better ideas than you ever could.  No. The point is that by delegating your important projects, you can separate yourself from them and free your mind to be creative when problems arise.  Delegation does not take away your responsibility to come up with creative and innovative solutions – it ensures you continue to do it!

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