Whether Business or Personal

What can business processes borrow from personal psychology?

Life is an ongoing series of processes – the process of birthing, the process of growing, and of course, of dying. Psychology refers to a process as the entanglement of physical, emotional, mental, and often spiritual questions and experiences. In this definition, process is more than just a series of steps or stages; it is a holistic, messy, mysterious journey.

In business, on the other hand, process is generally seen as a way to avoid the mess – or a way to contain the chaos. But there is a lot from our personal processes that can be applied to business, and in particular creative business processes.

Process is generally seen as a way to avoid the mess – or a way to contain the chaos.

01 Perspective

When you’re in the thick of a personal process and can’t see clearly, it’s helpful to take a break and regroup. For example,

if you’re in phase two of a four-part process for getting a promotion, your emotional state can conflict with your mental model of where you think you should be. Until the two align, it’s easy to get stuck. Making time for brief intermissions during a project – no matter how tightly scheduled – can refresh how you see and approach the coming challenges.

02 From the Outside In

It’s sometimes helpful to have an outside perspective. In our personal lives, there are experts dedicated to many personal processes: marriage counsellors, therapists, job coaches. they act as mirrors who reflect experiences back to you and anchor you in what is needed to move forward. Bringing in colleagues or even clients who have not seen the product of your efforts before can help narrate the story in a new way. Sharing the event with an objective observer helps to untangle various elements to see what sticks and what doesn’t.

03 Gleaning From the Unexpected

Processes can be emotionally charged and chaotic. There is power in acknowledging when you are in the weeds and feeling scared or angry at the challenges. The value of admitting not knowing what’s next is the humility that creates space for new ideas.

04 Inquisition

When we attach too strongly to a process, we can lose the necessary level of critical thinking to maintain momentum and remain flexible enough to come to the best solutions. When taking on a new creative project, it is best to assess and question early on in the process. How can your skills best suit the job at hand? What can you bring to it that may not immediately be obvious? instead of blindly following the steps laid out to complete the project, it’s often more valuable to ask what is the best way forward and let your intuition answer.

05 Release

Any process requires some degree of detachment from expectations and unfulfilled desires. While process is a guardrail, it is also important to have your vision be the actual driver of the journey. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that rather than trying to make life fit the process, it’s wiser to work the other way around. Life will unfold in ways you cannot predict; process should be a way of organizing yourself to respond in the most effective way possible.

Featured in the MISC 2015 : The Creative Process Issue.

Courtney Lawrence is a senior anthropologist at Idea Couture. She is based in Toronto, Canada

the author

Courtney Lawrence

Courtney Lawrence is insight manager, Whitespace, at lululemon athletica.