One area of the creative process that seems to be dying out, is the understanding of aggression in the process. All too often, thanks to the political correctness wave that took over the corporate world, aggression was clumped in with violence and banned from the work place. This is mainly due to the misunderstood role aggression plays. However a company that truly wants to out perform, will understand and encourage the positive aspects of aggression.
In most industrialized cultures, mixed signals are often sent in terms of aggression. On the one hand we are told to be aggressive, be a go getter. Yet on the other hand, we often look down on those who actually do this. Especially in a corporate environment, they are seen as the loose cannons and get the pink slip on the next round of mass layoffs. Also the political correctness group labeled aggression as the same as violence, believing that aggressive behavior leads to violence, which actually the complete opposite is true. Let’s look at violence first.
Violence is an uncontrolled emotional flood. If you see someone in the act of violence, you will notice that most of them are basically riding an emotional wave, they react, they don’t really think a whole lot either. It’s just like a volcano blowing it’s top, as an observer, your best option is to just stand back and wait for the eruption to blow over and get out of the way! Violence is destructive and lacking of control. Yes violence is not what we want, but aggression has none of the qualities violence has.
Aggression on the other hand has a lot of focus and control. If you look at the animal world, aggressive behavior is often used to avoid violence. Animals seem to get what most people seem to have forgotten. Aggression leads to action and creativity that is focused and controlled. When someone acts on their aggression, they are not being violent, when they cross into losing control, that is not aggression because by its very nature, aggression is controlled focus taking an intended action. In the creative process it is the focus of an intention to thrust an idea into a solution for a problem. This is how aggression is suppose to be used in the creative process. Here’s an example.
Let’s say Bob works in marketing and comes up with some ideas for a new product line that has been struggling. He’s annoyed at the poor performance, so he gets aggressive and assertive and gets himself worked up and seeks the solution. All creativity is aggressive, so Bob focuses all his efforts on creating a new approach to increase sales, he focuses on new styles, pricing, brand ideas, etc…. This is how it should work. Now if Bob says “damn it” or gets on someone’s back who isn’t pulling their weight, look at how Bob behaves. If his aggression is focused on the task and finding a solution, he’s ok, the person may also have needed a kick in the butt. This is how aggression in communication is used, focused and NOT violent but determined and direct. If Bob points out someone is not doing their job, that is not violent, I know some companies seem to think so, but it’s not.
Now what if Bob couldn’t swear or tell the person to get it gear or take unorthodox ideas and test them for solutions, over time all that aggressive behavior builds up until one day, Bob looses it and burst out at someone. Of course this may be years down the road after that product line failed because Bob wasn’t allowed to use his aggression to solve a problem. And chances are quite a few more failed products had pasted and finally he had enough and just lost it and let the emotional wave loose.
It’s far better to let people express aggression at work, in fact you should want it, aggression is about getting things done that is focused, creative and meaningful. And it avoids violence. If you don’t understand the difference, then you better hope your competitor doesn’t either because if I’m helping them, you’ll need luck on your side. Because I’m going to be inspiring their team to be aggresive in finding the solutions that customers want and driving sales up for them.