A senior executive heard about me and that I was supposed to be good at coming up with fresh and convincing ways of describing solutions. In this case we needed a way to show to a client how we would deal with a rather complex multi-project setup. There were multiple programs running lots of projects. Many relations and interdependencies. The mess was huge!
The exec asked me to illustrate how we could move forward while yet keeping control over the situation. He made some notes on a paper. This was supposed to be some start for me to work out details and solution from.
I took the note. Spent some time thinking. Talking. Discussing. After a few days I had a solution. I showed my work to the executive. He was not happy.
He made some new notes on a paper. Now with more details. And he was not using my work, but made it on blank paper again.
Once again I thought and discussed. Went back with a new solution to the executive after a day or two. Same procedure - a not happy executive. And now he started to question my creative ability. At least it felt like that.
And for the third time he made notes on a blank paper. Draw some charts, symbols and numbers. And patiently asked me to use all my creativity and skills to come up with a solution.
This time I took another approach. I took the last notes he made - just opened a blank presentation on my computer. Copied the hand-made notes and charts into that presentation. Added a title page. Done!
When I this time returned he was mighty impressed. He studied the electronic version of the notes he made, praised my creativity and was very happy. "I knew you could solve this problem for me!"
All I did was transforming his notes into an electronic version. I did not feel creative at all.
Nowadays I am very careful when taking on assignments like that. Trying to find out what they really want, and what level of freedom I have. Many times they are complete with the creative part and just need someone to put it on paper.
Imagine you get the instruction "Draw me somehing nice. Anything." and you come back with a horse. And gets the response "Well, I had more of a circle in mind - can you do something with a circle?".
Next time you get "Well, I had a blue circle in mind. And slightly smaller. Can you give a go?"
And so it continues...
To all execs: If you know what you want; Say it. And If you want persons to use his/hers creativity - let them do that.