You’ve Become a Creativity Vampire and Don’t Even Know It

6 Ways Sales Leaders Can Stop Killing Creativity

“Creativity now is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.”  – Sir Ken Robinson

Do you agree with this bold statement by Sir Ken Robinson from his insanely popular TED Talk?

I do.

He goes on to suggest that schools, and companies, have destroyed creativity because we teach, educate and train in ways that stigmatize mistakes.

People are afraid to be wrong.Oh good...-2

And when people are afraid to be wrong, nothing original bubbles to the surface.  You get the same stuff recycled and regurgitated.



Looking specifically at pharmaceutical sales, there are areas where encouraging creativity and making mistakes is unacceptable.  There is an important obligation to healthcare providers and patients to get things right.  And legally, I get what’s at stake.

And let’s face it, the education and training environment we provide predictably follows suit:

  • High stakes tests
  • Certifications
  • Verbatim responses
  • Coaching checklists
  • Legal attestations

The process of learning is built around making sure that an accurate and fair balanced message is delivered.

Not always exciting – but understandable.

Add to this list the responsibility that leaders have to ensure expense reports are done correctly, that sales calls are entered the right way and performance metrics are in line with expectations.

You can quickly see how a culture lacking creativity takes shape and where trying new things isn’t exactly embraced.


BORING-2“Ok, Dave…but I thought you said that I’M killing creativity?  Sounds to me like the system and nature of the business is the culprit.”

And that’s the problem.

The general acceptance that being wrong and taking chances has no place in our little pharmaceutical world can permeate everything we do and literally become part of who we are as leaders.

We stop challenging our teams to come at problems from new angles because they might not work.  We stop tapping into the unique qualities that we all have as leaders because they don’t fit neatly into the prescribed game plan.

That’s what kills creativity.

And we own that.


As sales leaders, we have an opportunity an obligation to our teams to find appropriate places for them to try new things and risk being wrong.

To possibly fail.

To break away even briefly from the standard way of doing things.

That’s where the magic of creativity happens.

While there is no clear, uniform path for making this happen (given how unique we all are as individuals and leaders) here are a few ideas for re-kindling the creative fire on your teams this year:

  • Measure Failure: If you’re asking someone on your team to work on a particular selling skill (say, opening calls more effectively…) between your field visits – have them report back to you on what didn’t work instead of what did work.   In doing this, you set the expectation that they should be trying new things and that failure is simply part of the process.  If you’re not failing your not trying.
  • Break-Away Role Play:  Break away from stale habits and safe behaviors by having your team practice selling something totally unrelated to your product(s.)  You can simply use a product from the diner your sitting at or plan ahead and assign something fun from  This creates a safe environment to fail in and a fun laboratory to test new ideas.FullSizeRender (1)
  • Blue Sky Panel:  As a group or individually, encourage people to share how they would move their business assuming no restrictions or barriers.  Truly blue sky.  Creatively set it up as if everyone is “pitching” th
    eir ideas to a Shark Tank panel if you want.  Lots of ideas will fail but the debrief involves a discussion of what CAN be done (or some version thereof) from the list generated!
  • Ideal Day Design:  Similar to the Blue Sky Panel, have your team design their ideal, maximally productive day for you – individually or as a group.  Assume everything is possible.  What would it look like?   What could they get done?  Debrief as a team around the items that CAN be done (or at least some compliant version thereof) from the list!
  • Regional Reporter:  Create a list of things you feel your team has stopped thinking creatively about.  These could be anything from asking good questions to call plan routing.  Have everyone on your team reach out to someone else in your region and ask them to share how they approach that topic.  Have everyone share back what they learned and see if any new, creative ideas can be applied.
  • Book Club:  Find a great book to read as a team and run a book club meeting.  Avoid the temptation to use a boring business book.  Pick something interesting or fun that that gets people to think about how they are operating in the field and possibly in their personal lives. Debrief as a team on what ideas were generated from the reading and how they can be applied in the field.

This is just a partial list.

The opportunities are everywhere if we’d simply elevate the importance of creativity to it’s rightful place.

How about you?

What are some ways that you’ve encouraged creativity with your sales team and made failure an acceptable outcome?

Leave a comment below and consider trying one of the ideas above – would love to hear how it goes!

Until next time,



Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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