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Creative Tension...


They call the strain that manifests itself when you’re trying to reconcile your “Current Reality” – where you find yourself in life at any given moment – with your Vision for the future, “Creative Tension.”

Tension, because of the pressures leaving your comfort zone to do new and different things brings with it: creative, because of the new and different things you generally have to do in order to transcend your current reality.

Most of us have experienced “Creative Tension” at one time or another in our lives; we just didn’t know it had a name. It’s that uneasy, uncomfortable feeling that washes over us every time we challenge ourselves with something new, something different, something more.

My entire professional life has been filled with creative tension. It’s an integral part of the changing technology that is the automotive service aftermarket and the many different hats I’ve learned to wear moving from ‘pump jockey’ to ‘driveway salesman,’ ‘mechanic’ to ‘technician,’ and, then, ‘shop owner, ‘trade journalist’ to ‘seminar facilitator’ to ‘author.’ It’s become a natural element of remaining successful in an infinitely changing environment, a survival skill in an ever-changing world.

A natural element of my creative tension is leaving the shop. I say that as if leaving is a ‘bad thing.’ It’s not… Not if you’re leaving for training, education or to expose yourself to new and different ideas all focused on creating a better experience for everyone involved in your business: clients, associates, vendors… everyone.

OK… It isn’t such a “bad thing” if you leave for vacation every once in a while either! But, leaving still involves not being there and not being there is still stressful. Being someplace else, doing something else – regardless of what that ‘something else’ might be. Even in a digital world, your physical absence still involves some loss of connection, which is generally accompanied by a fair amount of discomfort.

The stress I feel isn’t due to lack of confidence in our people… Nothing could be further from the truth. We have a great crew and as different as our backgrounds and experience might be we all have one thing in common. We all have a profound and very personal sense of what it is to serve. We’re all proud of the profession we’ve chosen as well, and approach what we do deliberately with enthusiasm and a real understanding of the responsibility we’ve accepted when it comes to the service, maintenance and repair of our customer’s vehicles. We also understand how important it is for our clients to have the freedom to go wherever it is they want to go with the security and confidence of knowing they will be able to return home safely.

This is what you think about at 35,000 feet on the way home from two meetings focused almost exclusively on “Best In Class” automotive service delivery. It’s what you think about after almost a full week spent discovering new and different ways to improve and enhance the relationship you share with your client base – improve and enhance it from your perspective as a vehicle owner: your perspective as a customer.

Something else you think about is how you are going to balance the creative tension you know will accompany integrating these new concepts into your service mix without compromising the same high quality customer care our client’s have come to expect from us.

The good news is the kind of creative tension I’m feeling as I consider everything I’ve experienced over the past ten days: everything I’ve listened to and learned, is every bit as exciting as it may be stressful.

Things like moving toward a more Customer-Centric service delivery model: looking at the whole process and every conceivable interaction through the customer’s eyes, managing diversity in the workplace, engaging Generation “X” and Generation “Y” clients, coping in a web-enabled world and much, much more.

As far as I can see it’s all good and exciting enough to drive us into a shared and mutually beneficial future: a future much more consistent with the Vision I have for all of us. A Vision worthy of the Creative Tension that is certain to accompany its achievement…  


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