Originally Posted by Heather Lee on October 21, 2012
When I was a little Minion in Training, one of my favorite playtime activities was putting together organizations for my sister and myself. Yes, I said organizations. Businesses, clubs, teams, even mini-armies crossed my notepads all through elementary school. We’d come up with mottos, marching songs, ranking systems, identification cards, you name it. As you can imagine, these endeavors rarely got very far past the building stages. What you might not imagine is why.
I spent hours working on these things because planning them was fun. When one was finished, we were off to the next. Forming a wispy idea, developing a framework, and fleshing it out were endlessly entertaining activities. They eventually shifted into character creation for tabletop games, then seamlessly into world building for short stories and more.
These happy memories floated up today as I was rummaging around in my head for a blog topic, and what brought them to the fore is how natural the transition from clubs to worlds really was. For me, organizing is so strongly linked to creativity they’re pretty much the same thing. This link is evident every day in my proposal work, too. Why? Because doing this work well requires equal parts of both.
Now granted, we are bound by customer expectations and the requirements to which we respond. Compliance is a top priority and we want to build that into every part of our proposal, from the CLINs to the past performance. Being creative within those requirements is tough to do, but it’s also the difference between a good proposal and a great one. The key is keeping your mind open enough to see the opportunities among the structure.
For example, we have to lay out our sections according to instructions, but the road maps we give the evaluators are ours to design. We can be inventive without straying outside the lines, starting with our organization. The next time you’re staring at the RFP on your desk and wondering how you could possibly be creative in answering it, consider these points.
Proposal schedule. If you’ve got good capture, you can devote more brain time to innovation in your response.
Proposal outline. Though the customer designates the overall order, you can manage the subsections and paragraphs to best tell your story.
Storyboards. Make sure you’ve given your writers ideas as well as instructions in their outline sections; you can aim their thinking in new directions.
A lot of people look at our work and say that we have no room for creativity in such a rule-bound environment. I say the best part of having an imagination is finding opportunities to use it.