An unexamined career may not be worth pursuing.
So contends Catherine A. Allen, chief executive officer of the Banking Industry Technology Secretariat, a division of the Bankers Roundtable, and co-author of "The Artist's Way at Work."
She argues that executives need to engage in a systematic, creative exploration of their lives and professions to reach self-fulfillment.
Corporate cost cutting, restructurings, and layoffs create anxiety. The advocated "artist's way" is supposed to help employees adapt more readily to change.
The problem, say the authors, is that many people believe creativity is the province of "a secret tribe of people."
"There is a mythology about creative people," said Mark Bryan, another co-author, at a recent forum in New York. "Often the most creative person in a company will be the most isolated."
Individuals sabotage their own creativity with self-doubt, said Ms. Allen, who before joining BITS last year founded and managed a consulting firm, Santa Fe Group. She was the founder of the Smart Card Forum and a marketing officer and strategist at Citicorp, Dun & Bradstreet, and CBS. She has also taught at American University in Washington.
The common pattern, she said, is: "You're waiting for someone to notice you don't know what you're doing. The fraud concept eats away at us.
"You have to think about how to overcome that. You have to be able to say to yourself, 'I don't have to know everything, but I do have to know who can answer those questions.'"
Daily meditation-using written reflections and self-dialogue-can help people escape self-doubt, Mr. Bryan said.
Introspection can also help affirm career choices.
"Sometimes you get on a treadmill and you can't get off," said Nina Tsao, president of Onsett International, a Boston information technology consulting firm and an adherent of "The Artist's Way at Work."
"I think people have a perception of themselves," said Ms. Tsao, whose company of 15 consultants tested the book's theories. "The exercise may be scary because you might find out something that's not what you thought about yourself."
Ms. Tsao said business executives, caught up in the day-to-day issues of management, often discount creativity exercises.
"We tend never to take a day out of work just to talk about these things," she said. "This exercise brought us closer as a team of professionals and as a company. It made us more cohesive."
Ms. Allen said daily reflection helped her when making the transition from Citibank vice president to entrepreneur, which in turn led to the BITS opportunity, helping the banking industry maintain its control and influence in the evolution toward new forms of payment and electronic commerce.
"The more you are able to observe yourself, the better," Ms. Allen said. u