By William F. Brandt, Jr.

The common perspective is that people and organizations tend to respond or react to the circumstances and events they experience – however, I believe in “Creative Orientation,” whereby individuals and organizations seek to create the results they truly desire. We do not inherently have one orientation or the other. Rather, we have the potential to shift our perspective from the “reactive” toward the “creative” and thereby we are more likely to achieve our aspirations.

In his book, The Path of Least Resistance, Robert Fritz writes that as children we learned that circumstances were the predominant forces in our lives. We experienced approval by parents, teachers and others for our proper responses and disapproval for negative ones. If we were successfully rewarded for our responses, we may have developed a responsive orientation, where we adapted well and became good students, employees and citizens in general.

If our responses were not rewarded, we may have learned a reactive orientation and become cynical, suspicious and rebellious. In either orientation, the driving forces lie in our circumstances. In this view, the forces shaping our lives are external to us. They are out of our control, and as luck would have it, we are powerless to change them.

The “Creative Orientation” is quite different. Whereas people in the “responsive-reactive orientation” organize their lives around the circumstances in them, people in the creative orientation organize them according to what they want to create. The focus of the creative orientation lies in the fundamental question, “What do I want?” or “What are the results I desire to create?” People in this orientation choose to pursue what they want and act to bring their creations into being. With this orientation, power is not external to their circumstances, but rather internal within them.

Or as George Bernard Shaw said, “You see things as they are and say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were and say, ‘Why not?’”

I modified Fritz’s description of the creative process into a format that I thought applicable not only to individuals but also to organizations, such as my company, American Woodmark. I called this format “The 7-Step Process.”


1. Create a vision –  of what we desire

2. Understand current reality – by acknowledging what we have

3. Take action – to shift from the current reality toward the desired result

4. Measure performance – we analyze the process, and

5. Modify action – where necessary, as indicated by the analysis, until we

6. Achieve desired results – then we go on to

7. Create a new vision

I introduced this “7-Step Process” to American Woodmark, in order to restructure its strategic direction and to change its culture in support of that new direction. Eventually the 7-Step Process became the primary management tool used to run the business. We applied it to situations, large and small, wherever we could ask the question, “What do we want?” After several setbacks, we accomplished our initial “Vision,” and with its success we initiated new “Visions” every six years – which over time,  have been successful in creating an Advancing Structure for American Woodmark.

By adapting a creative orientation and applying the creative process, organizations are more likely to establish bold visions, better understand reality and work in alignment to achieve goals. As a result, these organizations advance and achieve their desired results. Similarly, their members, rather than respond or react to circumstances, create what they truly desire, both in their professional and personal lives.


William F. Brandt, Jr., is cofounder and former CEO of American Woodmark Corporation—the third largest producer of kitchen cabinets in America. His books include the winner of 22 Book Awards COMPASS—Creating Exceptional Organizations: A Leader’s Guide and COMPASS TOOL KIT, the teaching companion to COMPASS (www.WinterValePress.com ).

Copyright 2015 © William F. Brandt, Jr.


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