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10 CREATIVE MYTHS
Over the years, I have heard a lot of people say a lot of daft things about
creativity. Some of those things, I hear again and again. What's worse, a lot
these daft notions – or myths – about creativity are detrimental
to the creative process. So, let's end this once and for all. Below are 10 creative
myths. If you share these with everyone in the world, these myths will go away.
1. “I am not creative”
I have heard a lot of people say precisely that: “I am not creative”.
The truth, of course, is that we are all creative. That's what differentiates
us from Parrots who can say clever things put couldn't have a creative idea
if their lives depended upon it. The truth is we are all creative. And while
some people are naturally more creative than others, we can all have very creative
ideas. The problem is, as we grow older, most of us learn to inhibit our creativity
for reasons relating to work, acceptable behaviour and just the notion of being
2. “That's a stupid [or daft, or silly, or ridiculous] idea”
People say this kind of thing to colleagues, family and even to themselves.
Indeed, this is one reason why people believe they are not creative: they have
got into such a habit of censoring their creative ideas, by telling themselves
that their ideas are stupid, that they no longer feel creative. Next time you
have an idea you think is stupid, don't censor it. Rather, ask yourself how
you could improve the idea.
3. “Creative people always have great ideas”
Rubbish! Creative people always have ideas. Whether they like it or not, they
are having ideas and sharing those ideas (often with people who tell them their
ideas are stupid, no less!) every waking hour of the day. Of those ideas, a
precious few are great. Many are good, Many are mediocre and a precious few
really are stupid ideas. Over time, we tend to forget creative people's weak
ideas and remember their great ideas.
4. “Constructive criticism will help my colleague improve her idea.”
Yeah, and tripping a child when she is learning to walk will help her improve
her walking skills. Nonsense! Criticism, whether constructive or destructive
(as most criticism truly is) squelches creative thinking and teaches your colleague
to keep her ideas to herself. Likewise, other colleagues will see what happens
when ideas are shared and will also learn to keep their ideas to themselves.
Fresh ideas are fragile. They need nurturing, not kicking. Instead of criticising
a colleague's new idea, challenge her to improve the idea by asking her how
she could get over the idea's weakness.
5. “We need some new marketing ideas for the upcoming product launch.
Let's get the marketing people together and brainstorm ideas.”
This is a sure recipe for coming up with the same kind of marketing ideas you
have had in the past: ie. uncreative. Brainstorming, as well as ideas campaigns
and other group ideation events get the most creative results with the widest
variety of participants. Want marketing ideas? Then bring in sales, accounting,
human resources, financial, administrative, production, design, research, legal
and other people into the brainstorming event. Such a wide range of knowledge,
experience and backgrounds will encourage a wide range of ideas. And that results
in more creative ideas.
6. “In order for our innovation strategy to be a success, we need
a system of review processes for screening ideas and determining which ideas
In fact, the review process is very often about eroding creativity by removing
risk from ideas. The most important component for corporate innovation is a
method of soliciting and capturing focused business ideas. The ideas campaign
approach – where you challenge employees to submit ideas on specific business
issues, such as “in what ways might we improve product X?” is the
best way to focus innovation. A transparent tool that allows employees to submit,
read and collaborate on ideas is the best way to focus creative thinking. And,
framing your challenges effectively is arguably one of the most important aspects
of successful corporate innovation. (see http://www.jpb.com/ideamanagement/
for more information on the ideas campaign approach to innovation). Yes, reviewing
ideas is important. But first you need to be generating the creative ideas so
that they may be reviewed.
7. “That's a good idea. Let's run with it”
When we are looking for ideas, we have a tendency to stop looking and start
implementing with the first good idea that comes to mind. Unfortunately, that
means that any great ideas you might have had, had you spent more time thinking,
are lost. Moreover, good ideas can often be developed into significantly better
ideas with a little creative thought. So, don't think of a good idea as an end
– rather think of it as a beginning of the second stage of creative thought.
8. “Drugs will help me be more creative”
The 1960s drug culture and glamour of musicians and artists getting high and
being creative led to this myth. And, possibly a little bit of drugs or alcohol
will loosen your inhibitions to the extent that you do not criticise your ideas
as much as you might had your inhibitions not been loosened. A lot of drugs
or alcohol, however, will alter your mind and may very likely make you believe
you are being more creative. But to people watching you, you will just seem
like someone who is very high.
9. “If it ain't broke, don't fix it.”
Just the other day I was at a workshop where some people were complaining about
a colleague who always had ideas. Worse, he wanted to use those ideas to change
processes that were working perfectly well. Sadly, too many of us (but not you,
of course) are like the complainers. If something works well as it is, whether
it is a machine or a process, we often feel there is no need to change the way
it works. Fortunately, Dr. Hans von Ohain and Sir Frank Whittle didn't think
like that – or we'd still be flying in propeller aeroplanes. Bear in mind
that propeller aeroplanes were working perfectly fine when the two gentlemen
in question individually invented the jet engine.
10. “I don't need a notebook. I always remember my ideas”
Maybe. But I doubt it. When we are inspired by an idea, that idea is very often
out of context with what we are doing. Perhaps a dream we had upon waking inspires
us with the solution to a problem. But, then we wake up, get the children up,
have breakfast, run through in our minds an important presentation we'll be
giving in the morning, panic that the kids will miss their bus, run for the
train, flirt with an attractive young thing on the train, etc - until late afternoon
when you finally have time to think about the problem. How likely are you really
to remember the idea you had upon wakening?
Note: unless indicated otherwise in the bi-line above,
this is an original article by Jeffrey Baumgartner which was first published
Anticonventional Thinking - the book
- is out now!