The 5 Most Dangerous Creativity Killers

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It’s important to recognize these impediments to the creative thought process because many are insidious, and worse yet, most can be made on the managerial end, meaning we may be stifling our creative workers without even realizing it.

For those of us doing creative work, we must be mindful of these deterrents of the creative process so we can continue to put out our most novel ideas.

1. Role Mismatch

As Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Placing people in roles that they are not fit for is a surefire way to kill creativity. Although this may seem like a managerial concern, there are personal consequences here as well. Additional research has shown that we are at our best when we are “busy” (and pushed to our limits), but not rushed. In the wrong role, we can struggle to keep up and live in a constant state of creativity-crushing panic.

2. External End-Goal Restriction

Although self-restriction can often boost creativity, the Harvard study shows thatexternal restrictions are almost always a bad thing for creative thinking. This includes subtle language use that deters creativity, such as bosses claiming “We do things by the book around here,” or group members implicitly communicating that new ideas are not welcome.

3. Strict Ration of Resources

While money and physical resources are important to creativity, the Harvard study revealed that mental resources were most important, including having enough time.

Creative people re-conceptualize problems more often than a non-creative. This means they look at a variety of solutions from a number of different angles, and this extensive observation of a project requires time. This is one of the many reasons you should do your best to avoid unnecessary near-deadline work that requires novel thinking. Also, when we are faced with too many external restrictions we spend more time acquiring more resources than actually, you know, creating.

4. Lack of Social Diversity

Homogeneous groups have shown to be better able to get along, but it comes at a cost: they are less creative. This even applies to the social groups you keep, so beware of being surrounded by people who are too similar all the time, you may end up in a creative echo-chamber.

5. Discouragement/No Positive Feedback

It’s tough to continue working on novel ideas when you haven’t received any positive feedback. This feeling is backed by psychological research that shows people who’ve started a new undertaking are most likely to give up the first time things come crashing down, also known at the “what the hell!” effect.

Creative people thrive on having others impacted by their ideas. Without feedback, their motivation begins to wither and die.

Reblogged from: here

How to draw an owl

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The problem with most business and leadership advice is that it’s a little like this:

The two circles aren’t the point. Getting the two circles right is a good idea, but lots of people manage that part. No, the difficult part is learning to see what an owl looks like. Drawing an owl involves thousands of small decisions, each based on the answer to just one question, “what does the owl look like?” If you can’t see it (in your mind, not with your eyes), you can’t draw it.

There are hundreds of thousands of bullet points and rules of thumb about how to lead people, how to start and run a company, how to market, how to sell and how to do work that matters. Most of them involve drawing two circles. (HT to Stefano for the owl).

Before any of these step by step approaches work, it helps a lot to learn to see. When someone does this job well, what does it look like? When you’ve created a relationship that works, what does it feel like?

Incubator programs and coaching work their best not when they teach people which circles to draw, but when they engage in interactive learning after you’ve gone ahead and drawn your circle. The iterative process of drawing and erasing and drawing some more is how we learn to see the world.

Reblogged from: here

“But what if I fail?”

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You will.

The answer to the what if question is, you will.

A better question might be, “after I fail, what then?”

Well, if you’ve chosen well, after you fail you will be one step closer to succeeding, you will be wiser and stronger and you almost certainly will be more respected by all of those that are afraid to try.

Reblogged from: here

“Oh sure, I studied with him at Harvard”

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“Actually, I read his book when it was in galleys…

I bought it when it came out in paperback…

I have it but never actually read it…

I read a few blog posts he wrote about it…

I scanned the reviews, did you see the one that really excoriated him?

I followed a link on Facebook…

I read a tweet about it.

…Who?”

What level of exposure counts as actually knowing?

For me, doing is at the core of it. If you’ve done something with what you’ve learned, then maybe you know it.

Reblogged from: here

Bruce Springsteen, Woody Allen, and the Long Tradition of Hating Your Own Work

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Bruce kept struggling to get on tape the sound he had in his head, and at times it seemed like he was ready to give up. Long nights at the studio ended in misery, the atmosphere tense and rancorous. To stay awake, engineer Jimmy Iovine would take a piece of gum, throw it away, and chew on the aluminum wrapping. In the end, Springsteen was miserable: “After it was finished? I hated it! I couldn’t stand to listen to it. I thought it was the worst piece of garbage I’d ever heard.”

 He almost didn’t release it. But Jon Landau, who had stepped in as a producer, helped persuade him to let go. According to writer Dave Marsh, Landau called Springsteen and said, “Look, you’re not supposed to like it. You think Chuck Berry sits around listening to ‘Maybelline‘? And when he does hear it, don’t you think he wishes a few things could be [changed]? Now c’mon, it’s time to put the record out.” The album appeared in 1975, and it launched Springsteen toward mega-stardom, getting him on the covers of Time and Newsweek simultaneously. Reviewing the album in Rolling Stone, Greil Marcus proclaimed, “It is a magnificent album that pays off on every bet ever placed on him—a ’57 Chevy running on melted down Crystals records that shuts down every claim that has been made. And it should crack his future wide open.”

Since then, Springsteen has gone on to win 20 Grammy Awards. Looking back from today’s perspective, it seems shocking that The Boss would have ever battled such self-doubt.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxuThNgl3YA

We hear a lot of stories about artists and innovators who persevered against all odds to have their work see the light of day: mega-author J.K. Rowlings’ pile of rejection letters, Thomas Edison’s gajillion attempts to invent a light bulb, Michael Jordan being deemed too short to play on his varsity basketball team. We view persistence — and grit! — as the key to success. Yet, after a certain point, persistence has a negative outcome: tunnel vision. You’ve been in it to win it for so long, you no longer know what winning means.

Let’s take Woody Allen as another example. When Allen completed Manhattan in 1979, he was extremely dissatisfied. He recounts his thoughts at the time in Robert B. Weide’s fascinating 2011 documentary:

“When I was finished with it [Manhattan], I didn’t like the film at all. I saw it, and I spoke to United Artists at the time and offered to make a film for nothing if they would not put it out. I just thought to myself, ‘At this point in my life, if this is the best I can do, they shouldn’t give me money to make movies.’” ‘

Fortunately for the rest of us, Allen did not succeed in suppressing the film.Manhattan was released to significant critical acclaim, earned two Oscar nominations, and became his second biggest box office hit of all time. More than 40 films later, Manhattan is still regarded by many as Allen’s best film, and has become one of the most iconic pictures ever made about New York City.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uyaj2P-dSi8

Of course, for Allen, failure is just another part of life and an inherent part of the creative process. As he says in the documentary, “I get more pleasure out of failing in a project that I am enthused over than in succeeding in a project that I know I can do well.”

As with Manhattan and Born to Run, it seems impossible to imagine a world where Franz Kafka’s novels — The Trial, The Castle, and Amerika — aren’t part of our cultural heritage. And yet, these works, too, were almost suppressed by their author. As Elif Batuman writes in an exhaustive New York Times article on the posthumous trajectory of Kafka’s works:

During his lifetime, Franz Kafka burned an estimated 90 percent of his work. After his death at age 41, in 1924, a letter was discovered in his desk in Prague, addressed to his friend Max Brod.“Dearest Max,” it began. “My last request: Everything I leave behind me . . . in the way of diaries, manuscripts, letters (my own and others’), sketches and so on, to be burned unread.”

Fortunately, Max Brod had told Kafka that he would never do such a thing when the author had made his wishes known before his death. And rather than burning Kafka’s novels, Brod instead set out immediately to have them published. (Which resulted in its own rather Kafkaesque process for Brod, which you can read abouthere.)

Without Brod’s work, we wouldn’t likely have the word “Kafkaesque.” Similarly, without Alfred Russel Wallace, we might not have the word “Darwinian.” Because Charles Darwin, in a way, is part of this infamous group, too.

Darwin started exploring the theory of natural selection almost 20 years before he published On the Origin of Species in 1859. As an NPR story explains:

 By 1844 he [Darwin] had written draft language that almost perfectly parallels what would be in “On the Origin of Species” 15 years later. But he was in no rush to publish; he knew he would take a lot of heat once his ideas were loosed upon the world.

In June of 1858, Darwin had yet to publish anything when he received a letter from a fellow biologist Alfred Russel Wallace, in which Wallace shared an essay articulating his own theory of “natural selection” (although he didn’t use that term). While the history isn’t entirely clear on what Darwin’s motivations were, it seems likely that he was spurred to finally publish On the Origin of Species, which he did the following year, by Wallace — lest 20 years of work go unrecognized.

So what’s the lesson in all this? On a practical level, it may be that we all need a third party — a friend or a producer who’s truly in our corner — to keep us accountable, and make us publish, when we’ve persisted so long that we don’t have any energy left to cheerlead ourselves across the finish line. On an existential level, it may be that the difference, and the distance, between the idea and the execution is always just a little bit greater than we expect. As author Michael Cunningham has written, “The art we produce lives in queasy balance with the art we can imagine.”

Reblogged from: here

Delight the weird

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Everyone who eats at your restaurant expects a good cup of coffee, and it’s difficult to wow them, because, of course, your competition is working to do the same thing.

But of course, it’s not everyone who wants a cup of coffee. Some want a cup of tea, or a cup of herbal tea, and those folks are used to being ignored, or handed an old Lipton tea bag, or something boring.

What if you had thirty varieties for them to choose from?

Everyone who stays at your hotel expects the same sort of service, and it’s difficult to wow them, because, of course, your competition is working to do the same thing.

But of course, it’s not everyone. Some people travel with their dogs, and they’re used to being disrespected. What if you gave those people a choice of a dozen dog toys, three dog beds and a special dog run out back?

When you delight the weird, the overlooked and the outliers, they are significantly more likely to talk about you and recommend you.

Reblogged from: here

Free Bird!

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One of the things a creator can do as a service to the audience is let them know when it’s safe to whoop, holler or applaud.

Often, we hesitate to spread the word and recommend something because it doesn’t feel safe to do so. It’s better to say nothing than it is to feel stupid.

Joining in on the standing ovation at the end of a Broadway play isn’t some sort of callow sellout. It’s actually a tradition that offers solace for the timid or uninitiated. Same as flicking your lighter and shouting for the band to play Free Bird… no one ever felt stupid for cheering for a hit when everyone else was doing it as well.

Reblogged from: here

The hard work of understanding

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Sometimes, we’re so eager to have an opinion that we skip the step of working to understand. Why is it the way it is? Why do they believe what they believe?

We skip reading the whole thing, because it’s easier to jump to what we assume the writer meant.

We skip engaging with customers and stakeholders because it’s quicker to assert we know what they want.

We skip doing the math, examining the footnotes, recreating the experiment, because it might not turn out the way we need it to.

We better hurry, because the firstest, loudest, angriest opinion might sway the crowd.

And of course, it’s so much easier now, because we all own our own media companies.

Reblogged from: here

How much does it cost you to avoid the feeling of risk?

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Not actual risk, but the feeling that you’re at risk?

How many experiences are you missing out on because the (very unlikely) downsides are too frightening to contemplate?

Are you avoiding leading, connecting or creating because to do so feels risky?

Feeling risk is very different than actually putting yourself at risk. Over time, we’ve created a cultural taboo about feeling certain kinds of risk, and all that insulation from what the real world requires is getting quite expensive.

It’s easy to pretend that indulging in the avoidance of the feeling of risk is free and unavoidable. It’s neither.

Reblogged from: here

Accuracy, resilience and denial

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… three ways to deal with the future.

Accuracy is the most rewarding way to deal with what will happen tomorrow–if you predict correctly. Accuracy rewards those that put all their bets on one possible outcome. The thing is, accuracy requires either a significant investment of time and money, or inside information (or luck, but that’s a different game entirely). Without a reason to believe that you’ve got better information than everyone else, it’s hard to see how you can be confident that this is a smart bet.

Resilience is the best strategy for those realistic enough to admit that they can’t predict the future with more accuracy than others. Resilience isn’t a bet on one outcome, instead, it’s an investment across a range of possible outcomes, a way to ensure that regardless of what actually occurs (within the range), you’ll do fine.

And denial, of course, is the strategy of assuming that the future will be just like today.

If you enter a winner-take-all competition against many other players, accuracy is generally the only rational play. Consider a cross-country ski race. If 500 people enter and all that matters is first place, then you and your support team have to make a very specific bet on what the weather will be like as you wax your skis. Picking a general purpose wax is the resilient strategy, but you’ll lose out to the team that’s lucky enough or smart enough to pick precisely the right wax for the eventual temperature.

Of course, and this is the huge of course, most competitions aren’t winner take all. Most endeavors we participate in offer long-term, generous entrants plenty of rewards. Playing the game is a form of winning the game. In those competitions, we win by being resilient.

Unfortunately, partly due to our fear of losing as well as our mythologizing of the winner-take-all, we often make two mistakes. The first is to overdo our focus on accuracy, on guessing right, on betting it all on the ‘right’ answer. We underappreciate just how powerful long-term resilience can be.

And the second mistake is to be so overwhelmed by all the choices and all the apparent risk that instead of choosing the powerful path of resilience, we choose not to play at all. Denial rarely pays.

Reblogged from: here

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