Fast Company

Boost Creativity - Avoid the Identity Crisis

Creativity can come to a screeching halt due a common pitfall: an identity crisis.  What happens is that during the creative process, you begin to wear more than one hat, which can immediately send your creativity to the morgue.

It goes something like this:  You are in the middle of coming up with a great idea, writing a sentence, or drawing a diagram on the white board.  This is a creative act, so you are acting in the role of Creator.  All of a sudden, your brain flips and you take on a different role.  You become an Editor.  Or you begin to worry about how you'll get your idea done and you become an Executor.  Distractions like this pop into your mind:

         "Where should I put that comma?"

         "How am I ever going to get the funding for this?"

         "How do you spell cross-functional?"

         "Will Bob in HR approve this?"

         "When will I fit this into the schedule?"

         "What will my boss think about this idea?"

         "If I get this done, will I get a raise?"

         "Should this be slide four or slide nine?"

The creative state is delicate, and can easily be blown out like a birthday candle.  Creative, original thought takes concentration and focus; which can easily give way to distractions.  Trying to create, edit, and execute all at once is like a how-to manual for extinguishing creativity.  If you are worried about making everything perfect before you go to the next step, you will end up executing your best thinking.

When you and your team are in the creative mode, be there fully.  Force yourself to let your creativity pour out with no regard whatsoever for editing.  Don't worry for a moment about how you'll get it done, just let the creativity flow.  In the words of Albert Einstein, "You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war."

Editing and Executing are left-brain activities – the part of your brain that manages analytical, practical and formulaic thinking.  The creative act is driven by your right brain – the area reserved for abstract thought and imagination.  Since we primarily live in a left-brain world and since you probably learned an a left-brain school, followed left-brain rules, and got a job in a left-brain company, you likely have a much more developed left brain than right brain.  With this being the case, your left brain can quickly take over and dominate your thinking, in the same way a loud mouth bragger can take over and dominate a conversation at a cocktail party.  In the process, your creative spark gets lost and your creativity is hampered. 

This can all be easily avoided with a small bell.  Bring a small bell to your next creative meeting, and anytime that someone starts getting into Editor or Execution mode, ring the bell.  By putting a little reverse-Pavlov to use, you'll be out of your habit of distraction in no time and your creativity will soar.

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1 Comments

  • Penelope Else

    An excellent article, thank you! It's an awareness we'd do well to carry around with us all day long, to counter the 'editors and executors' everywhere (especially close friends and family) who could exhaust our efforts to create something new...