I recently came across an interesting article, “8 Bad Habits That Destroy Your Creativity” by Lolly Daskal, President and CEO of Lead From Within. Daskal indicated that the biggest impediment to being creative were often the following eight habits:
- Premature Judgment: judging ideas too early in the process
- Lack of Courage: fear of taking chances
- Avoidance of Failure: the biggest enemy of creativity
- Comparing Yourself with Others: failure to connect with your own unique innovation and imagination.
- Discomfort with Uncertainty: fear of ambiguity
- Taking Criticism Personally: fearing criticism is fearing growth
- Lack of Confidence: it can cost you your abilities through self-doubt
- Analysis Paralysis: unable to make a decision due to information overload
I think that this is an excellent list of the things to avoid that can limit your creativity. But, what I would like to propose are specific things to consider to assist you in overcoming these potential roadblocks.
- Premature Judgment: Creativity requires the generation of a lot of different ideas and options. The challenge that occurs is that frequently individuals or groups will stop after the first really good idea. Examine the rules of brainstorming which is actually a very specific process for generating lots of ideas. The nominal group technique is a way to sort through a large number of options.
- Lack of Courage: Fear of the unknown, coupled with job security issues, can certainly inhibit our willingness to take chances. But, leaders realize they cannot create solutions that are ever risk-free. The key is to manage the risk, not avoid any risk at all cost. Can I solicit helpful feedback from those who can help me identify and assess the risks?
- Avoidance of Failure: Creativity will always lead to some dead ends. Read about the number of substances that Edison used to create the light bulb. Read about Abraham Lincoln’s series of career, political and business failures before becoming one of our nation’s greatest presidents. I guarantee you that each of these individuals suffered the darkness of despair when they hit one brick wall after another; but, they persevered and you need to do so as well. There’s an old saying that if you don’t fail somewhere along the way, you haven’t been trying hard enough. Prepare as well as possible and then execute. Like I tell my financial advisor, hope is NOT a strategy.
- Comparing Yourself with Others: We all have certain unique abilities where our competency and passion meet to allow us to make important contributions to those with whom we interact. Although you do not want to have your expectations be nothing more than a comparison to the perceived accomplishments of others, it makes perfect sense to seek out the models of other successful people you admire or who inspire you. Reach out and read about their success and find ways to talk to people about how they’ve done what they’ve done. But remember, you are the only one that will create your own unique path. Make it a point to take the first steps along that path as soon as you can.
- Discomfort with Uncertainty: there’s an old saying that some people prefer the “certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty”. You’ve met these folks from time to time who complain about their boss, their coworkers, their job, pay, benefits and even their commute. But, when you ask them why they don’t just move on, their response is often times, “No, I’ve been here too long” or “It’s a steady gig.” It’s okay to be rattled by uncertainty, but don’t let it get in the way of progress.
- Taking Criticism Personally: Some folks simply take any criticism as a personal affront. Cultivate relationships with individuals who you know can give you honest, candid, and constructive feedback. That is a path to your continuous improvement. Seek those people out.
- Lack of Confidence: When I do 360° evaluations for clients, I present them with a list of pluses and challenges – the pluses and negatives of the feedback. Most people immediately go to the challenges and I make it a point to have them start with the pluses because our growth is often more an exploration of how we can use our strengths rather than spending time on fixing everything that may not be perfect. Identify and exploit your strengths to build your confidence.
- Analysis Paralysis: Manage the data and information you have rather than allow it to manage you. Figure out when enough data is enough and be prepared to take a decision. Perfection is the biggest impediment to progress.
- Am I willing to explore better methods for brainstorming and sorting through ideas to facilitate my team’s ability to make creative choices?
- Am I willing to identify and utilize people that I admire who can consistently provide me with honest, candid and constructive feedback?
- Am I willing to take a step back and truly assess the real risks that taking a new or different path may represent?