I posted the other day about how “thinking outside the box” is often an uphill battle within organizations. I came across this article today citing science as evidence that people are, in fact, biased against creative ideas, especially in the workplace.
I’m not going to offer commentary on the research methodology, the operational definitions being assumed, or even generally on the idea that creativity can be analyzed scientifically. But it is interesting.
After all, just because something is a creative idea doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good one. So a certain suspicion is not necessarily a bad thing. But the fact that it’s a creative idea doesn’t mean it’s a bad one either.
For the most part, I think that there are many wonderfully creative ideas that get thwarted because of suspicion of anything that is not the trodden path. That’s the idealist in me speaking. But the pragmatist is me has also seen some terrible ideas being put forward as good options - despite flying in the face of expertise and experience - simply because someone thinks that they are “creative”.
To play devil’s advocate, I do wonder if suspicion of creativity is a necessary counter to the creative process - something like a parachute behind a drag car. The resistance of the parachute is needed to slow the car. Without it, the car would be going so fast that the brakes couldn’t be used, the tyres/tires would lock and you’d crash. Perhaps creative ideas can only move us forward because they are met with a certain amount of resistance to slow them down?
Or, to quote/paraphrase Canadian writer Hiromi Goto, “We only know the wind exists because it meets with resistance.”
(And sometimes people just get in the way of really good ideas, too.)
One of the things I hear often when I’m leading creativity workshops or talking to people one-on-one about their creative projects is the sense that perhaps working on our own creative projects is selfish. When we have so many demands on our time and energy, how can we justify it? Is it really that important? Do we do it at the cost of other things that are important?
(When I delve further, the same individuals often admit that when they do turn up to their creative projects, they are often happier, more settled and have MORE time and energy for other things than when they don’t.)
Today, I came across a nice way of thinking about those things that drive us and bring us joy: ”Self-fulfillment is never selfish. It’s a way of honouring what the universe has given us.”
I often come across books that talk about how to teach people to “think outside the box,” make use of “creative problem solving” and develop innovative responses to challenges.
Most of these books make the process seem very easy. Yet anyone who has tried to implement change to an organization or system knows that it is actually very difficult to move away from “the way it’s always been done” to find innovative alternatives. Why the disconnect?
It finally dawned on me today that maybe it’s not the answers that are flawed. Maybe we are simply asking the wrong question. This may be a bold statement but it is quite possible that many people, perhaps even most people, are perfectly capable of thinking outside the box…if they want to. Maybe people don’t want to. After all, most people have no problem coming up with a hundred reasons why NOT to change, which is itself a creative act.
I’m wondering if perhaps the question is not how to tap into people’s creativity, but how to show them that it might be worthwhile to do so. And that’s an entirely different challenge.
“Creativity is…about taking the facts, fictions, and feelings we store away and finding new ways to connect them. What we’re talking about here is metaphor. Metaphor is the lifeblood of all art, if it is not art itself. Metaphor is our vocabulary for connecting what we are experiencing now with what we have experienced before. It’s not only how we express what we remember, it’s how we interpret it - for ourselves and others.”—
Twyla Tharp. The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use it for Life