Rekindle Your Creative Thinking

"Creativity is something you practice, not just a talent you’re born with." ~ Tom Kelley and David Kelley

According to a number of global surveys of chief executives, creativity is the most sought-after trait in leaders today. In these times of disruptive innovations, creative thinking is especially crucial for the rise and continued success of start-up to stalwart companies.

Facebook, Google, Apple, Procter & Gamble and Amazon, just to name a few, are prime examples. Without continual breakthroughs, these organizations couldn’t sustain success. Companies whose leaders learn to innovate more quickly, cheaply and with less risk will emerge from any downturn stronger than ever.

It starts with an innovation mindset. Creativity isn’t something that’s learned, as much as rediscovered. Most people are born creative. Just look at children to see how naturally they use their imaginations. But somewhere around adolescence, we begin to stifle our creative impulses as we become more aware of other people’s judgment.

Creative thinking takes a backseat, except in breakthrough situations. But you cannot achieve such innovations unless your company’s culture supports new ideas—even those that fail.

Here are four common fears that block our best ideas from coming to fruition:
1. The messy unknown
2. Being judged
3. Taking the first step
4. Losing control

Fear of the Messy Unknown
Creative thinking in business starts with having empathy for your customers. You cannot be truly inspired if you’re sitting comfortably behind your desk—unless, of course, you’re venturing into online forums and social sites where customers express their complaints.

Looking at spreadsheets filled with focus-group data won’t inspire breakthrough ideas. In the real and virtual worlds, you’ll hear unexpected, outside-the-box comments. Even feedback from irrational people—the customers whose comments you really don’t want to hear—can provide important insights.

Fear of Being Judged
Most of us care deeply about what others think of us, including our friends, family, superiors and trusted colleagues. While we don’t mind being judged in some situations, we rarely risk our business-world egos.

Trust your intuition and embrace your ideas. Write them down in an idea notebook so you can systematically find them, when appropriate. Keep something handy for note-taking during downtime: in the shower, next to the bed, while jogging, in the car.

Fear of Taking the First Step
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. ~ Lao-tzu, ancient Chinese philosopher

Creative efforts are hardest at the beginning: writing the first sentence, making the first phone call, announcing the intended project. The first step can be anxiety-provoking and physically draining. You need to stop planning and get started.

Stop focusing on the huge overall picture and find a small piece you can tackle right away. Give yourself a crazy deadline. Instead of “by the end of the week,” try for “before lunch.”

Fear of Losing Control
Courage is only the accumulation of small steps. ~ György Konrád, Hungarian essayist

When you abandon the status quo, you open yourself up to the possibility of making mistakes. When you develop ideas with others, this possibility increases substantially.

Some think collaboration means losing complete control of your product, team and results. This is an enormous sacrifice, especially for control-oriented executives.

In reality, we have less control than we think. The downside of shunning collaboration is staying stuck with the same routines, products and business models. In a rapidly changing world, this really isn’t an option. If your business doesn’t change, it won’t sustain success in the long term.

Your business cannot evolve without new ideas. Be humble enough to let go of what worked in the past and brave enough to seek innovation in a rapidly changing world.

Don't get stuck at the starting line. Let go of your fears and practice creative thinking (and doing) now!

 

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