Creativity Slams to a Stop

Many of the places I teach think they want creative solutions managed by creative people. Often that thought doesn’t get out of the Inbox, much less out the door. Why not?  If you are a creative leader, worker, or thinker,  maybe these 10 reasons sound familiar:

  1. “We’ve always done it this way, there is no reason to change.”
  2. “The boss doesn’t like change. It’s upsetting.”
  3. “Why stir up trouble? Things are OK now.”
  4. “Just get this assignment done, then we’ll talk.”
  5. “The director sets the way we get things done. And your idea is not it.”
  6. “Your idea will require too much [time, energy, money, people]”
  7. “Who died and made you CEO?”
  8. “How do you know this will work? Doesn’t look like it to me.”
  9. “Let me play devil’s advocate for a minute. . . “
  10. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

You’ve heard these at work, but how many of them have you believed?  How many of them have you said? Change causes upheaval as it works.

from Biocultural Science and Management,

from Biocultural Science and Management,

There is the enthusiasm stage, where the idea sounds good. Then there is the work stage, where all your co-workers redefine “collaboration” into “if it fails, it’s your fault.”

That’s the liminal stage–where the work is started, but not finished. The change is happening, but you can’t quite see it working.  The eggs are broken, the omelet isn’t shaping up yet.

The liminal stage is a time that has to happen, but it is the time of most resistance. Focus on that part–on pushing through. It will test your creativity fully. If you give up, a part of your creativity will wither away. This is the time to call on your Inner Hero to be an advocate. Your Inner Critic already has everyone else at the office.

How will you stand up for your creativity today?

—Quinn McDonald has been listening to Baba O’Reilly again.

10 thoughts on “Creativity Slams to a Stop

  1. With creativity being squeezed out of the classroom in favour of National Standards . . . I’m not surprised that creativity is becoming an endangered spectre in the workplace. Who else but those without the spark would think to limit children’s education thus. . . . don’t get me started!

    Over the years I have become subversive and quietly inject as much creativity into what I do as I can. Hmmm subversion as an art form?

  2. Dear Quinn, Always love your posts. They are always thought provoking. When it come to creativity in the business world; unfortunately, the creativity stops because of politics; someone is afraid they are going to lose their power (perceived or real) in the hierarchy. But you already know that. thank you for your letters!

  3. This must be why grandparents are so popular with their grandchildren. As a grandparent, as a mother….I encourage stripes with plaids, red and purple and backwards parties (where you wear your clothes backwards and inside out). We make cream pies (on paper plates) and actually throw them at each other. It’s fun, it feels good and changes everything.
    Any idea is welcome here and we’ll try it if it’s safe and we can find a way around the expense. Now if we could just find someone to clean up after us…

    • It is the name of a song by The Who. It’s often (an incorrectly) called Teenage Wasteland. Baba O’Reilly honors two of the The Who’s philosophical influences: Meher Baba and Terry Reilly. The opening lyrics are “Out here in the field, I fight for my meals, I put my back into my living.”

  4. There’s not all that much room in business for creativity. Business organizations are designed to resist change; that’s the whole idea. Find something that makes a profit and do that over and over. I don’t mean this in a negative way; it’s what works.

    Talk about “thinking outside the box” and “creativity” is mostly lip service devoted to making employees feel better about their routines, not change the routines. Because routines work.

    Routines may turn up very specific problems that need solving, and that may need some original thought — but generally that’s focused attention by a lone professional and not much affected by abstract notions of creativity, inspiration, or the like.

    And finally, all those ‘no’ answers are a kind of evolutionary force. Last week’s Apple ad says something like ‘…there are a thousand nos for every yes…” — so the idea that earns that yes is a very strong one indeed.

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