We all have a tendency toward creativity. Sadly, that tendency may have been trampled down, starting in childhood, so that we are intimidated by our own creative drives.
Remember that Harry Chapin song about the child whose teacher criticized him for drawing trees blue and the sky green, because that’s not how it is? Many of us have had childhood experiences just like that, experiences that made us fearful of our own creativity. Our reaction is to undermine our own energy before someone else does—although, beware, that’s going to happen, too.
We are susceptible not only to mental or attitudinal self-sabotage, but also to sabotage from immediate external factors (different from the ones that influenced our early development) that can interrupt our balance, throw us off course, or blindside us. Scott Berkun, author of The Myths of Innovation, points out that the toughest challenge faced by innovators is how bored the rest of the world is by their ideas, at least at first.
It turns out that nothing changes when we’re adults—many other people don’t want us to draw blue trees and green skies
The destructive need for approval.
Over the years, I’ve heard varying statistics about the way our creativity gets killed as we age. Some say that 97 percent of children in kindergarten are creative but that by second grade only 5 percent are. Others say that children in kindergarten use 80 percent of their creative potential on a regular basis and that by the age of 12 the average person is using only 2 percent of his or her creative potential. Suffice to say that in general people aren’t getting more creative as they grow up. What happens? Grades happen. The need to have the approval of others happens.
This would be terrible news, except that the disease is reversible! The practice of creativity produces more creativity. The practice of innovation produces more innovativeness.
Having emotional endurance.
Having the emotional endurance to withstand the early period of any innovation process is the difference between whether a big, new idea survives or withers. Remind yourself that when others are negative or reject your idea, they are often just demonstrating their own aversion to change.
We humans are fearful of the new. It’s in our nature. Like the ancient fable of the scorpion and the frog—the scorpion just had to sting the frog in the end—it was in the scorpion’s nature, even though it meant they both drowned as the frog was carrying the scorpion to the other side of the river.
Self-sabotage and other people’s censure is not all you face. There are market factors, too, that can sabotage our creativity: unexpected competitors who might appear on the horizon, new technologies that might render your service obsolete, or changes in consumer tastes. Suddenly your great idea—isn’t.
Supporting your continued growth.
With all these potential sources of breakdown (self, others, and the market), what do you need to support your continued growth, improvement, creativity, and innovation? Do you need external systems, like mastermind groups, a coach, or continuing education? Do you need to take art or acting classes to feel creative and open-minded?
Changing your ideas.
The quality of your questions, influence your creativity and ability to innovate. Do you ever change your ideas? Do you listen, really listen, to people who disagree with you? (You might learn something.) Have you changed any of your own treasured opinions or assumptions about the world lately? Have you ever imagined what the world might be like if it were the exact opposite of how you think it is? Do you tend to try to help people find solutions to obstacles they are facing, or do you prefer to criticize? Are you threatened by a problem you can’t solve right away?
Standing by your ideas.
A lot less is sacred and more is changeable than you think. As you develop a practice of creativity, you will be surprised (and delighted) by the doors it will open in your business—and your life. Go toward the future with a big sense of curiosity and a willingness and a desire to be creative in how you view your business and its potential. That’s the attitude you need to do big things in the world.
Finally, sometimes, the most important act of innovation is standing by the ideas you believe in, even if other people think they are silly.