Outside of house plants, is there anything easier to kill than creativity?
Many exceptionally fragile things come to mind: an egg, flowers, the ego of a Hollywood celebrity. But none have less resiliency than creativity. How sad, because creativity allows us to create or do something new and different in our lives, to prevent us from falling into a mundane pattern.
Its frailty is even more acute for business because creativity is as vital to corporate health and success as accounting, operations and manufacturing. Peter Drucker took it one step further, famously arguing that business has only two real functions: marketing and innovation. I’d take it another step. Negativity robs an organisation of its most valuable asset: new and original thinking.
Surely we’d be violently agreeing that creativity and innovation are extremely important, and by extension, that brainstorms are important. At the same time, there’s universal agreement that negativity is the single biggest obstacle to creativity. More so, negativity in brainstorms – whether it’s a brainstorm in a conference room, or a spur-of-the-moment discussion over a desktop – frequently prevents us from being creative at work. Why the contradiction between our belief and behaviour? What causes negativity? And most of all, what can we do about it?
Negativity is actually many emotions and behaviours, among them:
Pessimism (That won’t work)
Adversarial (Let me play devil’s advocate)
Dismissal (We’ve already tried that)
Disdain (That’s a stupid idea)
Negativity can also be self-directed. We censure or criticize our own thoughts, using emotional and perceptual blocks to burden our creative thinking, such as: I’m not creative. I don’t feel creative today. I’m not as creative as him. I’m really uncomfortable when I have to be creative.
Other emotions are based on insecurity or chaos. I hate ambiguity. I can only evaluate in terms of how much something will cost. I must be highly efficient at work because mistakes are costly and wrong.
Why else do you think we tolerate creativity in business situations?