10 Myths of Creativity

 

The idea for the novel is not only clear, but the story is outlined and researched.  Still, the page is blank.  She is waiting for the inspiration to make it happen.

The business to create a fortune is constantly pushed to the backburner.  Magazines and books are consumed like candy as he studies ideas only to continue looking.  The idea never is good enough.

Someone is waiting for a divine moment, that flash of insight that is a near-religious experience.  Until that happens, the idea is frozen.

Creativity myths have been around for centuries.  David, you say that these myths hinder the creative process.  In fact, the subtitle of your new book is The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great ideas.  How does knowing the truth about these myths help?  Why is rewriting the myths so important?

David Burkus is the author of The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas. He is also founder of LDRLB and assistant professor of management at Oral Roberts University. Find out more about David at www.davidburkus.com. He also writes for Forbes, 99U, and the Harvard Business Review.

We’ve been writing myths for thousands of years. Myths are attempts to describe the world around us, everything from where sun comes from to the creative process. But myths are dangerous because they’re often not true, or at least are half-true. So it is with the myths surrounding creativity. They help us explain a little bit, but because they aren’t totally true, believing the myths in entirety can actually limit our ability to express our creativity. If we question them, find the truth, and rewrite them, then we stand a better chance of reaching our full potential.

3DCoverWileyYou are rewriting and busting these myths, but they are legendary in some ways because we love them.  That “falling apple” moment or “lightning strike.”  Why do we love these stories?

I think we tell a lot of these stories because they let us off the hook. If some outside force, a fallen apple or a lightning strike, is responsible for our creative insight, then the pressure is taken off us to generate great ideas. But creativity doesn’t come from outside ourselves, it comes from inside and from thought patterns we’re all capable of, as long as we believe we are capable of them.

Your new book The Myths of Creativity outlines ten creative myths.  Let’s walk through a few of these myths. Starting with the Expert Myth, aren’t trained experts the best source for creative solutions to dire problems?

Creativity doesn’t just love constraints, it thrives under them. David Burkus

Not always. In fact the research shows that many times professionals in a given field reach a peak early or mid-way through their career and then their contribution to the domain lessens. In Physics for example, it’s commonly held that PhDs will make their greatest discoveries before the age of 30. (Einstein was 26 when he published the paper that won him a Nobel Prize.) The reason is that expertise is important, but truly creative ideas often come from people on the fringes of a domain. They have enough experience to understand problems, but don’t have enough experience to write off “crazy” ideas without testing them. They don’t know what won’t work; so they try everything. The lesson is to keep learning and gaining experience in a variety of domains because you never know what field your breakthrough insight will come from.

Let’s talk about The Constraints Myth.  You write “constraints shape our creative pursuits.”  Give an example of how constraints encourage creativity.

We tend to assume that when we’re having trouble coming up with a viable solution to a creative problem, it’s because we’re too constrained. In reality, constraints actually help us find solutions. It’s impossible to solve a problem without understanding the structure around it. We can generate lots of wild ideas, but without the constraints of a problem, we’ll never know if those ideas are also useful. That’s why a lot of companies actually force constraints. Companies like 37Signals mandate small project teams and put limits on the amount of features their products can have. And it’s paying off for them. Creativity doesn’t just love constraints, it thrives under them. It’s like G.K. Chesterton suggested,  “Art consists of limitation. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame.”

3 Myths About Creativity

Everyone is Creative

Do you think of yourself as creative?  Or do you think you missed that gene?  You admire others who paint or sculpt or write or create, but it’s not for you.  Or maybe you remember a teacher encouraging you as a child, but that was long ago and you no longer think you’re very innovative.

David B. Goldstein and Otto Kroeger argue that everyone is creative.  In their new book Creative You: Using Your Personality Type to Thrive, they give readers the opportunity to understand their creative potential.  When you take the quiz, you discover which of over sixteen personality types you are and how you can harness your unique creative power.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with David about his work and what he has learned about creativity and personality.

 

Invent a Better Way

David, most people only use a fraction of their potential creative ability available.  What do you say to those who say they don’t care whether they are considered creative or not?  Why is it so important to understand your style and become more creative?frontcover_final_CU

Great question, Skip! Everything is changing quickly and each day we all have to solve unprecedented problems at home and at work. To survive and to compete we need to be creative. Creativity isn’t just about making art or music; it’s about inventing better ways to do our jobs, and if we leave creativity up to others, we will be left behind.

 

 

 

Busting Creativity Myths

You bust myth after myth about creativity.  I think you list twenty myths.  Let’s talk about a few of them.  Would you share just three of these myths and why they are wrong?

Yes, there is much mystery around the creative process and the myths that many of us accept harm us by holding us back. Here are three:

1.  “There is only one type of creativity.”

A critical mistake many of us make is in assuming that we’re all the same. Did Henry Ford have the same kind of creative style as Picasso? Ford was conservative and created within a rigid model; Picasso was much more fluid. We all have unique knowledge, can learn techniques, and are capable of creating in our own way. Give a classroom of children a topic and ask them to write an essay, and then see how many variations you get. Each of us sees the world in our own way, and we act accordingly. Our creativity is as unique as our fingerprints and leaves an impression on whatever we make.

 

Creativity is about inventing better ways to do our jobs. -David Goldstein

 

2.  “Creative people are spontaneous, untimely, and unstructured.”

Finding the Next Steve Jobs

Photo courtesy of istockphoto/TABoomer

Nolan Bushnell founded groundbreaking companies such as Atari and Chuck E. Cheese.  In his first book, Finding the Next Steve Jobs: How to Find, Hire, Retain and Nurture Creative Talent, he outlines a plan for helping companies bring more creativity into their organization and make it their competitive advantage.  (Nolan hired Steve Jobs in 1972, two years after founding Atari.)  The book is a must read for all creatives and especially anyone who aspires to manage creatives.

My good friend, best-selling author and speaker Tim Sanders of Net Minds, is his publisher.  Tim graciously agreed to interview Nolan and talk about creativity, leadership, libraries and even publishing.  Here is the conversation between Tim and Nolan:

FTNSJ_Cover_v31_130#1330ED1I know it’s your strong belief that leaders at companies need to foster a creative culture. If you were going to give leaders one piece of advice on how to think differently about a creative culture, what would that piece of advice be?

I would encourage them to say yes to at least one crazy idea a year.

Give me an example of some of the crazy ideas you heard when you were in Atari.

Among the many that were pitched to me, one that stands out was this notion of making pretty pictures when music happened. It seemed ridiculous at the time. The product ultimately turned into Midi.

Midi, of course, is the standard that still exists to this day for connecting music devices to each other and synchronizing them. 

I think we built 20,000 of them, and I think we sold six at full-price. (Laughs). But it did become a force within the industry, for sure.

Let me ask you about leadership because you’ve led several companies. Do you think of leadership in a military way, a coaching way, or an improv comedy way?

Shape Your Company’s Future

 

Are you confident in your company’s future?

How do you rate your business strategy?

Is your team engaged in the creation of your plan?

Are you staying ahead of the competition and creating a sustainable advantage?

 Shape Your Future

“Strategy is about shaping the future.”

That’s the opening line in The Strategy Book by Max Mckeown.  In a logical, straightforward manner, Max walks readers through strategic principles and best practices in a way that educates the novice and the well-practiced strategist alike.  Whether you are a CEO or a new team leader, Max provides helpful tools and checklists to improve your strategic plan.

Max Mckeown is an author of several best-selling, award winning books. He’s also a sought-after speaker on subjects ranging from competitive advantage to strategy to leadership.  He holds an M.B.A. and Ph.D. from Warwick Business School in England.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Max about strategic best practices.

What’s the biggest misconception about creating a strategy?

Strategy isn’t a document. Some people believe that it is. And that’s probably why so many hard-working people roll their eyes when the strategy word is mentioned. Specifically, strategy is not leaders spending a million dollars on thick documents produced by outsiders to which insiders must align.-

You’ve met thousands of managers and leaders in businesses around the world.  When you meet a team, what attributes are present when you find an exceptionally high-performing team?

Strategy is about shaping the future. Perhaps this is why the roll-up-your-sleeves, get-things-done kind of people are often impatient with anything remotely connected to the word strategic. They want results. They tend to ignore the want-to-see-the-bigger-picture kind of people they see as daydreamers.

Break Your Routine

Photo by Phototropy on flickr.

Routine is the enemy of creativity.

Now, somewhere someone is arguing with that idea, saying that routine can enhance creativity. Routines can allow our brain to go on autopilot for the unimportant.

Sure, there is likely truth in that.

But, I think that occasional, even small changes can fire up our brain’s neurons and create new connections. We travel the same paths so often that we often miss the changes occurring on the route.

Before:

  1. My alarm goes off, and I follow the same pattern I have for years.
  2. I drive the same route to work.
  3. I follow a routine when I arrive at work.
  4. Each meeting follows a pre-set agenda and most are held in a conference room.
  5. I rush from task to task with little time left.
  6. The day ends, I head to the gym and start my routine workout.
  7. I rush home in time for dinner and helping with homework.
  8. I drive home and the evening is much the same as the one before.
  9. I watch the news and read a book.

The less routine, the more life. Amos Bronson Alcott

After:

  1. The alarm goes off, and I reverse my pattern. I get up fifteen minutes early, and go outside first. My thoughts are not about the daily “to do” list but instead focused on the nearby tree or the birds.