fear and being creativeCreativity is surrounded by paradigms. 

1500 CEOs who participated in an IBM study noted creativity as the single most important leadership quality for success yet, according to research by Adobe, 80% of respondents reported more pressure to be productive rather than to be creative at work. Go figure.

Ask people if they would describe themselves as creative, and the likely response is something along with lines of “Well, I’m not [an artist, a musician, a writer, a composer, etc.], so no, I’m not creative.”

Being creative is much more than painting an exquisite water color landscape or writing a best-selling novel. In their book, Scientists in Organizations, Donald Pelz and Frank Andrews noted that “the basic condition for a creative act is to combine known elements into new combinations or perspectives that have never before been considered.”

Isn’t finding a better way to do things something we all do every day at work?

5 tips for instigating creativity

In workshops, I distribute a piece of paper covered with 30 one-inch in diameter circles and invite participants to take the next five minutes and turn those circles into objects—like a smiley face or the sun. Most people transform at least half of their circles and are amazed at how easy the process becomes once they get into it.

To get your creative juices flowing so you can see and connect things in a new way, give these 5 things a try.

#1:  Alter the routine

Trying a new routine changes brain patterns that may be “stuck.” Doing so creates new associations.  Jimi Hendrix played guitars made for right-handed people by playing them upside down. Just holding a guitar upside down forced his brain to create new patterns.

One day my team was brainstorming how to solve a tough business problem and was getting nowhere. We moved the meeting outside under a big tree and soon the solution was apparent!

#2:  See without bias

Thomas Edison invited prospective new hires to lunch. He watched to see if people salted their food before or after tasting it. Those who salted their food prior to tasting it weren’t hired.

It’s the classic  if you think like a hammer, everything looks like a nail scenario.  Many rules, practices and procedures outlive their usefulness and choke off creative thinking.  People who challenge their assumptions and relook at a situation often discover new solutions.

#3:  Have fun

Mark Beeman, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University, discovered that shifting the brain into an open, playful state lowers the brain’s threshold for spotting isolated connections which allows people to decipher puzzles more effectively.

I used to keep a basket of small toys on the conference table in my office for people to play with during meetings (and they did some laying claim to a particular toy!).

#4:  Push the envelope 

Don’t let the phrase “that’s the way we’ve always done it” form artificial boundaries that limit experimenting with how things get done. In a past life, my employer was experiencing off the charts customer growth. The boss’s order was to hire 100 technicians in the next 90 days. The typical time-to-hire was 90 days, which was followed by another 90 day training period. Faced with a daunting challenge, the team devised totally new ways recruit and train—which turned out to be superior to what had been done before.

#5:  Let go of fear

Replace your fear of failure with a vision of how wonderful success will be.

To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself. ~Soren Kierkegaard