‘Uncreative’ – not having or involving imagination or original ideas
Everyone is creative, but maybe not all the time. And every team and company has the potential of being remarkably innovative and creative, but may not always achieve that lofty goal. Why not? There are a lot of things that inhibit our potential to be creative and original. Even the most committed ‘creatives’ may run into these obstacles from time to time, so it’s probably helpful to know what to avoid if you want to stay on a path of creativity and innovation. So here are six ways to be uncreative and non-innovative.
1. Have computer problems…anytime
I actually got the idea for this post over the weekend, and was looking forward to writing it up on Monday morning as I didn’t have a meeting scheduled until 11am. However, lo and behold, since my computer had been shut down and sleeping for the past week (as I was on vacation), it decided to be ornery when I woke it up on Monday morning. Nothing major, but enough of a hassle that I spent most of the morning calling the help desk, re-installing software, and re-booting my machine. Needless to say, my time for a creative post was shot. Any device that you may use for your creativity would be included here, so that may include mobile devices, network, etc. Whatever time you may have set aside to work on something creative can easily be eaten up by dealing with computer problems.
2. Never walk away from the screens
However, staying on the screens all the time is also a good way to be uncreative. Note that I got my idea for this post over the weekend, when I was AWAY from the screens. While there are a lot of really creative things you can do on the screens, particularly with all the innovative mobile apps that are available these days, a critical part of original thinking is to let your brain actually step away from focusing on the topic or problem at hand, so there can be connections made while you focus on something else…the proverbial light-bulb going off while you are walking in the park or riding a bike or doing something else. If you’ve ever read Julia Cameron’s book, ‘The Artist’s Way’, each week focuses on a different aspect of nurturing creativity, and one of the weekly exercises she has you do is refrain from ALL external entertainment, which would include screens (televisions, computers, mobile devices), as well as reading newspapers, magazines, etc. The idea is, you gain both creative time and fresh perspective if you refrain from wasting it on external entertainment – ah, instead of reading a novel or watching the latest Ted Talk on YouTube, perhaps you are creating your own instead. So, to avoid being original like that, just stay on the screens!
3. ‘Eat that frog’….all the time
Related to the above idea, if you focus on your task list all the time, that’s another good way to kill creativity. And, if you are like most people, your task list may be endless. You may have heard of the book by Brian Tracy called ‘Eat That Frog – 21 Ways to Stop Procrastinating’. The basic idea is that you try to do ‘least desired’ task or job first (aka ‘the frog’) so that the rest of your day can be ‘play time’. While this is a great idea for getting those ‘ugh’ tasks crossed off the list, since the ‘frog’ task list could go on forever, it could also eat up all your creative time as well. So, if you want to stop procrastinating and also stop being creative, just ‘eat that frog’ all the time!
4. Keep it complicated!
Somewhat related to the ‘Eat That Frog’, if you over-analyze and avoid simplicity, that’s another good way to be UNCREATIVE. Second-guessing yourself or over-thinking your idea is a good way to make it boring and lead you nowhere. I once remember a project where I was working with several different work-streams who were responsible for managing their own work-streams. Since this was early in my career when I still needed to ‘prove’ myself as a project manager, I was determined to make sure that every single task was in the plan. After spending a few evenings trying to update and deal with a project plan that had more than a thousand line items in it, I don’t think I’ll ever forget the lesson of simplicity I learned. There’s a quote by Charles Mingus that says ‘making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.’ So, keep it complicated to NOT be creative!
5. Stay in a rut!….every day
This is a great way to not be creative and stunt innovation – do the same thing, the same way, in the same place….all the time. Since creativity involves a great deal of ‘thinking outside the box’, it requires a good regular dose of changing your perspective to gain new insights or new ways of thinking about things. If you don’t ever break out of the mold of your regular routines or intentionally try to experience new things, it will be very difficult to gain ‘freshness’ in your thinking to innovate or be creative. Sometimes it can be as simple as changing your location, like taking a walk outside, and sometimes it takes more conscious effort, like trying something you’ve never done before, talking to people you wouldn’t normally interact with, or attending an event you wouldn’t normally participate in. So, if you don’t want to be original, just avoid all that and stay in your comfort zone!
6. Listen to the critic – don’t be yourself!
Last, but certainly not least is this gem – don’t be authentic. You know the famous commercial that talks about ‘Think Different’? Well, it’s never a popular thing to be non-comformist. In Japan, there is a saying that goes like this - “出る杭は打たれる。 Deru kui wa utareru.”, which translates to ‘the protruding stake (or nail) will be hammered down’. In other words, if you stand out or do not conform, you will be criticized. That is usually the case with the great creatives and innovative thinkers of this world – they experience a great deal of criticism and non-acceptance. In the face of that type of criticism, it’s usually a lot easier to simply conform to what ‘everyone else’ is doing or thinking and just follow along. Quite frequently, before we even reach that level of putting our ideas out there for external criticism, we have already encountered the ‘anti-creative survival mechanism’ built-in to each of us. This mechanism is known as the ‘inner critic’, and it’s usually quite adept at keeping us very well-disconnected from our own inner voice out of fear. You know the voice….it’s always telling you that you’re not good enough, creative enough, innovative enough, or everyone else is better or more original or more something, so why bother? So, this is may be the best way to be un-creative – just keep listening to that critic and don’t be yourself!
- 3 Things You Never Knew About IBM Creativity: Games, Art, and Music (Greater IBM, Oct 2013)
- 5 Tips to Jumpstart Your Creativity (Mashable, June 2013)
- 30 Tips to Rejuvenate Your Creativity (Lifehacks)
- Creativity Tips (Huffington Post)
- 20 Tips from Psychology for Boosting Creativity (About.com)
- The Artist’s Way (by Julia Cameron) – recommended reading for jump-starting your own creativity
- By Julie Yamamoto
The October 2013 theme for The Greater IBM Connection is ”creativity and innovation”, and The Greater IBM Connection, and contributing blog authors, will be sharing various tips, tools, and resources on this topic.