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Creativity barriers in a logical world and how to shift them  

I love squiggly lines. I always have. Put me back in Mrs Morrison's primary school class, and I’m as proud of the abstract artwork on the sleeve of my P5 jotter as whatever is written inside. It’s not just a playful memory but a seminal moment at age nine when my thinking is more ‘What if?’ than ‘How will?’

But isn't that what happens to most of us? We start off wildly curious in our creative thinking as a youngster, and then we meet the world.

I think we can shift this, or at least care if we build organisational spaces and places that truly think sideways. To do this, we first need to be aware of the red lights that face creativity in business.  

Get creative:

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Fear of looking daft 

I think Einstein was right when he said creativity was just intelligence having fun. Yet fear of being or looking silly is a reality for many of us.

We are scared of giving the wrong answer or, even worse, not knowing it at all. When asked for our opinion, we often perceive the questioner is looking for a solution, not an idea, which is a very different thing.  

I’d much rather be the person in the room who doesn’t know the answer but is seeking a broader insight than the person who thinks they know them all and is fearful of getting it wrong.

Don’t be scared of not being an expert, be excited that you’ll never be a beginner ever again in your life in this subject if you share, debate and ask.  


Not expecting creativity on tap 

If you buy an avocado to match up with your morning toast, it has to be ready and ripe. Creativity is no different.

Take meetings as an example. We probably spend about 30-50% of our working lives in them, many of them unproductive. Same formats, same people, same outcomes.

Then somewhere in among the revolving sameness, we invite creativity into the room. Maybe it’s a flip chart brainstorming exercise. Or we're just asked to think differently.  

We need to be ripe to be creative. That might mean embracing our goofdom a little bit more and doing something abstract first to popcorn our mind, loosening up our neurons before we start to explore and get wildly lost in curiosity.  


I’m not creative 

Education is linear, yes, it's often blended in subject matter, but it still requires single series of steps; a sequential structured narrative to reach the necessary level of knowledge.

We then enter the workplace, and we’re met with hierarchy and straight lines — processes to follow. People to report to. Work is to be done in specific ways. It’s not exactly singing creativity now, is it?  It’s not about suddenly throwing a maverick, wacky, out-of-the-box approach into the system. It’s about knowing how to be creative.

Creativity comes in many forms, but how often have you heard people say, 'I’m not creative'. Yet every day, we improvise, anticipate, negotiate and deliberate all innately creative acts. It’s not how creative you are but how you are creative that counts.


Scott Leiper is a 2021 HR Most Influential thinker and creator at The Learning Lab