Throughout the business community there’s no shortage of discussion about the importance of creativity for both corporate and personal success. In fact, it’s increasingly viewed as a core competency.
As a creative professional, I couldn’t agree more.
So I’d like to outline some of the obstacles to creativity, what might be keeping you or your company from being as creative as you could be.
Let’s start with a couple of barriers that are rarely discussed.
1) There’s Little Business Need For You To Be Creative
Despite the emphasis on creativity, it can still be advantageous for some companies to provide a product or service that’s very much the way it’s always been. The saxophone, for example, hasn’t changed in any fundamental way since it was invented in 1840. Sure, there may be some small tweaks here and there, but the thought of reimagining the sax would seem to musicians like myself as absurd. Despite the pressure to innovate, many individuals and companies may still do well without perpetually reinventing their offering.
And many who work in corporate environments will understand that creativity is not really what their job is about. Their responsibilities might lie more in flawless execution within traditional methods and structures. In some cases, in fact, creativity may actually hinder their professional advancement.
2) There’s Little Emotional Need For You To Be Creative
Some people have a psychological drive to create things, whether it’s a musical composition, software application or a supply chain system. But many don’t, and that’s okay. You can enjoy a deeply meaningful and satisfying life benefitting from the creations of others without creating anything yourself.
Now let’s get into what might be holding your or your company back when you want to be more creative but are struggling.
3) Your Concept of Creativity Is Flawed
In Ted Talks, throughout the web and elsewhere, the creative process is often described as something unbounded, without limits. What makes this conception attractive is that it offers a vision of liberation, and it seems easy. We’re told that we’re all creative geniuses inside and all we need to do is “let our creativity out.” To a certain extent this is true, but it ignores the more important fact that creativity is a lot more than just “letting yourself go.” In fact, it’s very much about limits. The way your creativity is liberated is ultimately through discipline, the making up of rules and the mastery of your craft.
4) You’re Not Willing To Deal With The Pain
Creating is fascinating and at times thrilling, but it’s also difficult. You constantly need to make decisions, which causes stress. To make matters worse, there’s no outside authority you can rely on to know if you’re making the right decisions. When you’re creating, you’re very much on you own. You often have to move ahead without knowing where you’re going, or even what it is you’re actually doing. It can be painfully uncomfortable.
5) Your Company Is Forever Judging You
Assuming you’re not stymied by the points mentioned above, you still might not be creative because your company won’t allow for it. During a key activity of the creative process, what I call “making a mess,” you need to work in a judgement-free environment. At this stage nothing should be measured or evaluated. But current corporate practice puts a priority on never-ending measurement and data collection. Nothing kills creativity faster than knowing someone is looking over your shoulder.
Nonetheless, There Is Hope
Assuming you have a genuine desire to be creative, whether it’s for business or for your own personal satisfaction or both, and assuming you’re willing to put in the work to hone your technique, and assuming you can deal with the pain of often forging ahead without a roadmap, you can lead a genuinely creative life. And that can, in many cases, lead to material and social success.
I have, and despite the price I’ve paid at times, it’s worth it. Nothing delivers a deeper sense of satisfaction and accomplishment than making something. Nothing is more fascinating that watching a wisp of an idea turn into something real and meaningful. And nothing helps you better understand yourself.
It’s true: you may never be creative, and that’s fine.
But then again, you may be more creative than you ever imagined.
Give it a shot. You’ll be glad you did.