Foster Creativity by Neutralizing its Enemies

By: Lou Quinto, Leadership Speaker & Executive Coach, Executive Development Associates, Inc.

Everyone can agree that creativity is a crucial ingredient in the success of any organization. CEOs demand it because they know creativity is a strategic weapon in the war against the competition.

However, within most organizations there are people – let’s call them enemies – who perpetually squash creative thought and ideas – some do it unconsciously, while others see it as their duty to protect the organization from failure, excess spending, and misuse of resources or poor allocation of time.

In my experience, there are usually four distinct enemies of creativity for which I am always on the lookout during a creativity or brainstorming session.) They are:

The Intimidator – This may be your boss’s boss, a subject matter expert, or anyone who just sucks all the air out of any room. Whenever they are around other people will embrace and support the “norm” for fear of retribution or ridicule. Thus, the intimidator causes “in the box thinking,” sometimes without even opening their mouth. Just their presence is enough to cause people to suppress their creativity.

The Standards Protector – This person is easy to spot because they are always reminding you, “that’s not the way we do things in this organization.” They are the self-appointed protectors of tradition and standard business practices.

The Risk Avoider – Some might refer to this person as the “Devil’s Advocate.” This person is always looking for “alleged” risks and will smother every new idea with “assumed” negative consequences before a new idea has a chance to breathe.

The Creature of Habit – If it requires change, this person will do whatever it takes to protect the status quo. This individual is uncomfortable with change. Change upsets their mental psyche and causes them to spend hours thinking about the pain a new way of doing something will cause them to endure. They will be the ones kicking and screaming the most.

You can protect your next creativity session by following these simple rules:

  1. Defer judgment on all ideas until you have completed your brainstorming. This means no comments on any idea until the end.
  2. Set a goal of the number of new ideas you want and set a time limit. Aim high in number of ideas. Quantity does encourage quality. Set a short time limit, such as 10 minutes. People work well under pressure. Appoint a timekeeper or have a digital stopwatch visible to all.
  3. Don’t ask of each idea, “will this work?” In most instances, you do not have the facts in the room to make that determination. You need to leave your creativity session and begin to gather facts, which will then allow you to decide if an idea will work. If not, you are encouraging decision making with assumptions and guesses. This is when all four enemies will devour and discredit any idea that has slightest smell of being creative.

About the Author:

Lou Quinto has over 20 years of experience in employee development, management training, executive coaching, and consulting with expertise in teaching managerial skills, critical thinking skills, professional presentation skills, and motivational speaking. His style of training and consulting is described by clients as engaging, motivating, and productive, making him a popular choice for conducting seminars, management retreats, and executive coaching sessions. Lou is a graduate of Purdue University and resides in Indianapolis, IN.